Restricting access to creative art courses – is it too late to consider, now the damage has been done? Have arts students been mis-sold to?

According to this article on the inews website “Creative arts courses are ‘not economically worthwhile’ – universities should restrict access to them, think tank argues”.

The articles states that ‘Creative writing, drama and music are among university courses deemed ‘low value’ – which most certainly needs a bit of unpicking. The gist of the article is that creative courses do not churn out people who will earn high salaries, therefore will never pay back their student loans, which is a strain on tax payers. Clearly their only measure of ‘value’ is economic, which is deeply depressing. But I can see their point, we shouldn’t be wasting anyones money, and if our economy does not respect creatives or pay them fairly, as compared with other professions, we should consider why that might be.

Maybe we should look back to the late 1980’s/early 90’s, when the government began to charge fees, as well as double annual intake onto university courses. I know this well, because I applied and secured a place on a degree course and was delighted to be selected. However, during the summer before my first year began, the university was advised to double its intake – resulting in many people who had been turned down for selection being invited to join the course anyway. Worth mentioning that no extra space was provided, and no extra staff. Just double the students. Studio space was reduced massively, indeed my studio in the 2nd year was in the caretakers bungalow near the gate – there simply was not enough provision for so many students at such short notice. The fine art degree course admission numbers doubled again the following year. And so it went on……resulting in the market being flooded with arts graduates very fast.

So education became monetised, just like every other valuable aspect of the welfare state. I shan’t go on about all those things here,  because we have watched the NHS, the rail network, the education system being brought to their knees, the evidence is all around us.

Which is why I feel motivated to write this. How can they now turn around and say that arts graduates aren’t an efficient part of the system, because they don’t earn sufficient money to justify their education? Who is guilty of what here?

Ironically, the issue of limiting numbers IS something I would agree with, if it means that students get more tutor time and studio space on their courses, more teaching, more lectures. Because at present there is not enough money in the semi-privatised FE system to deliver as well as the lecturers would like to. And not enough space for fine art students to rotate an easel!

We certainly have been mis-sold creative degrees, maybe there should be a pay-back scheme for all those students, equivalent to PPI. I’m sure that artists would greatly appreciate that – they could even pay back their student loans, which will never happen unless they are helped, due to most having below minimum wage status.

The article suggests that  “Institutions that rely on the provision of such courses are exploiting taxpayers who are ultimately liable”.

My concern is that they are exploiting creative young people who are skilled, talented and worth nurturing, who are core to civilisation. Our government is exploiting everyone by making education, particularly creativity, a commodity and not a necessity.

next year WILL be better – seasonal greetings & optimism!

Interesting looking back five years. Wow, so many exciting things have happened during them. Am not up to writing about it now as have other things to get on with. But by far the BIGGEST change is me returning to my own practice. So if I’ve been quiet on the Flow website it’s because I’ve been working on I’m still producing and doing consultancy work, but it has mostly been on non-public-facing contracts. Am intrigued what may occur in 2019!

Flow Contemporary Arts

The last missive of a good year and next year will be better (even, much, lots?)

Despite the cuts, the recession and the constant fight to keep the arts on the government agenda, it’s been a  good one. Starting Flow in this economic climate was never going to be easy but the time is always now, so why wait?

Something that lingers in my mind as the year closes is that the more brutal the cuts became, the more resilient and empathic people have become. No-one can sit on their laurels any more (not that anyone ever does in the arts…they can’t, being one of the lowest paid professions).

This years card is for everyone –  many friends, family and colleagues have found it a very tough year for various reasons, so I hope it is empowering for them. And for those that it’s been good, or even brilliant –…

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I’ve finished my book! Drawing, writing, organising launches – am in my element…

I have been writing more and more in recent years, not just for projects, but also for pleasure and research, including publication. I have written for Four Seasons Magazine , a-n, Visual Arts South West and many other publications. I was writer in residence at Double Elephant Print Studio and attnded an Arvon Course about arts writing.

This is, however, my first book, and it’s been a challenge indeed. All the drawings took over a year to do, the writing just as long. Paul Manning is the person that shaped it visually and I’m delighted by the outcome.

So here is info about the launch. have taken it on as part of their imprint, which is exciting and puts it in context. That is not an easy task. Part autobiography, a bit of psychogeography, a tour guide, a picture book, peppered with facts and garnished with poetic license.

Only 100 copies in first edition.


writing about art-think, why and how we do what we do……from my alter-ego

Whilst this site is primarily about my work as a producer, I do have another about my own practice. I share things there about making art, rather than commissioning or reviewing. You could say it comes from the other side of me, my alter ego.

I studied art so that’s not really true, but my public face is more about being a Producer.

