Trust the Process: New Approaches to Artistic Development

The Long Read

I’ve been interested in the question of the commissioning process since my early-career days at the Manchester Jazz Festival, where I developed, with my good friend Steve Mead, a framework for selection and production, mjf originals, which is still going strong and has produced outstanding works. They’ve now gone one step further by creating a new artistic development scheme, hothouse, “that gets rid of the traditional written application forms and long-winded grant funding processes that artists frequently endure”. Artists are selected on the basis of a short video and get mentoring, guidance, paid rehearsal time and a paid work-in-progress showcase. I’m looking forward to discover the exciting new music that will come out of this, and in the meantime, I’ve rounded up a few other commissioning / development schemes that I like the sound of, beyond music (admittedly with a view to borrow and steal ideas for future projects). 

Citizen-led: Les Nouveaux commanditaires


Les Nouveaux commanditaires (The New Patrons) is a public art “protocol” developed in 1991 by visual artist François Hers, with the support of the Fondation de France, in response to what he perceived as the disconnection of art and life: the culmination of a triple logic of the artist as genius, the art object as a market commodity and the public as passive and unconcerned.

This Protocol is about injecting and redefining value at all levels of the creation and reception / interaction process. Crucially, it’s the public – playing their full role as citizens – who take responsibility to commission an artwork from an artist.

As Patron (commissioner), they therefore have to understand and express the reasons why an artwork should exist and be invested in.

The artist’s role is to invent new forms that respond (or reflect, subvert, question…) to the evolving needs and realities of contemporary society. Within the Protocol, the responsibility for artistic creation is a shared, collective one, not just a private initiative.

The third key piece of this creative equation is the mediator, an experienced arts professional, part facilitator, part producer, part fundraiser, selected by peers to act as an go-between, stewarding the process, navigating all interests and accompanying the commissioning individual or group until and beyond the realisation of the work.

Philanthropists, political representatives and academics are also actors in the Protocol, each bringing their influence, expertise and self-interest to the process, making the resulting work more grounded in society, but also more tricky to produce – hence the importance of the sustained, long-term mediator’s work, “organising the cooperation” of all parties.

Extract from the Protocol (in the current English translation provided on the New Patrons website – it needs a rework!):

In committing to an equal sharing of responsibilities, all players agree to manage through negotiation the tensions and conflicts inherent in public life within a democracy.

The work of art, having become an actor of public life, thus ceases to be merely the emblematic expression of someone’s individuality to become the expression of autonomous persons who have decided to form a community in order to invent new ways of relating to the world and to give a shared meaning to contemporary creative activity.

Financed by private and public subventions, the artwork becomes the property of a collectivity and its value is no longer a market value, but the value of the usage this collectivity makes of it and the symbolic importance conferred upon it.

The “mediator” role is of course what makes me really tick in this process, as I’ve been exploring how to be a better Creative Producer for a while. In his 2016 short book Letter to a Friend about the New Patrons, François Hers expands on his motivations and journey to create the Protocol, and reflects on the rise of this go between figure, which has since flourished in all sectors and situations, especially under the title of facilitator.

Two mediators discuss here how the phrase (and concept) Les Nouveaux commanditaires has been translated outside France 

There were 334 works listed on the website as of December 2017, which is a lot of citizen-led public art, so I could only pick a tiny sample below to illustrate the wide range of impulses and intentions behind these works:  

  • A New Product: A consulting firm specialised in office organisation commissioned an artist to accompany and make sense of their own relocation process. 
    A New Product Harun Farocki
  • Qu’est ce qui nous rassemble ? (What Brings us Together?): An ad-hoc group of citizens (ccc) in the South West of France interested in the history and identity of their city engaged an artist to find the most relevant way to represent, in the public space, a contemporary vision of their city.

Touches-y si tu l'oses, Delphine Balley 2013
Touches-y si tu l’oses, Delphine Balley, 2013 (part of a photography exhibition)
  • The Ever Blossoming Garden: Parents and friends of a young woman murdered in 2007, after 5 years of organising silent marches in her memory, worked with an artist to create a peace sanctuary where violence could also be questioned.

  • mario-airo-the-ever-blossoming-garden-diest-september-2016-©-drawing-mario-airo
    The Ever Blossoming Garden, Mario Airó, 2016 (drawing)
  • Et pluie le soleil: the staff of a children’s home wanted to bring beauty, colour and harmony inside the institution, but also change its perception and reputation in the village. The artist worked with the children in care to transform their place of residence and created a children’s book in place of a catalogue. 
    Et pluie le soleil Cécile Bart - 3
  • Sharawaggi: A group of students commissioned a set of new bell sounds for their school. 

