Black Country Creative Advantage

I’ve just returned from two days at the Black Country Creative Advantage seminar run by Monika Vykoukal of the University of Wolverhampton. The project, based in West Bromwich, probes the murky waters of arts and culture-led regeneration and the seminar brought together around 30 experts in the field including artists, activists, researchers, academics and architects. It was an amazing couple of days and I just want to share a few links to the work featured in the seminar.

The seminar started rather appropriately in the controversial Public with a talk by author Anna Minton. Her book, Ground Control, Fear and Happiness in the Twenty-First Century City is what I call the Penguin Guide to the Neo-liberal City. It outlines the wholesale sell off of our cities into the hands of private companies and illustrates how changes made in the name of cleanliness and safety have actually made people more fearful and less happy.

Ground Control

There were over a dozen presentations at the seminar and they were all excellent but the ones I would pick out were:

Landscape architect Heather Ring talking about the pitfalls and contradictions of reclaiming space in central London using guerrilla gardening tactics. What happens when the developers love your edginess but activists don’t want to know?

Neil Gray from Variant Magazine on how Richard Florida‘s neoliberal-friendly Creative Class theory has taken hold in the UK. Is it possible for every city in the UK to be a hub for the creative industries? Seemingly so. At £70k a shot Richard could be holding forth in a town hall near you!

Academic Felicity Painter outlined in graphic detail the disaster that is The Public. A prime example of culture-led regeneration: hire a big name architect, build a flash arts centre hey presto, an end to poverty. The Public has bankrupted two community arts organisations so far and may event take the local council with it.

Denna Jones had some interesting things to say about homesteading.

Susan Fitzpatrick who has been researching Liverpool’s Capital of Culture introduced us to Deleuze’s theory of political events; ‘if an event fails to be revolutionary did it even happen at all?’ Read more here.

Anna Francis is an artist from Stoke who has taken Polish tourists on spoof walking tours of regeneration sites.

Artist Kerry Morrison showed some alarming slides from Lancashire displaying the ‘flattened sites’ left by stalled regeneration schemes. Apparently authorities are keen to communicate that regeneration has not stopped but ‘slowed down’. That’s OK then.

…and I asked the question, “If the credit crunch has destroyed the economic model for regeneration because developers can no longer access easy credit, what follows next?” Answers on a postcard please.

There were loads of other great presentations too!

Keep an eye out on the Black Country Creative Advantage site, more events and projects coming next year…

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