Thursday 22 March 2012 – photos and programme (UK)

10.00-16.00 10-4, Connected Cultures Conference, ICA
16.00-19.00 4-7 Free Time
19.00-20.00 7-8 Wellcome Trust Exhibition

The Conference ICA – Participatory Arts:  Because We’re Worth it. 

As ICA writes on their website, “Because we’re worth it! is an important national Summit exploring and celebrating the value of participatory arts, held 22 March at the ICA in London. Participatory arts have the power to change people’s lives for the better; provide connections, experiences and rich stories. The UK’s participatory arts scene is constantly changing, innovating, developing, celebrating, exploring and recording fantastic and ground breaking work.”

  • Welcome and overview from Arti and ——.
  • Great singing warm up from Rob Gilden, from Streetwise Opera.
  • Intro from Matthew from the RSA – a very cool delivery with jokes – consciously coined the term ‘ the social aspiration gap’ – meaning there is a gap between what we would like to be and how we are shaped by are circumstances. Also coined ‘eudamonic constructivism’ – making circumstances that improve our happiness. He wants us all to present our accounts of ourselves on our own terms and in our own language, without fear, athough he used  words like ‘core values’, pushing boundaries’ and good practice’.
  • Guys from Welsh national theatre (NTW) – expressing how lives are changed through the inclusive approach of organisation. An actor, Gavin, who developed the Ideas Exchange, wants to develop leaders in communities who direct activities themselves. Hassan’s theatre company arose from contact and encouragement from NTW (latter got Gulbenkian funding).

Other points arising throughout the day:

  • concern about payment of artists – the ethics of funding and why artists can’t earn a living, and end up working for very little.
  • the ‘noncommunity’ of artists – eg a snootiness from certain current practitioners towards watercolour painting in old people’s homes – considered by them as ‘folksy’. Need to think of ourselves as a community and support each other – find a common language.

‘Role of the Artist’ session:

  • Francis Rifkin –  wrote and spoke about Ethical Framework – talked a little about Paolo Friere type approaches to working with people. Also ‘values’  – establish what they are and then ask the Stanislawski questions – why who where when why and how of all stakeholders in a proposed project. Then reflect – using  Gibbs cycle of relection.
  • Kevin Ryan – Charnwood Arts (Loughborough) – Ethics, Community and Arts – these words suggest to him > dialogue, relationships and benefits. Best creative community practice evolves out of good relationships formed at the beginning – genuine ones not just cursory. Five stages of practice – Vision, or a response to a vision; Play, our job to play with the ideas; Making, applying/sharing our skills and finding other people’s; Budgeting; and Distribution – making sure it’s seen and available. Believes artists can be mediators between the project proposers with the money and the people they wish to act upon, and as a tool for the people to use.
  • TIP – Theatre in prisons, Mike and Naomi, nice but can’t remember anything new.
  • In general all contributors felt we need to use our own language, and drop the jargon.
  • Artists and academia – what’s all that about? artists enter academia to survive financially and may become embroiled in its structures and terminology, its containment and uniformity. How does it affect the way artist see themselves and how they express themselves? I liked this observation and will read up.



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