  • Itinerant: TRIDANSE

    I came across Tridanse when researching examples of art and mental health institutions, which led me straight to the extraordinary 3bisf, a contemporary art centre located within the 19th century wing of a psychiatric hospital in Aix-en-Provence. Until 1982, it was a closed environment, a “pavillon de force” for women only. Since 1983, it’s a centre that both presents performances and exhibitions and hosts visual and performing arts residencies. Artists can develop not only new works but also new processes to involve and meet audiences.

    le 3bisf à Aix-en-Provence, lieu d’arts contemporains

    Tridanse is a networked residency created in 2005 specifically for dance artists, who get access to 4 different arts centres in the course of their selection timeframe as well as a €18,000 fee. As the name suggests, the programme started with 3 venues, all dotted around the South East of France, and a 4th one was added on the way:

    • Le 3bisf, contemporary arts centre, Aix-en-Provence
    • Le Vélo Théâtre, “Maison d’artistes pour le théâtre d’objet, le compagnonnage et le croisement des arts” (I love this description, which I’d very roughly translate by “Artists’ Home for Object Theatre, Companionship (traditional network of knowledge transmission) and Hybridization of Arts), Apt
    • Le Citron Jaune, National Centre for Public Space Arts, Port-Saint-Louis du Rhône (also home to the fantastic water-based arts company Ilotopie), Port-Saint-Louis du Rhône (in the beautiful Camargue)  
    • Le Théâtre Durance, theatre, Château Arnoux

    Quoting from the Call for Proposals 2019, Tridanse has three joint objectives:

    • To support the emergence of new forms of choreographic creation that weave danse into other artistic practices: visual arts, circus, theatre, philosophy, architecture, cinema, landscape…
    • To enable reflection, action and experimentation on new relationships between artists, audiences and venue staff
    • To outline new modes of supporting artistic projects

    The process is also firmly based on sharing the different steps of the creative process with the team, audiences and other people involved in each venue (for example, the patients and hospital staff at the 3 bis f).

    In 2018, the selected artist was Marta Izquierdo Muñoz, a choreographer from Catalonia based in Perpignan, who explored the figure of the majorette in her new piece Imago-Go during 4 residencies taking place between March and September, each lasting about a week and comprising a public showcase and/or workshop.  

    Marta Izquierdo Muñoz, Imago Go, photo © Nicolas Cadet
    Imago Go, Marta Izquierdo Muñoz, photo © Nicolas Cadet

    In 2017, Gaëtan Bulourde explored the notion of landscape through a performative installation bringing together video, movement and sound, also offering workshops and participatory events at each stage of the creative process.

    Gaëtan Bulourde, Dans la profondeur du champ, atelier de création au 3bisf, Tridanse 2017

    In 2016, le collectif Etat d’urgence created Dites à ma mère que je suis là, now touring, based on ethnographic research in Calais and exploring the notions of borders, exclusion and policy.

    Incubator: Battersea Arts Centre


    Battersea Arts Centre is an arts centre housed in an old town hall in South West London. It’s a well-loved, well-used community resource, producing, presenting and touring innovative theatre as well as providing a welcoming environment for local residents of all ages for a variety of programmes and workshops.

    In 2015, a fire destroyed the Great Hall, BAC’s main performing space, and the immediate and incredibly positive community response is a testament to how valued they are, both by theatre-goers and locals.

    Since 2000, BAC’s philosophy has been based on Scratch, a creative principle that puts forward sharing, continuous learning and giving and receiving feedback.   

    Scratch is about sharing an idea with the public at an early stage of its development. When you Scratch an idea, you can ask people questions and consider their feedback. This helps you work out how to take your idea on to the next stage. It’s an iterative process that can be used again and again. Over time, ideas become stronger because they are informed by a wide-range of responses.

    The feedback is an important part of the process but Scratch is not about doing everything that people’s feedback suggests; it is about using the responses to help you understand how people currently receive it and to help you shape your idea. The feedback doesn’t have to be a Q&A, you can simply share your idea ‘live’ and, by doing this, you can often tell what works and what doesn’t. Scratch recognizes that when an idea does not fully succeed, or even when it crashes and burns, that there is great learning to be gathered.

