(UK) London – reflection by Silvija Butkute (LT)

“Localise” study trip to London was the third for me in all my participating experience in this project. After second journey to Warsaw, most of project members were inspired and got plenty of ideas. Warsaw showed us the power of culture animation, how it is useful and necessary for the people.

London was totally different. For example I had no ideas how culture animation works here. The main difference between Poland and England is about its name: the Polish have culture animation, the English community arts. So naturally I was convinced that we will meet more professional artists in London, who are working with communities. But the programme was a little bit different from what I imagined before.

First day we came to wonderful  “Judd hotel” in city centre. First impression was great, and I’m still now thinking that we got perfect place for a rest after project exercises. Creative challenges helped to get to know each other in first meeting. I think this “game” was a very important part of participating in project, it helped to reflect on what we learnt from a particular meeting. One more point, after activities, which needed concentration, creative challenges helped to relax. From first official meeting with lector Chrissie Tiller, I learnt more useful information about community arts history in England and it helped me define differences between culture animation and community arts. Organisations and different social groups from 1960 onwards, doing important activities in communication with communities using artistic methods. But I felt a certain lack of particular examples of projects which were made in this discussion.

“Art in the Park” project strikes a fantastic balance between nature and useful activities. This centre organizes day actions for children, workshops for adults, give space for professional artists collaborating in all new projects. The centre is always full of  people, so it is a sign that this centre is available for communities. Also we had a very simple workshop on how to make recycling art, which method will be very useful in activities with Lithuania communities. Thanks for the ideas and perfect dinner at “Art in the Park!”

One of the impressive things in this journey was physical activities with people with disabilities workshop. It was kind of new for me, and I found that English people devote a lot of attention to this particular social group. We all know that art have wonderful power of treatment, so it was good to meet that this position is not only theoretical, but also works practically.

 

What about evening activities in London? Going to physical theatre “DV8” performance was like sequel of study trip day activity. One more wonderful opportunity to meet problems which exist not only in London, but in all the world in such artistic way.

Art education in Tate modern with community learning educator, who organises course and training for all age and social groups, wasn’t very impressive. Actually, from such a dominant museum in England, I expected much more that walking across halls and talking just about formal points of paintings.

When I was visiting the hospital with an exhibition of paintings in corridors, I felt uncomfortable in this atmosphere, and didn’t understand why we have to be interested in some decorative pictures posted on the walls in such uncomfortable way. Discussion after this short visit in hospital was more informative, when with cup of tea we shared different cultures, different systems of health centres and art like a helpful tool in these processes.

“Barbican” centre is very innovative and gives good conditions for artists to collaborate with the society. They created a group of 80 artists, and began cooperation from discussion. However it lacked the information about results of this cooperation between organisations and artists. We found some common points about artist’s role in social activities. English artist, like Lithuanian ones, concentrate on “absolute art”, and participating in social projects can be considered shameful or a sign that the artist doesn’t earn enough from art works. Barbican team tries to find common ground for artists, practitioners, and the public.

The last part of the London study trip was the final evaluation of creative challenges and the whole study trip. In my own opinion, talking about differences in community arts between Lithuania and England, England has got a stronger foundation, gets more attention from government, which in turn takes note of organisation’s working conditions. But this sense of comfort made English organisations a bit passive in trying to find new methods of working with art in communities. We heard a lot of nice experiences of working in community arts field, but only from organisations. I felt lack of information coming from local artists who show the positive results and difficulties of working with communities in particular activities.

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