If you’d like to hear more about my thoughts and art I have another blog on my website, do go and have a read. I’ve just written about my latest photos – here’s a sample:

ipad view from pleasant stile fog tinted


A sonic journey by Ivor Richard described and sampled on BBC Radio Gloucester today – the live event at Dean Heritage Centre Saturday 4th Aug 5.30pm – 7.30pm

On Saturday 4th August at Dean heritage Centre you can enjoy, for FREE, the experience of hearing 360 degree soundwork. Expect some wonderful historical references as well as more contemporary sounds. Here’s a clip from the radio programme we did today, you will hear some clips from the audio, but being there will be even more special – the sound quality if fantastic! You can listen to the whole programme with Nicky Price here.

And I’ve written a poetic response to the soundwork, get there early, there will be a few around for you to take home with you.

The project has been supported by funding from Arts Council England and West dean Parish Council

ivor richards flyer for social media

Summer Newsletter – acoustic journeys & walking in circles & streets

I’m sending out the latest newsletter – if you want to have it plop into your email box, pease subscribe. Here’s a sample of what you might get! Usually only 3/4 times per year, no spamming, I promise!

An Acoustic Journey

Saturday 4th August sees, or hears, the launch of an immersive acoustic experience by Ivor Richards.  The event at the Dean Heritage Centre with sound artist Ivor Richards and sculptor Rob Olins provides an immersive experience of the acoustic landscape of the old railway route between Cinderford and Lydney. Dipping in and out of past and present, it ends with an epic story.

Thanks to an Arts Council England  Grant, I’ve been supporting Ivor as a Producer and contributing a written response to his wonderful 360 degree soundtrack. It has become a strong collaboration, with Rob Olins installing his sound mirrors as part of the event. We’re providing blindfolds for audiences to enable them to become fully immersed in the sound. A grant from West Dean Parish Council has also supported our doing a workshop at Heart of the Forest too, where children of all ages and abilities enjoyed a fun session of tracking, and identifying, sounds as they moved around the room in various directions.

Make sure you come along – and if you love local cider, James McCrindle will be selling his fabulous produce on-site too!

ivor richards flyer for social media.jpeg

Weymouth Consultations

I’m also working with some of the b-side team in Weymouth to deliver a brief for a new public artwork in the town. We’re leading a series of consultations called WalkTalkArt, so if you are interested, book a free place here. Note: this is specifically for those who live in/near Weymouth.


Also, I have artwork and videos showing with farOpen studios at the Dean Heritage Museum, Soudley,  until Sunday 22nd July. (Checkout full open studios programme here). I am showing twelve videos of my ‘walking in circles’ series, alongside associated digital prints. They evolved from my panoramic charcoal drawings, all include a sole female figure (me) moving through the landscape.

I hope you are enjoying your summer as much as I am (double-dipping in the lido is a treat!!)

donating artworks for charitable causes gives back to the artist too, in a warm fuzzy way!

img_8793Recently I donated this two-metre drawing of Newnham, where I live, as a fundraiser for the repair of the St. Peters Church bells.

I have never done this sort of thing before and decided right at the beginning that 100% of the income would go to the appeal. Like most artists, I don’t find it easy to generate income from art work alone, so I don’t have much in the way of financial resources to contribute. But I do have my art.

The picture was displayed in the High Street in the Quaker Library window and Andy Vivian, who runs the library, was a fantastic support, thanks to him, and to Cameron Dickie, who managed the sealed-bid campaign.

My delight on being told that it had achieved £1516 for the appeal was evident in my whole-body-warm-feeling, and it wasn’t just because it was a hot summers night! That sensation was doubled when the private collector who bought it told me he specifically wishes it to be hung in the cultural hub/building/whatever we manage to open in the village, in the future. Big thanks to this gentleman, not only for acquiring the drawing to support the work on the church bells, but for also showing confidence that ReNewnham will achieve it’s goal.

This ambition for the village has come about since The George Café closed recently and local people, including artists, felt lost at sea (or river). Newnham was once a thriving port, boasting many pubs, hotels, hostelries and brothels. In recent years it gained a reputation for being a creative place, with lots of artists, musicians, makers and writers living or visiting.

This year there’s a drive to bring all of that back, which is exciting. Newnham Live, run by Dave Freeman (ex-Jazz FM) sold hundreds of tickets and gave us a wide range of music to enjoy. Fairport Convention sold out – 200 people packed into the church. Riverside Rock last weekend was kindly hosted in the Mansion House and offered a perfect mix of music, picnics, dancing and a moonlit river backdrop.

All this has happened in a small quiet village in the Forest of Dean. Next step is to try and get back what we are missing and add even more too. What we have is great, but mass and density will make it even better. Join the ReNewnham Facebook group if you want to be involved and support this renaissance!

PS if you want to order a half-size print of the Newnham image I can provide with a discount. Just email me with ‘Newnham print offer’ as subject line and I can send you details.

PPS I have my latest drawing showing in farOpen Studios at Taurus near Lydney, opening this weekend. The following weekend I shall have work in the Dean heritage farOpen show too – of 360 degree prints…do come along to both….art, cakes and coffee, what’s not to like?

PPPS do support Hawkwood crowdfunding for providing artist in residencies…..I have donated 2 A4 works to the too, as I began them while I was artist in residence there last summer. All leading up to my book, in final stages!