    For the full lowdown, this 2015 story on the Google Arts & Culture platform retraces the 15 years of Scratch (officially launched in 2000). The Scratch legacy is huge: more than a more theatre, BAC now acts as an incubator of people and projects, using the creative principles of Scratch to work with artists, teachers, young entrepreneurs, spaces, museums


    There’s lots going on at Battersea Arts Centre, so I’ll just list here a few initiatives that use the Scratch principles in various contexts:

    • Create Course, a weekly meet-up, where participants (16+) can explore new ways to be creative in their own life, coming together around good food, guest leaders, a lively discussion and creative tasks. Session guest leaders have included poet Deanna Rodger, garden designer Nina Leatherdale, chef Veronica Lopes da Sliva, producer Roisin Feeny, artist Conrad Murray, broadcaster Byron Vincent and spoken-word artist Polarbear… and BAC provides free creche on request.
    • Collaborative Touring Network: a collaboration between BAC and 8 other producing partners in the UK formed in 2013 to produce, present and promote diverse events “to feed an appetite for culture in communities across the country” and realise the vision of “a nation where everyone has inspiring art and culture on their doorstep”. To date, the network has presented work in over 170 different spaces including parks, community centres, boxing gyms and nightclubs, imagining “new contexts for performances that inspire audiences and artists alike”.
    • Agents of Creative Change, a free annual professional development programme for artists, public and third sector professionals who have a challenge to tackle in their professional environment, in their community, or both. The programme pairs practitioners with artists and offers a series of workshops to share practice, ideas and trial solutions to the presented challenges. In between meet-ups, participants realise test projects within the community. Previous participants have included those working in the police, local government, health services, employment and offender management. Artists have come from a wide variety of backgrounds including music & beatbox, design, writing, photography, performance work, digital and community theatre.
    • Scratch Hub, opening in Autumn 2018, will be a creative co-working space based on the Scratch principles, offering members quite a few perks on top of a deskspace, from a time-banking scheme to exchange expertise and skills to talks and scratch nights  “to foster collaborations, co-learning and creative conversations”, “opportunities for member-led programming and event hosting” and discounts on shows and food & drink (in the aptly named lovely Scratch Bar).
    • BAC is also in the process of launching Co-Creating Change, an international network “to explore the role which producers, cultural organisations and artists can play to co-create change with community partners”, starting with the question: How can cultural centres also be community centres?

    The Art of Partnering

    Tools of the Trade

    I first got involved with Jazz North in 2013 for a piece of R&D on an artist commissioning scheme in line with the organisation’s founding principle of partnership-working – which resulted in the dfscore pilot project I produced with Rodrigo Constanzo – and it’s been really great to see the organisation grow and flourish, from a project-led structure to a fully-fledged NPO with a fantastic new Executive Director, Lesley Jackson (coming from Leeds-based Phoenix Dance Theatre).  

    This partnership-working principle is both a great opportunity and challenge: with the right synergy and efficient pooling of resources, ideas can spark brighter and projects become bigger. However, there’s no template for a perfect partnership: the terms of the relationship have to be negotiated on a case-by-case basis, and it will widely depend on the nature of the project, budget, timeline, resources available including staff – so pretty much everything! And like with any relationship, sometimes it just clicks, and sometimes you need to lay down a few things before you get properly started.

    Preliminary Thinking: Checklist & Questions

    I’ve started to develop a few ideas towards a partnership agreement or charter, something that would reduce risk without being stifling.

    So far it’s very much about what partners need to discuss, define and revisit throughout the project cycle, with the following broad categories to address:

          Leadership: who is responsible for what
          Communication: how and how often will partners communicate, and who will be responsible for external communications
          Administration: who will be in charge of updating the budget, booking meeting rooms, taking and distributing minutes….
          Evaluation: how, when, when will the project be evaluated; who will take part, and why
          Legacy: what do the partners want to achieve, what will happen after the project phase ends

    I’m still in the process of researching and developing this partnership agreement checklist – or whichever format it ends up taking – and have recently come across some interesting resources that I’ve listed below. 

    The National Enquiry: The Art of Partnering  

    When I conducted the research into co-commissioning and artistic partnership back in 2013, I was quite surprised by the lack of formal agreements and the ad hoc nature of relationships, even at international level. A recent Cultural Enquiry report on The Art of Partnering, led by King’s College London in collaboration with the BBC, published in October 2015, found that, amongst arts organisations surveyed:


    This seems to confirms that many partnerships are started on a trust basis and conducted rather informally, and therefore run the risk to be under-serviced, to the point of not managing to conduct an evaluation.

