Alan Davey in chat @GdnCulturePros some great questions and good responses

At the Guardian Culture Professionals live chat today with Alan Davey, I asked:


I’d be interested to know the ratio of how much is spent from the budget on organisations and how much on individuals? 

And he replied with :

Guardian contributor

I feel pleasantly surprised by this response – it often seems that the NPO’s and institutions are the most important cornerstones of the arts ecology. But it is still very organisation top-heavy.  And it isn’t clear how many of the individual ‘artists’ might be freelance arts professionals as opposed to ‘artists’.
There were some excellent responses to the various questions, it’s worth having  a delve in there to see if any of them might touch your nerve endings. 
“Ellieface’ (sorry, I don’t know their real name), asked a good one about intrinsic satisfaction – do have  a read (I don’t want to infringe copyright here!)

Flows first project goes public soon – exciting!!!!

The Cabinet of Local Change is a pilot for a future collection of ‘cabinets’ that will be commissioned specifically with touring in mind. This one is specifically for Forest of Dean residents.

Artist Simon Ryder (artNucleus) was commissioned by Flow Contemporary Arts to create a ‘cabinet’ in some form that could be used to reflect upon changes in the nature of the Forest of Dean, inspired by his own research in this forest and through engagement with local Community Library users. A key part of this process was for it to be made public via blogging.

The cabinet will make its first appearance on Thursday 29th August 2013 – Mitcheldean Library at 2.30pm and Newnham on Severn Library at 6pm.

Simon is concerned with peeling back the narratives from places, people and objects, then weaves  them together into new configurations in the form of sculptures, videos, texts and artefacts. Working together at Mitcheldean and Newnham community libraries, Simon and Carolyn opened up new ways of thinking about how libraries might operate. They shared blogging skills and how technology can provide opportunities for artists to reveal their working methods, as well as inform the making of art – technology and nature combining in the creative process.

Inspired by the symbiotic relationship between trees and fungi in the forest, the outcome is fascinating. It is a unique storage system that appears to grow through the books on a shelf, like an organic extension, with partially enclosed spaces to contain ‘items that signal change’. Modular in its construction and open source (with the 3D templates freely available for download from the internet), Simon worked with the designer-makers at Millar Howard Workshop to produce a cabinet that can be flat-packed down for storage and touring. The cabinet is a portable work – it will make appearances at scheduled times, providing a beautiful and original focus for local discussions about change. To start the ball rolling, the first items to be placed in this cabinet will be printed copies of Simon’s blog, some books that informed his thinking, and a vial of water from St Antony’s well; the remaining spaces are empty, awaiting library users to add their own artefacts.

Flow Contemporary Arts works with both arts and non-arts partners to initiate produce and present contemporary art in unusual locations. Founded by Carolyn Black in 2012, Flow specialises in making things happen through the unique approach of commissioning artworks that respond to place, yet can also adapt to other contexts. If you wish to host or support the work in the future, contact

The project was supported by the Forest of Dean Local Action Group and the Forestry Commission.

scanning branches with X-Box, photo Chris Morris
scanning branches with X-Box, photo Chris Morris

press image Cabinet on shelf small

lag logo bar 72dpi

Supported by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development: Europe investing in rural areas

and Forestry Commission FC logo_eng_linear_col

River Severn, moonlight, tidal forces and shimmying whirlpools….

Last night I sat by the Rivern Severn around midnight with a friend. In the moonbeam of a waning moon, we watched the tidal shifts and shimmies. The salt water of the estuary, and the fresh water from the river intermingled – vying for control of this huge body of turbulent water.

When we arrived the tide was winning, the water flowing up-river. The moonlight on the surface of the water highlighted that the tide nearest to our bank of the river was gradually losing the fight against the force of the Severn. The incoming tidal flow was stalled as the waters whipped and swirled, and gradually the line of spiralling whirlpools gave way to the river running out towards the sea. The natural status quo of forces returned, and all became quiet and calm.

The flow of the Severn inspired the coming into life of Flow Contemporary Arts and continues to do so. Mindfulness and observation, listening and reflection, it’s all part of the process.


@technobiophilia – what is it? watch the video where Sue Thomas explains

There are many exciting things happening every day and we all have things that inspire us and make us wonder about the world. Some take delight in sport results, others nature, others art, others technology. Some of us find the blurirng of the edges of those things the most rich area to explore. I certainly do.

Those who have known me for some time will know that whilst I worked as an artist and now as a producer, the common thread throughout has been a slight penchant for technology. Both as a medium and an intellectual pursuit. No suprise then that I am excited by the upcoming publication of Technobiophilia by Sue Thomas. Nature and technology rubbing shoulders, creating new ways of understanding how we relate to the world.

Sue has posted a video of her explaining a bit about the concepts behind the book and what motivated her to reserch the idea. It’s a fascinating way of thinking and slightly at odds with those who enjoy the power of the binary opposires of science V nature, nature V cyberspace. Technology is here to stay, get used to it.

As Sue is also my sister – I am slightly biased. This is the first time we have worked together professionally (I did the black & white chapter headers, some shown in the video), so we’d love to hear what you think.

artists aren’t fundraisers

This is a repost of one I wrote sometime ago. It is helpful to revisit old posts now and again, and see how things change. This one possibly hasn’t!

