Rooted in literary and cultural studies, and in creative practice, my research explores ideas of collaborative and artistic community. I’m interested in how cultural groups and formations have been conceptualised, articulated and enacted across a range of media and their relationship with more dominant discourses of community.
A lot of my work has explored festivals of various kinds, but I am also interested in galleries, museums, archives, funding and policy infrastructures.
I’m particularly interested in projects that are self-organised, unfunded, and/or which set up their own experiments in cultural infrastructure. Small museums, micro-galleries, home archives, self-publishing, outsider artists, collectors, community art activity and art collectives are all of interest.
Whilst I’ve looked at collaborative groupings from the Pre-Raphelites to the Situationists and beyond, an abiding interest across projects has been Surrealism. Surrealist groups are great examples of the ‘impossible’ (or complicated) nature of collaborative artistic activity, and I often refer to Surrealism and its legacies in my work and writing.
Research meets practice
My research has developed alongside an ongoing professional career in community arts and public engagement. These two sides of my practice overlap significantly. A large proportion of my research is therefore explored through practice. I have worked collaboratively with a number of artistic groupings and community arts practices – including for example conducting narrative interviews with participants in Nottingham City Arts’ Arts on Prescription programme and working with a number of grassroots arts charities, initiatives and festivals.
I’m interested in exploring ideas of ‘research practice’ that sit outside or complicate the professional infrastructures of higher education. I’m interested in independent, unfunded, very short (one day) projects and projects that are highly collaborative, interdisciplinary, perhaps even a bit messy….
A current interest is in creating experiments in ‘small’ cultural infrastructure which provide a framework for asking critical questions of larger, more powerful structures. Bloomsbury Festival in Box – which created a mini, portable festival – is one example of this. Another more recent example is The Secret Diary of Bloomsbury – through which I co-created a life writing/mass-documentary project that continues to run in Bloomsbury.
‘Festival in a Box’: Development and qualitative evaluation of an outreach programme to engage socially isolated people with dementia. Dementia: the international journal of social research and practice. (2016).
Bloomsbury Festival in a Box: engaging socially isolated people with dementia. Final Project Report to AHRC. (2014).
Arts on Prescription: a qualitative longitudinal outcomes study (co-authored with Dr Theodore Stickley). Public Health. (2013).
The Communality of the Underdeck-Dirty Pretty Surrealism. Sample chapter from PhD thesis. (2012).
‘Cells, Recesses, Tombs: Vertiginous Spaces in Bataille’s Le Bleu du ciel’. MHRA Working Papers in the Humanities, Vol. 4.(2009).
‘Sex, solitude and secrets: what we learnt from Londoners’ anonymous diaries’. (With Elizabeth Dearnley). The i. (2018)
Tensions between the everyday and the exceptional. Arts Professional. (2018).
Being Human and the British Academy. Guest blog for the British Academy. (2017).
Kindred Spirits? University/ cultural partnerships. Arts Professional. (2016).
Still Invited to the Party: Festival in a Box. Arts Professional. (2016).
Festival in a Box: archives. Talking Humanities (blog). (2015).
Being Human: a new forum for public engagement with the humanities. NCCPE guest blog. (2014).