22nd August 2023
Arts&Heritage is excited to share the details of Common Lands – a new approach for the organisation driven through a themed national programme.
For 15 years, A&H has worked across the UK to forge connections between artists, communities and historic sites and museums. Throughout our existence, we have supported heritage sites and museums to emotionally engage existing visitors and new communities in their varied untold or marginalised narratives by working with artists to creatively explore collections and sites, whilst centering a diverse range of perspectives.
Recent much appreciated Transition funding from Arts Council England has helped us complete vibrant collaborative projects connecting parks and proto-museums (Vanley Burke, Gary Stewart, Friends of Handsworth Park & Museum X); historic archives and theatres (Liz Gre and the Royal Shakespeare Company) and verdant heritage sites (Luke Fowler at YHA Ilam Hall with NT Ilam Park) as the last projects of our Meeting Point programme. It has also allowed us time to reflect on our past achievements, spend time identifying what is now needed from an arts organisation, and freed us up to imagine potential new futures.
Emerging from this time of consolidation and planning is an exciting new approach; our first thematically driven national programme: Common Lands. This is the working title for our two year programme for 2023-25. Retaining the best of our collaborative learning approach and continuing to forge new partnerships between communities, heritage organisations and artists, Common Lands will use as its inspiration the stories of people, place and collective action, inspired by histories of access to land, land ownership and the duty of care for nature.
Recently we have expanded our definition of heritage to include organisations that hold intangible cultural heritage or have responsibility for the safeguarding of environmental heritage. Common Lands will focus on these aspects of our heritage and crucially will pivot to create projects that are driven by a broad range of communities, that increase opportunities for sharing knowledge and perspectives and promote the learning of new skills. It will embed care and foreground co-created projects nationally that create small positive tangible incremental change.
The starting point for projects comes from the communities we partner with, artistic and academic research. Large and small scale activism and partnerships which value and support environmental quality, inclusivity, community well-being, and biodiversity will be at its heart. While always acknowledging and highlighting voices traditionally excluded from narratives of land access and ownership, we want to bring to light progressive historic environmental movements that give voice and value to radicals from the past, informing the present and inspiring the future.
As projects start to emerge from Common Lands we will continue to share.
We wanted to start the conversation by sharing our initial thoughts and reading list, which can be found here.