My colleague Alison
Jeffers and I are working on a book about the early years of the community arts movement in the UK ( circa 1968-1985).
In reflecting on our preliminary research and ideas for
the book, we realised a) that it would be impossible for us to interview everyone who was involved and yet b) an important
principle of community arts was the wish to involve as many people as possible in the creative processes!
As one way of resolving this tension, we have set up a
blog/website. it is designed to be immediate and participatory and we really hope you will sign up to receive posts and perhaps
contribute to it, either by commenting on posts or sending us thoughts and ideas for posts and or photos to upload.
Gerri is collaborating with
Dr. Alison Jeffers of Manchester University on a preliminary research study into community arts. At present, they are focussing
on the late 1960s and the 1970s.
They have been interviewing individuals
who pioneered the work and developed new organisations in that period – just recently, Gerri has been speaking to Owen
Kelly, whose book Storming the Citadels: Community, Art and the State is a classic account of the kinds of questions and issues
facing practitioners at the time.
Alison and Gerri have been asking interviewees about their artistic, aesthetic and
political influences, the models of practice they developed during that period, what they now think they might have done differently
and whether they can see any influences of community arts thinking and practice in the current cultural context.
part of a recent presentation based on this research, Gerri reflected on the ways in which her student experiences in the
Drama Department of Birmingham University affected her praxis.
writes of the then Director of the Institute of Contemporary Cultural Studies: ‘Stuart Hall has been clear about the
importance of culture as a ‘critical site of social action and intervention, where power relations are both established
and potentially unsettled.’
He asks fundamental questions
of all cultural activists, whether community artists or academics, artists working in participatory settings or leaders of
cultural organisations, progressive funders or bloggers. Does our work unsettle unequal power relations or does it confirm
and support an unequal status quo? How can, how does our work ‘help marginal or sub-ordinate groups secure, or win,
however temporarily, cultural space from the dominant group?’
are questions I believe should occupy us as much in the 21st century as they did in the middle decade of the 20th.’
Alison and Gerri hope to publish a blog about their work later this year.