Regular Marvels is an independent project that explores alternative ways of understanding people’s experience of art. Begun in 2011, it was completed, at least in its first phase, in 2015, when I began a new project about participatory arts practice, A Restless Art, which has its own website. Regular Marvels was a response to two paradoxes I felt about my recent work:

  • If art is important, why is it not accepted as a valid way to understand arts experience?
  • If people are important, why not write about their experience in ways that they might read?

Over five years, I imagined, researched and produced five books, in partnership with arts organisations or others interested in the idea. Each one deliberately focused on an aspect of artistic life that is not much valued by the contemporary art world. Each also shaped set out to be not just arts-led but collaborative, exploratory, open source and socially engaged. All five books can be downloaded from this website as PDFs (just click on the titles below). Printed copies are also available at £5 plus postage, while stocks last: just email me through the contact page if you want one. The books are:

  1. Where We Dream: West Bromwich Operatic Society and the Fine Art of Musical Theatre (2012) is the story of a wonderful, but also typical, amateur theatre company that has been thriving since 1937 and the West Midlands town that gives it life: includes a 15 minute film by Ben Wigley. Published by Multistory.
  2. Winter Fires: Art and Agency in Old Age (2012) explores how the practice of art, whether professional, amateur or occasional can change the experience of aging by strengthening our capacity for agency; with iPad portraits by Mik Godley. Published by the Baring Foundation.
  3. Bread and Salt: Stories of Art and Migration (2013) draws on the experiences of artists who have migrated to several European countries to ask questions about identity, value and culture’s claimed universalism; with collages by Bill Ming. Published by Vrede van Utrecht.
  4. The Light Ships: Church, Art and Community in the Lincolnshire Fens (2014) looks at  village church as a focus of art, culture and community memory at a time of diminished religious observance; with photographs by François Matarasso. Published by Transported.
  5. A Wider Horizon: Creative Arts East and Rural Touring (2015) looks at a programme to bring the arts to rural Norfolk and Suffolk, and asks what lessons it has for the arts and the future of community development.; with drawings by Rosie Redzia. Published by Creative Arts East.

This site will remain online but will not be regularly updated while the Regular Marvels project is suspended. I may come back to this way of working in time, with new ideas to test, but for now my focus is wholly on the always fascinating questions arising from participatory arts practice. If you’re interested in those ideas, please visit the new website.

Go to: A Restless Art: Thinking about participatory arts practice