Way back in the summer of 2019, when ‘got the city on lockdown’ meant nothing more than boy band ‘Blue’ sneaking into your Spotify, I was awarded a ‘Developing Your Creative Practice’ grant from Arts Council England. Under the lofty title ‘Creative Interventions for Social Impact’ I planned to learn from community activists here and abroad. The pinnacle (when peak was more visor than virus) would be a trip to Charlotte, North Carolina, to hang out with the League of Creative Interventionists. LOCI, for short, who ‘use art and culture as tools to reimagine the social and physical landscapes of our cities’. (See their entire manifesto below). I’ve talked about the League a few times here, they’ve been real heros of mine since I first heard of them in 2017. They ‘sponsor projects that harness the creativity of local residents to create stronger, healthier, and more vibrant communities’. I’d been keen to learn about their methods in engagement and see what new ideas might arise as we connect with very different funding strategies.
The intention had been to spend 20 days in the USA, exploring playgrounds, connecting with play thinkers and making work with fellows of the League. It was set for the lead up to the Republican National Convention- being held in Charlotte. Rich but volatile ground for playful interventions.
Then of course Covid came and everything was cancelled. Our connection however, didn’t falter. In fact, talking regularly over the year has allowed a deeper, more considered relationship to flourish.
I joined Jonell Logan – Executive Director- for a Community Conversation in May. Jonell is clearly an expert facilitator who steered the conversation beautifully. This was before the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the toppling of Colston here in Bristol. These events led to sharing of perspectives across the water and as we began to lay foundations for future work together, so connected our distant communities in our own way.
Jonell introduced me to the Centre for the Living City which works to “advance social, environmental and economic justice in cities” because in the words of cofounder Jane Jacobs “Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.” I was able to join sessions training in their Observe programme; designing empathy cards; learning about the journey from Observer to Participant and, closely connected to my own practice- active vs passive observation.
I learned about alternative approaches to placemaking from Monica Holmes, Manager of the Urban Design Center for the City of Charlotte and have met interventionists using street art to connect communities, and co-designing to make policy changes in homlessness. I’ve talked to fellows about interventions I’ve seen happen here, projects I’ve been involved in, my take on play centred participation and shared versions of our games in their maker kits.
We hope to initiate a resident-led artist scheme, where we can co-create and learn from each other, both with visits and regular virtual connections. We’re talking to like minded organisations and beginning to connect the dots and sew the seeds for collaborative community art projects in Bristol and Charlotte. Our perspectives and life experiences are adding real value to our thinking and the work we’re doing. I’m so chuffed to have finally made this connection and look forward to sharing more plans and thoughts with you in the future.
If you’d like to connect with LOCI and look at opportunities to collaborate, do get in touch.