    I do love a well designed report, and this one has got a nice collection of pretty bubbly infographics to highlight key findings, of which I’ve copied a few below.

    Things to Think About

    There’s also a detailed section about methodology, something I’m especially interested in at the moment, and lots of case studies, such as Teach Through Music (a partnership of 5 London-based music organisations delivering CPD for music teachers) and SPINE (library services in Cambridgeshire, Suffolk and Norfolk collaborating to share back office facilities). 

    The View from the Producers: Taking Bearings

    Also in the past few days, I’ve come across another interesting document about partnerships produced by a British arts institution – in a fairly serendipitous manner, as it’s a document that was mentioned in passing by
    Claire Doherty (of Bristol-based Situations) in a video interview she did for The Art of MOOC, a new online experiment about public art, education and participation.

    This time it’s a much more personal take on what makes a partnership a success, the fruit of a peer learning event exploring quality in the context of the Creative People and Places programme (an Arts Council flagship programme of investment into arts organisations working in places and with people identified as remote and disengaged). Titled Taking Bearings, it starts with a lovely illustrated “Map of the Voyage to the Island of Quality” commissioned from artist Nicole Mollett and also includes a short story by Sarah Butler – a nice way to position firmly this document within the realm of artistic collaboration. 

    Carte du Parnenariat

    I really like the journey metaphor and the compass-style layout of questions, as it helps to envisage such partnerships as processes, always moving and growing.

    Compass Route Planning

    In her introduction, Claire Doherty explains: “We have devised these prompts collectively to be used for ‘a meeting with oneself’, or as a device to enable more open conversation with participants, stakeholders and collaborators.” On the whole, It’s much more conceptual than my own set of questions, and I find it helpful for daring to go to fairly uncomfortable places (“Is the obstacle due to a disagreement about where you are headed?”) and bringing home some common sense (“Have you looked at this from another direction?”).

    The Theoretical Background: Enabling Effective Collaboration

    Mission Models Money – an action-research programme that ran from 2004 to 2014 – studied funded and observed 6 pilot partnerships between 2008 and 2010 to develop innovative thinking and resources about collaboration and partnerships in the arts. Through this “Enabling Effective Collaboration” initiative, they produced a bunch of documents, from case studies (such as this Opera North + University of Leeds project, or this network of cultural venues in Newcastle and Gateshead) to guidance for funders and a set of practical guidelines and insights drawn from the 2-year research:

    A. A typology of structures that can support effective collaboration

    “Partnership” means something different to everyone, but MMM identifies 9 models of collaboration based on the case studies and additional examples: from Fully and Partially Integrated Mergers (such as Trinity Laban) to the Creative Adhocracy, a casual, trust-based relationship between individuals choosing to work together (a common occurrence in the arts, of which MMM is an example).

    B. 10 essential Competencies, Qualities and Attributes required for collaborative working

    As illustrated in the above Map of Quality, there are numerous pitfalls in the partnership journey. This document lists the key behaviours that contribute to the success of a partnership, based on interviews with case studies participants. As noted by one of the interviewees, it is crucial to understand from the start what will be required through the project lifecycle so that partners can choose appropriate project leaders and invest in the professional development if necessary.

    1. Seeing systems
    2. Wanting to learn
    3. Building shared vision
    4. Building a critical mass for change within an organisation
    5. Developing mutual trust and respect
    6. Managing across boundaries
    7. Communicating effectively and appropriately
    8. Confronting issues and managing conflict
    9. Adapting to changing circumstances
    10. Valuing risk taking, tolerating failure
      C. The values created by good collaboration

      These are the added values that participants have observed as an indirect result of their collaborative projects, beyond the desired planned outcomes:

      1. Re-affirmation of vision and mission
      2. Release of new energy
      3. Opportunity to learn
      4. Opportunity to innovate
      5. Generating and enhancing influence
    D. Frameworks and planning processes that can enable effective collaboration

    This last document is “an introduction to planning collaborative activity and a digest of key early stage challenges”, including advice on working with external specialists. It introduces the notion of “disciplined collaboration” developed by management professor Morten Hansen, which he defines as “the leadership practice of properly assessing when to collaborate (and when not to) and instilling in people both the willingness and the ability to collaborate when required.” MMM has developed a framework inspired by Hansen’s work and based on case studies findings to take into account the specificities of the not-for-profit arts & culture sector. The full framework, with additional questions and references, can be found on MMM’s website, and I’ve summarised the key points below.

