Making Space
Published in

Making Space

Foreword: Making Space

By Emma Boulton

Sao Paolo, photo by Sandra Ciampone

In 2018 the British Council commissioned the Barbican’s incubator programming team, (Siddharth Khajuria and Razia Jordan), to undertake a body of research into how arts organisations and cultural producers are seeking to become more responsive to an increasingly complex world beyond their walls, and play a stronger role in civic and social life.

Siddharth and Razia produce a public programme of arts and learning projects designed to create space for conversations about social and cultural questions, and their effects on our lives. Primarily taking place across the Barbican’s foyer spaces, their programme comprises a changing series of installations, artist residencies, architectural commissions and a range of events and talks.

They invited six cultural producers to reflect in writing on their work and values, and their hopes for the future. What were the questions, processes and values which defined their practice? What shifts in approach would they like to see from colleagues, commissioners and others? If they were to design a cultural space from scratch, what attributes might it have? They felt it was important to include participants they didn’t know, or hadn’t worked with before. The brief was shared with a dozen or so cultural producers and researchers they did know, and they asked them to nominate potential participants.

Emerging from the project is a series of essays under the broad title of “Making Space”, each an intimate reflection about one’s roles, approach, and navigation of an ever-shifting world. The essays, written in 2019, are rich and honest, and a refreshing reminder that as creatives and cultural producers we share similar values and ask similar questions of ourselves and work.

Our world has grown and increased in complexity, from instantaneous global connectivity to the merger of public and private spheres. Although the edges begin to blur, the same edges offer opportunities to create, convene, collaborate, and challenge existing structures and pose new ones. Each essay reveals an approach to work rich with varying motivations and objectives, however the idea of change is constant; instigating, enacting, recognising, and responding. Although working to an outcome or vision, the production process itself is equally important, as is being able to reflect, face uncomfortable subjects or the unexpected, and resilience.

These essays offer a wealth of insight and a reassurance to producers, whether you’re independent or part of an institution, that we are all finding our way to create positive contributions in different ways.

Reading them as a set, it struck us that a series of questions emerged throughout:

  • How do we make projects that are truly collaborative, and that aren’t didactic?
  • How can we hold ourselves and others around us responsible for creating a more diverse and equitable sector?
  • What does honesty mean at work?
  • What does it mean to be an ally as a cultural producer?

The British Council and the Barbican are excited to present the 7 Making Space essays. We hope you find these enriching and provoke you to explore similar questions of yourself.

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Making Space is a collection of essays, commissioned and written in 2019, each responding to the question “how can cultural producers become more responsive to an increasingly complex world beyond their walls, and play a stronger role in civic and social life?”

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British Council Creative Economy

British Council Creative Economy

British Council Creative Economy team. We work with artists, entrepreneurs, and creative communities globally to tackle today’s cultural and social challenges.

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