I like to think that I was there at the very beginning, because I managed the project which employed [KWMC Director] Carolyn to do a photography project in Filwood Community Centre, right at the very start of the whole thing.
That was in the very early days – arts and health now is kind of a known type of work, but back then, which was the [late 80s], arts and health was quite new, in terms of people thinking about using the arts to support people’s health and wellbeing…There were two health promotion officers who were really supportive of the arts and they had some money to put into doing three pilot projects and one was at Filwood Community Centre with Carolyn…
I think it’s about having something…that’s grown and been very embedded, and that people have literally grown up with. So the fact that people have engaged with it at different points in their lives and that that has affected them…just that ownership.
[KWMC has been] just a really good example of really high quality work in a local community, that’s both embedded in that community but also has that real, far-reaching vision and impact. So I think it’s seeing that it can work. I think [with] so much of what used to be called ‘community arts’ and ‘arts and social context’…you might get the really good participation or you might get the really good high-quality outcomes, but you don’t necessarily get both. I think that’s what Knowle West Media Centre does, it does both. And that’s because it’s about looking out and getting artists in and being prepared to always think ahead and be ahead of the game, and look at the context of people’s lives and doing things that aren’t separate to the context of people’s lives.
We did the [Demanding Conversations] conference – that was amazing, that was exciting. Getting some really top names like Jude Kelly, Matthew Taylor, Dame Baroness Young, coming and having a really good, intense kind of debate, discussions about socially engaged practice means. That was a fantastic event and everyone was very positive – quite often at those kind of events people moan and you don’t feel there’s really a chance to talk and thrash through issues, but I felt that we did it in such a way that there was that opportunity.
Now we all just talk about big data, don’t we? It’s just a given, it’s out there in the public realm. But how long ago was [Whose Data]? Six, seven years ago, when it wasn’t [public] and people were all like, ‘what is this thing about big data? I don’t get it?’ And the fact that we got such a good response to the call-out.
…If you think of all the artists that have worked with you over the years and how that has affected their practice…it’s those ripples isn’t it? I think that’s what we often forget as people that are producing, managing, it’s very easy to forget the effect they have, long-term, on all sorts of other people in different ways. And you can only do that when you look back.