Professional experience

Community arts

Professional experienceFor more than 20 years I have worked variously in community project delivery and management, post-16 formal education, adult and community education and community arts, before that, journalism. This has included fundraising, successful lone and collaborative bid-writing, tendering and several ‘coordinating artist’ roles.

I’ve worked in large scale, longer-term public arts projects (see lightingUpTime), one-off high energy workshops, and everything in between,  making my own artworks, inspiring, encouraging and helping people from all ages and walks of life, in rural Shropshire and urban Birmingham and the Black Country (see CV).

I prefer to work collaboratively with other artists and have some excellent regular collaborators (Frilly; Dilwara Begum; Shaheen Ahmed). A lot of my work has been with women, but this is by no means exclusive – I’ve also worked a lot with teenagers, which I particularly enjoy, and people of all ages.

Encountering new processes and materials, in a created, amenable environment (sometimes we have to work hard to make it right), in an atmosphere of trust and respect, is fundamental to releasing creativity – but I believe art must also carry the potential for risk and chaos – be open-ended, hard work and fun.

My techniques are based on transparency of process, negotiation of aims (where possible) and relationships based on mutual respect and trust. I have taught a variety of skills-based workshops (including pastels, life-drawing, videomaking and editing, printing and other crafts) and it’s important that people learn new techniques, using the best available materials, but thinking, dreaming, reflecting and talking can sometimes be as valuable.

I feel I have learnt from every encounter and from every participant and I’m still learning and developing.

My own arts practice

My own arts practice is mainly video and video installation. For example, I’ve worked collaboratively with digital artist Martin Costello on a GPS/GPI project using museum artefacts as triggers. My films are usually fairly short and spring from my own emotional engagement with the world and a fascination with the tropes and processes of representation – the media, the performativity of our identities and our complex and multi-layered consciousnesses. I have more recently worked in oil painting, and interactive installations.

Since I’m very interested in politics, ideas and theories, this gets reflected in my work too. For example, my video ‘Reading Agatha Christie’ was made with Iraqi Kurdish refugees, who read extracts from ‘They Came to Baghdad’ in Arabic, was a personal response to cultural ignorance about the Middle East at the time of Britain’s Iraq war. This film has been shown in Cairo and the US, as well as the UK. And, when working on the year-long celebration of the publication of Darwin’s ‘Origin of Species’ in Shrewsbury (lightingUpTime) I made a creative contact with Elaine Morgan, the author of the original ‘aquatic ape’ theory (her transformational book on human origins in the ’70s, ‘The Descent of Woman’ made a big impact on me), and she became a project contributor (my colleague Andy McKeown projected the whole of the text of her book and Darwin’s onto local buildings, using specially written software).

Evaluation – see CV