Because we’re worth it

Because we’re worth it! was an important national Summit exploring and celebrating the value of participatory arts, held 22 March 2012 at the ICA in London.

Participatory arts have the power to change people’s lives for the better; provide connections, experiences and rich stories.

The UK’s participatory arts scene is constantly changing, innovating, developing, celebrating, exploring and recording fantastic and ground breaking work.

Contributors confirmed so far are Matthew Taylor, Chief Executive of The RSA, National Theatre Wales, Streetwise Opera, Helix Arts, London Bubble, Entelechy Arts, Spare Tyre, Clean Break, Bealtine, University College London, Charnwood Arts, East Midlands Participatory Arts Forum, The Consortium of Participatory Arts Learning, London Arts in Health Forum, Project Phakama, The Baring Foundation, Staffordshire University, Camila Fiori and ArtWorks/Paul Hamlyn Foundation.

The Summit provided 2012’s platform to network, find out more and exchange practice.There is a rich story which needs to be told to a wider audience. The Summit unearthed the stories, skills and shared values that lie behind our practice as participatory artists.

This national Summit was hosted as a collaboration between - the UK’s national online resource for participatory arts and Connected Culture, the London based network celebrating adult participatory arts.


9.30am – 10.00am: Registration

Throughout the day our artist in residence, Camila Fiori (aka Damsel Dusty), invited attendees to engage in an Interactive Brainstorm In A Tea-Cup on participatory art.

10.00am – 10.30am: Welcome & warm up
• Welcome by Arti Prashar (Connected Culture) and Robert Howell (
• An operatic warm up, Rob Gildon (Streetwise Opera)

10.30am – 11.15am: Thoughts for the day
• Matthew Taylor (RSA - Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce)
• Devinda De Silva, Gavin Porter and Ali Goolyad (National Theatre Wales)

11.15am - 11.30am: Tea break

11.30am – 12.30pm: SESSION ONE

1. DISCUSSION: Great art or good intentions? Peer review and critical conversations
A discussion bringing together learning from Connected Culture’s previous piloting of Peer Review within the context of participatory arts practice, Helix Art’s recent work developing a qualitative framework and a perspective on how critical conversations are undertaken in the science world. Jonathan Petherbridge (London Bubble) Caroline Joyner (independent artist), Jocelyn Cunningham (RSA), David Slater (Entelechy Arts), Toby Lowe (Helix Arts), Professor Martin Orrell (University College London). Chair: Elizabeth Lynch (Participation and Learning Producer)


Seventeen Minutes by Clean Break
Seventeen Minutes.  Four Women.  One Crime.  Two choices…
Written by Chloë Moss, Seventeen Minutes was originally commissioned as part of Clean Break’s CHARGED season at Soho Theatre.  Performed by former Clean Break students, the show is set in the minutes leading up to a crime and explores the potential impact of the offence and notions of control (or not) over one’s destiny.

Dance by DJ by Spare Tyre artist Housni Hasan
Choreographed and performed by Housni Hasan for Spare Tyre’s I’m an Artist – let me in! showcase of performances by Artists with learning disabilities. Housni is an inspirational dancer, choreographer and workshop leader whose brand of street dance comes with a smile and sense of fun.

3. DUSCUSSION: Developing practice - The role of the artist
A discussion bringing together divergent frameworks and cutting edge practice from across the regions of the UK. Frances Rifkin (author of The Radical Ethical Framework), Naomi Whitman (Consortium of Participatory Arts Learning), Kevin Ryan (Charnwood Arts/EMPAF) Chair: Susanne Burns (ArtWorks, Paul Hamlyn Foundation)

12.30pm – 1.30pm: Lunch

1.30pm – 2.30pm: SESSION TWO

1. PERFORMANCES: Seventeen Minutes by Clean Break and Dance by DJ by Spare Tyre artist Housni Hasan

2. FILMS: Participatory Arts On Screen

3. WORKSHOP: Arts and health and Participatory Practice

Participation in the context of arts and health work is constantly evolving. This session considered new developments in participation in this area of work and considered what we can learn from participatory evaluation findings which have emerged from recent projects. It will include an opportunity to find out more about participatory arts and health work and the networks which are supporting and researching its development. Mark Webster and Janet Heatherington (Staffordshire University), Belinda Sosinowicz (London Arts in Health Forum)

2.30pm - 2.45pm: Tea break

2.45pm – 3.45pm: The afternoon panel discussion
“Telling a richer story about the value of participatory arts”

Panel discussion chaired by Kate Organ (Baring Foundation). Panellists include Fabio Santos (Project Phakama), Dominic Campbell (Bealtine), Susanne Burns (ArtWorks, Paul Hamlyn Foundation).

3.45pm – 4.00pm: closing comments

'Because we're worth it', March 2012. Photos: Patrick Baldwin