Connected Communities: Remaking Society

Tom Wakeford, Graham Jeffery, Kerrie Schaefer

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report

Abstract

In this pilot demonstrator project, four community arts and media organisations committed to engagement with autonomous and dynamic communities drew on the creativity of local people. Together they either addressed issues, solved problems or generated alternatives - sometimes all three.

We joined these groups' exploration - through performance, visual art and digital media - of the extent to which people conventionally regarded as excluded from society can choose to negotiate their own inclusion through activities of cultural production. We considered how the activities of artists and academics can avoid being shaped or distorted by the very governmental and market logics that they seek to critique. The live artworks, performances, and radio programmes created by the four groups were studied as ways of engaging people in conversations about the places in which they live and the futures of their communities.

Working with Bradford Community Broadcasting, Swingbridge Media, Love Milton and Theatre Modo, the pilot explored the value of arts practices in making and re-making dynamic communities. We have combined participant observation of cultural bricoleurs and artistic tricksters with structured interviews and surveys, as well as direct engagement through practice-based work in the generation of cultural and media products. The result supplements conventional 'objective' truths with potential paths to imagined futures.

Ground rules for future work in this field:

1. Effective innovation requires the kind of engagement that is committed to change - what we call engagé.
2. Establishing mutual respect for the moral and intellectual standing of all collaborators is essential.
3. Spontaneous learning through practical activities of making, remaking and inventing with the resources available - bricolage - is a fertile route to create emancipatory spaces where people can work together.
4. Beware the evidence trap. Outside assistance and resources from government agencies and other organisations are needed to address deprivation, but the agenda should be set by the people most directly affected. All interpretations of resulting research or action should be assessed from a variety of perspectives, not just those of outsiders.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherArts & Humanities Research Council
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 2014

Keywords

  • bricolage
  • community arts
  • participatory democracy
  • performance
  • visual art
  • digital media

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