    Step 1: Evaluate opportunities for collaboration

    This step is about identifying levels of experience, resources and relevance of the proposed outcome. Hansen warns that “collaboration is a means to an end and that end is great performance. This means that often it may be better not to collaborate, because there is simply no compelling reason to do so.” This is also the right time to create a relevant collaborative working proposition, and this can be framed around the themes of mission, models and money:

    How will collaborating help better delivery of the organisation’s mission or how can it help renew mission?
    What will be the advantages for our operational model?
    And what positive impact will it have on our finances?

    Step 2. Spot barriers to collaboration

    Hansen proposes four typical barriers:

    • The ‘not invented here’ barrier (people are unwilling to reach out to others)
    • The hoarding barrier (people are unwilling to provide help)
    • The search barrier (people are not able to find what they are looking for)
    • The transfer barrier (people are not able to work with people they do not know well)

    To which MMM adds “over-extension and undercapitalisation” as specific to the arts sector, in other words, lack of time, money and resources.

    At this stage, partners should be aware of these potential pitfalls and be ready to ask themselves some difficult questions about their own limitations, behavioural, organisational and/or practical barriers that might prevent successful collaborative working. It’s also the right time to take stock of the resources available on all sides, including staff, and to start considering options for what MMM calls “Technical Assistance”, in other words external advisors / experts.

    Step 3. Tailor solutions to tear down the barriers

    After identifying potential problems, partners can start identifying solutions: it’s time to clarify the shared vision, articulate the strategic objectives, put plans in place to gain new skills or draw in external experience.

    Structures and methodologies should also be developed at this stage, defining roles and responsibilities and putting in place strategies of accountability.

    Step 4. Review and embed the process

    Finally, special attention should be paid to implementing feedback mechanisms throughout the project cycle and enabling sustainable learning across the partnering organisations.
    To conclude, MMM shares insights into “early stage collaboration challenges” that pilot project participants encountered – in other words, what they would do better if they could start all over again.

    • Crystallising the purpose: even if it evolves over time, it’s better to have a direction in mind than to navigate in the dark.
    • Ensuring mission congruence: the mission is the identity of an organisation – so it’s essential that partners understand fully how their values and beliefs overlap or diverge.
    • Recognising the different kinds of value being created: as this is an essential element of the partnership legacy, it’s important to acknowledge gains and benefits at all stages of the project
    • Communicating: how, how often, with whom… a communication structure between brand new partners is a must.
    • Paying sufficient attention to ‘soft skills’: issues of leadership and relationships need to be looked at from the start.
    • Understanding resourcing needs: these can be time, money, in-house skills and accessible external assistance.

    The Art of Disruption


    How to present what you do, as a freelancer/contractor? How to be both descriptive enough to be credible, yet keep the door open to new collaborations? As François Matarasso puts it: “In this neoliberal world, where people are commoditised, a freelancer must be ready to stand in the shop window, if not the auction block, in his best clothes. We’ve all got an elevator pitch now.”

    In a perhaps misguided attempt to cover all grounds, I’m currently using ‘Events Manager, Audience Developer and Translator’ on my business card. My ‘services’ page also lists Programme Management & Coordination, Research and Copywriting. I could go on – but I’m not sure that adding more specialities would make my achievements and skills look any better. In fact, such an enumeration is not even reflecting what I do overall.

    That’s why I’m using ‘Cultural Producer’ on my ‘about’ page and on LinkedIn: because it’s not just describing the different parts of the process, but how they’re all converging.

    Jeremy Deller, Procession (Manchester International Festival, 2009) via BBC Manchester website

    Jeremy Deller, Procession (Manchester International Festival, 2009) via BBC Manchester website

    I like this definition, used by someone called Gina Tarantino in her Penn State University blog:

    A creative cultural producer is a professional that plans, designs, organizes and manages artistic projects that have a cultural impact on the public that will interact with them.

    Play Me I'm Yours, 2012, Toronto (Mexico piano, University & Dundas)

    Play Me I’m Yours, Mexico piano (Toronto, Canada 2012)

    And even more this one, developed by London-based creative company Nimble Fish to describe their own practice, which they felt was not accurately reflected by the categories “Theatre” or “Theatre-in-Education”:

    Cultural Producers establish, implement and manage a self-generated creative vision, typically outside the purview of traditional performance or gallery spaces. Cultural Producers are rarely restricted to a single artistic form, preferring instead to work with whatever combination of forms best suits a particular idea or theme. Cultural Producers often seek to animate or re-interpret public spaces in the context of the communities they serve, and consequently their work often has a strong component of community participation or co-creation.

