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Precarity in socially engaged arts practice

A Balancing Act

On Friday 16th of November around 30 creative practitioners who describe themselves as socially-engaged got together at the Kinning Park Complex to discuss precarity in socially-engaged arts practice.

This event emerged out of discussions between a small group of artists meeting at the Kinning Park Complex over a bowl of soup to mull over issues, challenges and questions we found ourselves faced with. We discussed how we define and describe our practice, lack of value for socially engaged practice, burnout, the difficulty in earning an income, how we attempt to resist being coerced into artwashing, ways of collaborating across project and building solidarity between groups, how we can critically reflect on what we do and where is the room for failure.

Precarity was an issue that touched on lots of the topics we were discussing. In practical terms it related to unpredictable income, no security, often being invisible and also the way in which we practice – balancing different interests, agendas, expectations. Artists Janie Nicoll, Ailie Rutherford and Katharine Wheeler were invited to reflect on precarity in their own practice, in the field of socially-engaged art and more broadly in the communities which artists interact with. Janie and Ailie spoke about their project In Kind and Katharine spoke about her work with the Stove in Dumfries.

Funding from Axisweb Social Works? programme came along at the right time to have an event which brought more people into the conversation and have a focused discussion on one particular theme and ask how we respond to these issues and what action is needed.







As part of the event Josie Vallely created a zine to document some of the discussion but also to provide provocations, inspiration and resources. You can download the zine here Precarity in social art zine

The hope is that the conversation can continue and momentum from this event will stimulate further get togethers and collective action.

Growing community in southern Italy

I am delighted to be working with an organisation Agri-neutral on a project in Matera in southern Italy to create a community garden. It is a unique and challenging project to transform a patch of ground in the intersection of two communities into a productive landscape for the people who live in the surrounding flats.

My involvement in the project has been commissioned by the Matera 2019 Foundation as part of Basilicata Fiorita, series of community garden projects that are being developed in the lead up to the Matera being the European Capital of Culture in 2019.

The website for the project (in Italian) is

An image from my visit in March 2016


Soil City a new Open Jar Collective project

Soil City

Excited to be working on the next Open Jar Collective project Soil City, which will be launched with a period of ‘field research’ during Glasgow International Festival of Visual Art (GI). Soil City is a long term project initiated by Open Jar Collective, engaging with the citizens of Glasgow and a wider community of scientists, artists and activists, to re-imagine the city as if soil mattered. Read more here

I’m fascinated by glimpses beneath the construction of the city, the sense of how much goes on under our feet without us thinking about it. We rarely think of soil as part of the ecology of the city, just a material on which to build or nurture in pockets as gardens or parks. As a gardener I’ve engaged with the matter of soil and what makes a good growing medium and I am looking forward to getting to grips with the idea of soil as a collective resource, not just for growing food but sustaining live in general.


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