Heart of Glass is a social arts organisation, and collaboration is at the core of what we do. We are made up of a group of individuals and communities who experience the world in many and varied ways. We work together. The times we are experiencing have limited some of our traditional forms of social gathering, and regular means to collaborate – which typically involves lots of tea, and being together in shared spaces! This is a moment of unprecedented crisis, made all the more challenging by the capitalist, neo-liberal, ableist, heteronormative, patriarchal and racist structures that grip tightly to our experience of contemporary society.
We wish to support the development of work that is socially and politically relevant, whatever the circumstance. We wish to continue to support artists, communities and our partners. We’ve been thinking of ways to do this. We will continue to do so. Some of the work we had planned is no longer possible in the immediate future but being static and standing still is not our default position, and the questions we regularly explore together feel more urgent than ever. We’ve been chatting to friends, colleagues, artists and community partners. We’re working on some stuff. This is an in-motion programme of initiatives responding to the urgent need to TAKE CARE and TAKE ACTION…..NOW.
We’re sharing in no particular order a new series of initiatives:
As of today and over the following weeks we’ll be sharing places of care, tools for online creativity and different useful resources each day across Twitter and Facebook under the hashtag #TakeCareStHelens. Inspired by Take Care St Helens, a recent project we commissioned by artist Hwa Young Jung, who worked with communities across the town to acknowledge the importance of spaces of care and the people who make them so special. Radical acts of care and solidarity feel essential at this time.
Social Practice Shipping Forecast
We’ve asked long term associate Chrissie Tiller (*see biography below) to work with us as a Writer in Residence during this period. We wish to connect with artists and communities, and self-reflect organisationally, so that we might chart this experience, from a practice and societal perspective. We anticipate sharing various bits of writing, and creating a ‘shipping forecast’, a live log and testimony. We’d like to talk to you! Think of it as a collective note-taking effort to document and learn from the organising of solidarity in response to the urgency of care precipitated by the pandemic of Coronavirus (SARS-Cov-2). We need practical guidance and inspiration. Collaborative and social practice has historically been part of articulating demands to shift our societies from capitalism, productivism, patriarchy and racism to societies centred on collectivising the shared task of regenerating the interdependent well-being of humans and nature – we need to go to work!
We wish to acknowledge the work of: http://syllabus.pirate.care/topic/coronanotes/. We hope to contribute our own knowledge to this piece of research.
Chrissie Tiller Biography
Over the past month, just as many of us are finding ourselves in situations we never imagined only weeks ago and placed in categories we never thought we belonged to, I was tasked with crafting a statement about myself and my practice – for a PhD by publication. Despite tying myself up in increasingly complex knots to begin with, I slowly began to give myself permission to speak honestly about who I am and, in doing so, shape a narrative.
Not only do I now describe myself as writer, thinker, pedagogue (teacher), practitioner, activist – and agent of change, I have:
- reclaimed my lived experience as a working class woman in arts and culture, appreciating the ways in which this is constantly mediated by a sense of ‘otherness’ and ‘marginalisation’
- recognised the political ‘voice’ that has emerged from this – at that place where my feminism, class consciousness, critical pedagogy and radical theatre background intersect
- owned the ways in which I have been privileged to use this voice, to provoke, disrupt and challenge dominant cultural narratives – especially around issues of power
Perhaps most importantly, I have also become completely certain the work we do in social and collaborative arts cannot be separate from other forms of activism and political engagement; otherwise it is empty and meaningless. Yesterday Naomi Klein reminded us all of the words of arch free-marketeer Milton Friedman, ‘Only a crisis – produces real change. When that crisis occurs the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around. The future will be determined by those who are prepared to fight harder for the ideas they have lying around.’
We need to be seizing this moment and be working together to be ready with our ideas – ensuring the world that emerges from this crisis is one that we can finally be proud of and one that reflects our values.
