This position is actually a useful provocation from which to start: how involved can everyone within a community-based project be engaged in its design and set-up? This question alludes to one of the first major academic issues within socially engaged art: the distinction between ‘doing to people’ and ‘doing with people’. If communities are not involved with the inception/planning/development, are they being done to? How can organisations do with these communities in collaborative co-development? This issue was first mooted by Su Braden in 1978, and after almost four decades shows no sign of abating.(6) To give some background to how this relates to my project, it is useful to explain it was part of the Creative People and Places (CPP) programme. CPP is an Arts Council England (ACE) initiative that emerged from governmental policy in the 2010s, which aimed to redress the lack of high-quality art outside the central hubs such as London, Manchester, etc. Rather simplistically, it stems out of centralised cultural policy framing, and the funding for it is filtered from government, to ACE, then to commissioned organisations, then to community partners, and finally to artists and (indirectly) to the community/participating individuals.
6 – Braden, S. (1978). Artists And People. London. Kegan Paul Books.