ArtsAppeal Fundraising in the Arts and the Craft of Arts Management, has a new post in defence of the need for administrators. Some of the points raised are transferable to UK (it’s an American site), the most useful to me is the comment that “The key question you should be asking for everyone, yourself included, is does this person in this position create value in some way (freeing up resources of others, enhancing customer experiences, finding new revenue streams, etc.) above and beyond what they consume themselves.”

What is great about that question is that it doesn’t automatically associate the word ‘value’ with ‘income’. It puts people first, after all, it is people that make an organisation sink or swim, not the other way around. Relationships between people on the team, and how a front-facing organisation develops relationships with partners, markets and audiences is key to creating value for everyone involved in the process. Sink or swim – which takes me to waves……..

Last night on TV (BBC4) was a wonderful programme about waves (as in the sea). It talked about how waves are not banks of water, as we primarily see them to be, but are volumes of energy being carried through water, water is the medium. Likewise, would it be fair to suggest that a successful organisation comprises not of it’s building, it’s institution, it’s profile, but is a conduit for peoples energy, driving life forward? And when it hits the shore it crashes and has a huge impact – isn’t that what good art does to society? So the value can be measured in terms of energy, not financial gain. Or am I getting carried away on this wave of thought?

Not all art can be directly self-financing. Let’s not forget art practices that improve our life or wellbeing, that redistribute the energy – and indeed the economy – that was invested in it. They often create associated spend in terms of local businesses and accommodation etc. In our appeal to our government, and to the public, to continue to support the arts, we have to make them recognise and acknowledge the wider impact successful arts organisations can have on the economy. Look at St Ives – how has it changed since the Tate arrived? Anyone who visited before will be aware that the arrival of the Tate put a massive boost into the local economy.

And the energy is visible in the whole region, the cultural economy is continuing to develop, originally inspired by the St.Ives school of artists, carried on in Newlyn, Penzance, the energy continues to spread. All on the back of people with energy to share. Artists couldn’t do that alone, one drop in the ocean cannot create a wave.

(with apologies for resorting to watery metaphors and seaside towns!)

6 months of Flow and is it Flowing? yes, quite close to the slipstream

In December 2012 I wrote the post below and yesterday, whilst looking for something else, I found it and re-read it. Interesting.

VASW is now doing all the things that were planned, some really good opportunities for artists under development and in action.

The keywords for Flow are still key for me:

Resilient within limits
Ability to change
All parts are equal (my italics made at the time)
Liminality is created – rich meeting place

I have been mentoring artists and aim to do more

I have fundraised for  Cabinet of Local Change project, commissioning Simon Ryder to create a  prototype cabinet, the final artwork is in production now

I have done a consultation with Canal & River Trust, Forestry Commission and National Trust and developing a project with them and supported by Lightsgoingon.

I am still getting older

I’m talking with new partners; I’ve written a programme of professional development modules for HE; I’ve completed a marketing training course and am in mid-leadership course at present; my e-book is in progress and my business plan being tidied up by my graphic designer. All is well.

It’s been an exciting 6 months and I look forward to those ahead!

Getting into the Flow – winter arriving, first frosts and stunning skylines, time to plan the future

Last week Visual Arts South West (VASW) hosted a meeting in Exeter to share what has been achieved in the last year – it’s looking good. You can follow them on Facebook here.

John Holden was the keynote speaker and inspired everyone with his talk about networks and how they can function usefully in the arts ecology.  I made  notes and often resorted to simply lists of words. Reflecting on my notes, I see this particular set are most relevant to the development of Flow Contemporary Arts. Flow is my new initiative that will offer two strands: one to deliver projects and the other to help others to do so.

The words I listed related to the concept of arts ecologies and were:

Resilient within limits
Ability to change
All parts are equal (my italics made at the time)
Liminality is created – rich meeting place

I love these words, I think them all the time, they are central to what Flow sets out to do and be. The cycles in Flow are indicated in the bidirectional arrows of the logo

Flow - Letterhead red (strip)

Resilient within limits: being realistic, these are difficult times.

Ability to change – always – constant reflection and revision, responsive actions whilst being clear of overall vision

ALL PARTS ARE EQUAL – key to good working relationships, learning is reciprocal, I love learning, especially through action. All aspects of a project – the planning, the vision, the delivery – provide learning opportunities. Everyone involved should be treated fairly and respectfully.

Flexibility – it comes with a willingness to embrace change

Liminality – step outside your comfort zone – try working with non-art partners – my first ever website, done in the 90′s was called ‘grey matters’. It played on liminality, the grey are between, the grey matter of the mind, the fact that considering both sides doesn’t necessarily mean you sit on the fence, but that you can SEE both sides. I’m very fond of grey. I’m very fond of liminality – ‘hybrideyes’, my first ever domain name reflected that too.

Gosh, I do feel old! And hopefully wise(er) than then!!!

I envisage Flow to be a meeting place, a place to share and exchange thoughts, ideas visions and even skills. I’m happy to mentor others, just get in touch and we’ll see what might work. I’ve helped artists secure funding, revisit their practice, set up new projects etc. I’ve worked with and for organisations to deliver projects, training and develop strategies. I’d like the emphasis of Flow to be on with as I genuinely believe we function best on a level playing field. That’s not to say I won’t make decisions when needed, I do, it’s my role to do so.