We had a lot of amazing work planned and in development with artists and the many communities we collaborate with. We had a lot of events, showcases and gatherings due to take place in the coming weeks. We are honouring our commitments to ALL of these artists and freelancers and finding new ways to stay connected with all of our collaborators. Some projects will continue largely in the form they were conceived, others will be re-imagined. Collaborative arts practice is a contingent practice, whatever happens next is the right thing!
In addition to continuing to support the artists, freelancers, and collaborators who we work closely with through our ongoing programme, we also want to support more of you to make work and connect at this time of increased precarity and anxiety. We know from past programmes such as In My Place that incredibly relevant, powerful and meaningful work can originate and unfold in our domestic spaces, that periods of isolation are not new for everyone, and that the kitchen table can be a space of radical possibility. As those of us fortunate enough to have safe spaces to retreat to will be doing so increasingly over the coming weeks, we want to support you to connect and create. We’ll be looking to support a series of creative interventions and prototype projects across Merseyside and will be announcing the criteria and funds available shortly.
With For About
We usually host a conference/gathering in May – it is called With For About and the themes annually reflect current and vital topics related to collaborative and social practice. Later in the year we may host a gathering in real life but we may not – we guess it will depend. Our plan was (and remains) to work with artist and mental health activist the vacuum cleaner on this year’s gathering to ask ‘How can the arts respond to the desire of communities and artists to further blur the lines between art, life and survival?’ We had been talking to some amazing contributors and the questions we were asking ourselves feel even more relevant than they did in January. We will continue those conversations and find ways to connect with you all as soon as we can. We’ll keep you posted.
We’ve worked with some incredible artists, educators and young people through our schools programme, creating projects including immersive den spaces, card games exploring issues of equality, storytelling through animation and guerilla tactics in the corridors. Emerging from these projects we’ve produced a series of creative educational resources which you can use at home – we’ll be sharing and we’ll be adding to this series throughout the coming weeks. Please do share these resources with anyone you think who might find them useful, and assist us with reaching people who might not have access to social media or the internet. Watch this space for further announcements.
We are joining the world of podcasting. We’ve got two in the bag and we will be sharing them ASAP, with more to follow. We’re calling them HoGcasts, and they will be a series of intimate recorded conversations uncovering the stories of people who we make art with. Recorded in St Helens over a brew*, these podcasts are about the power of listening, the importance of conversation and how making art can bring us together and create change.
*A brew goes hand in hand with making time and listening and taking care. All of our projects are built on cups of tea. We invite you to make a brew and listen, and tell us what you think!
Rupture is a coaching support programme for early career artists directly engaged in, or passionate about socially engaged practice. We’ve been running it for a while with Sarah Bailey. Sarah is a trained coach with over 15 years experience in the cultural sector. She will help you to reconnect with your purpose; improve your working practice; discover new solutions to old problems; and, lead and support change. We’ll be thinking about how this programme might operate remotely, and respond to some of the current challenges we are facing. Stay tuned for more announcements soon.
New Critical Friend
We’re delighted to be announcing a new role at this time. We’ve been talking about how we as an organisation can support a critical dialogue around themes of diversity, equality, cultural democracy and intersectionality. We’re thrilled to be joined by Toki Allison for a year long action research role. It is our hope this will allow us to develop organisational learning, but also positively challenge the sector and encourage wider sector development. Toki supports arts and exhibition organisations to achieve their strategic objectives – from audience development planning, to embedding inclusive action plan targets into models of practice. Toki’s focus is on arts audiences, using consultation and evaluation to work towards meaningful inclusion and dialogues between audiences, practitioners and curators, in the belief that art has the power to transform culture and power an individual’s growth. She works on campaigns driving better access for audiences living with dementia, neurodiversity, as well as D/deaf and Disabled, LGBTQIA+, Black and Brown, Refugee/Asylum Seeker/Migrant, poorer, and working class audiences, and fundraises and advocates for access for all. We’re delighted to be working together over the next year.
Banner image credit: Now Thus – Now Thus by Michelle Browne. Photo by Stephen King.