    City-wide flood simulation produced by La Folie Kilomètre and pOlau

    Jour Inondable, city-wide flood simulation produced by La Folie Kilomètre and pOlau (Tours, France , 2012)

    Arts Council England and the Jerwood Charitable Foundation commissioned a 2007 publication titled “The Producers: Alchemists of the Impossible” to “celebrate and explore the role of the producer in the arts” through 14 portraits of creative individuals.

    One of the featured producers is Helen Marriage, co-founder of Artichoke, “a creative company that works with artists to invade our public spaces and put on extraordinary and ambitious events that live in the memory forever”. Artichoke will probably forever be known for the Sultan’s Elephant (see below), but they’ve also created, more recently, the city-wide night-time Lumière events in Durham and Derry-Londonderry, the giant spider in Liverpool and One & Other, Anthony Gormley’s Fourth Plinth Commission project.

    Durham Cathedral, Lumière Festival Durham, produced by Artichoke (2009)

    Durham Cathedral, Lumière Festival Durham, produced by Artichoke (Durham, UK, 2009)

    In 2012-2013, Helen Marriage was awarded a Loeb Fellowship by Harvard Graduate School of Design, to “study the intersection of design, public art and urban infrastructure”. She has since embarked on a series of talks and seminars on the topic of cultural disruption and ephemeral urbanism, and her recent presentation at the Ramsay Gardens Seminar series is summarised on International Futures Forum’s website.

    She retraces the 5-year journey to get permission to close streets in London and stage a huge peripatetic performance, recalling the shifting point that made it all possible and the self-discovery that ensued:

    For the first three years the answer was always no. But in the end the mood shifted:  from “why would we do this?” (a plea for justification, outcomes, evidence) to “why would we not do this?” (an enrolment in playing a part in producing something magical).  Helen’s message – “it will be fantastic and you will be really proud” – finally struck home.

    In retrospect, she realised that she herself had been the problem. She had been asking an impossible question – in asking for permission. They could not possibly say yes. But once it got into the minutes that the event was scheduled to happen, everyone assumed that somebody else had given authority and from then on their role was to help.  It was a valuable lesson and one that she now follows always: her job is to take responsibility, to be the bearer of risk for everyone involved, which frees them up to be as helpful and creative as they can without formally ‘owning’ the project themselves.

    Artichoke: Sultan's Elephant (London, 2006)

    Sultan’s Elephant, Artichoke & Royal de Luxe (London, UK, 2006)

    Reviewing The Producers for a-n , Charlotte Frost surveyed a number of established cultural production agencies (listed below). Despite clear differences, such as the diversity of organisational structures, she finds them to share three key functions:

    1. Matchmaking collaborative relationships: combining artists and artforms, often assembling a custom back-end team, and bringing together projects and venues, funders and other supporters.
    2. Providing the necessary time and space: directly by providing physical space (Artsadmin) or virtual platforms (, and also through committing to the long-term durational process (Artangel).
    3. Being the “risk absorber” (Steven Bode, Director of FVU): “Every project starts from square-one in terms of the producer having to find creative partners, a venue and, usually, funders” (Electra Co-Founder and Director Lina Dzuverovic); “Its very important that all of us, Artsadmin, Artangel, Forma, and everyone else… keep encouraging new work to happen, if we don’t, everything will get very stagnant. That is, what is inspiring and compelling for us, and it is something that I would reiterate to Arts Council England, this experimental work influences the mainstream and feeds everything else.” (Judith Knight, Co-Founder and Director of Artsadmin).

    Floating Cinema, Up Projects (London, 2013)

    Floating Cinema, Up Projects (London, 2013)

    The video below shows the LIFT Festival production of Haircuts by Children, an “aesthetically scintillating experience”  developed by Toronto-based culture production workshop Mammalian Diving Reflex that has already been re-created in 30 cities.  Artistic Director Darren O’Donnell explains:

    Haircuts by Children involves children between the ages of 8-12 are trained by professional hairstylists, and then paid to run a real hair salon, offering members of the public free haircuts. The project invites the consideration of young people as creative and competent individuals whose aesthetic choices can be trusted. While providing atypical entertainment for the public, Haircuts by Children also shifts the traditional power dynamic between children and adults, creating a safe social space where children and adults who live in the same community can meet and share a unique creative experience together. The idea that kids should be allowed to cut our hair evokes the same leap of faith, courage and understanding required to grant children deeper citizenship rights. For many it is actually less terrifying to contemplate allowing kids to vote.