Participating without power: The limits of instrumentalised engagement with people & place

I believe that there is not enough emphasis placed upon understanding the theoretical and historical perspectives and contexts of 'participation' that are, for me, crucially important to both practice and research that engages with people, place, power and politics.  Similarly, I also believe that, whilst this field is situated within 'the social', there is not enough emphasis on how practice and research may fit with broader understandings of art and society, nor, for that matter, with wider theoretical from other interrelated disciplines.  Too often I attend conferences or read articles about socially engaged art, participatory art and Creative People and Places only to find an often insular, narrow discussion of practice which often is positioned within existing frameworks of practice and research which themselves are often ultimately defined by the state.

This article therefore attempts to open up new ways of thinking about community development and social engagement in art programmes like Creative People and Places.

Boiling over. The Boiler Room’s white, elite colonial appropriation of Notting Hill Carnival

There’s been a lot written about Boiler Room’s involvement with Notting Hill Carnival and its future funding from Arts Council England’s Ambition For Excellence programme to produce a film about the event.  I do not intend to rehearse those discussions here.  There have been many valid points raised on both sides of the argument.  Rather, I want to address some serious issues that this fiasco raises about the role of public money in funding the arts in England.  My contention here is not only that Arts Council England’s funding of Boiler Room does not meet the goals of the Ambition For Excellence programme, but that it also does not support their Creative Case for Diversity objectives either.  Rather, it reinforces colonialism and white, upper and middle-class privilege.  Indeed, this funding represents the deeply neoliberal agenda of turning art into a globally-marketed consumer product.