23rd March: 8.00pm
Truth and Lies in NI Participatory Arts Practice
During the pandemic many people have been reassessing what is most important to them and what actually makes up a life that feels worthwhile, with many coming to the conclusion that it revolves around our connection to each other.
In our wee corner of the world, participatory arts and culture (creating things together) whether you call it community arts, socially engaged arts, youth arts, arts in health, arts education, outreach, or something else entirely, has a long history of people coming together to try and form connections.
But…as this place has changed so much over recent decades (although some might say not enough) how can we understand, develop and strengthen those connections to each other if the structures and thinking that inform why and how this work happens here haven’t significantly changed along with our society? Instead of funding led participatory projects being a sticking plaster or even a welcome distraction for under resourced groups and organisations with diverse needs why can’t (at least some of) this work offer more to all kinds of people by default? Is the top down allocation of public money at the root of the problem? Why can’t participatory arts be a lot more participatory, in its intent, design, delivery and evaluation? As people involved in various different stages of this work, we think we know what mostly rings true about it but we also know there are a lot of lies that we might be perpetuating too.
We have (a lot) more questions:
What support and training do organisations, artists and the people they work with really need to understand each other and make mutually beneficial connections and leave a legacy that can develop as desired?
What are the potential ways organisations, artists and the people they work with take collective action to improve their own living and working conditions and have more control over what they want to try to create together?
Why can’t the ‘quality’ of a participatory project be decided by the people who participate in it? Why can’t organisations, artists and the people they work be trusted to transparently and collectively negotiate what that means to them? Let’s push for more honest and collectively managed forms of self evaluation that move us beyond ticking boxes to get a fair share of the public money that already belongs to us.
We could go on (and on) but we want your participation and input!
As part of an initial panel discussion we will be talking about some of our pet participatory peeves, what we would really like to change, plus possibilities of how we might move on, reclaim and renew some of the radical properties that we know making culture collaboratively can sometimes have, and then it’ll be over to you to have your say. So whether you’re a practitioner, participant, commissioner, funder or other, all wisdom and complaint will be gratefully received and inform future discussions, resources and maybe even start a movement for some participatory change…
This event has been put together by Peer Professional Practice (P³) a group made up of people who are interested in discussing, critiquing and developing participatory (arts) practices in Northern Ireland. Currently our members are Ciara O’Malley, Gwen Stevenson, Heather Floyd, Jacqui Wylie and Sheelagh Colclough. We are a peer led group with the goal of developing events, actions and or accessible resources to help challenge ropey practices, structures and thinking, and to try to build support for changing some of the ways participatory arts and culture happens here.
Learn more: Imagine! blog