For over ten years I have worked in community engagement in theatre, most recently co-ordinating and delivering this work for Beacon Arts Centre. Today, reflecting on the results of the pandemic, my work incorporates ideas of creative placemaking and cultural democracy to build organisations into better neighbours.
I am very passionate and vocal about the transformational potential of the Arts for individuals and communities as I believe they help grow empathy, resilience and our ability to support one another; qualities needed more than ever in the Covid recovery. My strong belief in the Arts as a vehicle for social change has recently taken me to postgraduate study, and I am currently completing an MA in Art and Social Practice. Through my studies, I am engaged in the current debates, issues, and innovations in community art equipping me with a fresh perspective to apply to numerous contexts.
Strongly influenced by my studies, this work does not need to be workshop- or performance-based. It is based in social interaction and takes places over food, play, and crafts. Culture is the stories that connect people, and we all have them to share. The trick is finding the creative spark to inspire that exchange, such as recollect: Dundee or Incubation: Hope. Sometimes this has even taken place within more traditional performance structures, such as Satellites where audience participation invites connection between people.
Across my broad experience of designing and managing participatory arts projects, I have a focus on how embedding documentation within creative activity can amplify the reach of the work, demonstrate the transformational experience of the process, and empower participants to share their discoveries and connections to generate good will for the arts in communities.
Underpinning my co-ordination of projects is Showing Up Well, a methodology I have created to guide the inception of new activity with communities that have not yet been engaged by the organisation. This is a compassionate and receptive process of co-creation to grow activity into sustainable projects with prolonged engagement. The aim of this work is to make community engagement visible, relational, and long-lasting.
I believe there is huge potential for building-based organisation to operate as creative hubs: a space around which satellite projects can operate while remaining a space where people can gather and feel themselves materially and creatively represented. This is achieved through a shift from giving power to accepting power in communities.
Header Photo: Dave Hill
GIF: Dave Hill
Incubation Image: Sean McGonigal