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engage International Conference 2016


Day one

Keynote speaker - Rabab Ghazoul

Internationally acclaimed artist, Rabab Ghazoul, unpicked the word 'activism', and asked questions about what it means, and how and where it might manifest within our work. When socially engaged practices have blurred the lines between different 'activisms', with art now operating across realms encompassing the political, economic, community and environmental, where can we say our 'activism' lies and what forms does it take? Does it automatically imply the realm of the political in our work, and if so how is this articulated? How is power  operating within what we do, how is it named, navigated or questioned? How as artists and practitioners do we influence or engage in more conventional activist contexts, what do we bring to these contexts and what, ultimately, are we trying to revolutionise. 

Rabab was born in Mosul, Iraq. She has lived and worked in Cardiff, Wales, since 1993.


Art Behaving Badly

Plenary session 1

Art activism can be defined as "action that campaigns to bring about political or social change." It is often process-driven, rather than object-orientated; it is also often collaborative and invariably participative. The session contributors considered their own practice against this definition and description, and discuss what makes art activism different from other forms of activism.

Chair: Bryan Biggs, Artistic Director of Bluecoat, Liverpool's contemporary arts centre

Session Contributors:

Nina Edge, Artist

Dave Beech, Professor of Art at the University of Gothenburg

Anna Galkina, member of Platform


The social model of art

Plenary session 2

This session considered ways in which the right conditions can be created for the development of meaningful collaboration between artists, communities and arts organisations.

Chair: Lindsey Fryer, Head of Learning, TATE Liverpool

Session contributors:

Laurie Peake, Director, Super Slow Way

Steffan Jones-Hughes, Head of Arts, Oriel Wrecsam

Viviana Checcia, Public Engagement Curator, CCA

Joe Robertson, Director, Good Chance Calais


Day two

"Creativity is part of human nature, it can only be untaught." Ai Wei Wei, April 2012

Plenary session 3

Henry Ward invited his panel members to consider creativity, the arts and the school curriculum. Do they work together? Does art within a curriculum foster creativity? Why is art included on the school curriculum? This fascinating session will consider the relationship between creative freedom and curriculum demands.

Chair: Dr. Henry Ward, Head of Education, Freelands Foundation

Session contributors:

Mike Fairclough, Head, West Rise Junior School

William Nelson, Coordinator, Tramway Visual Arts Studio/Glasgow City Council Development Officer - Art and Design

Lizzie Crump, Cultural Learning Alliance

Nia Richards, Creative Schools Regional Lead - North Wales, Arts Council Wales


What sort of artists do we want?

Plenary session 4

If the real opportunity for artists to achieve a sustainable career is to develop a mix of socially engaged practice and educational activities, how is this attainable when arts schools still focus on the white box as a measure of success? Sarah Fisher asked her panel to consider how, and by whom, artists should be validated, so that they can achieve a successful and satisfying career.

Chair: Sarah Fisher, Director, Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool

Session contributors:

Jeanie Scott, Director, a-n

Sarah Pace & Tracy Simpson, ADDO

Janie Nicoll, Freelance Visual Artist, Scottish Artists Union

Joe Orr, CACTUS, Royal Standard, Liverpool

Mark Smith, Executive Director, Axisweb


There were also engaging breakout sessions, with contributions from:


Kenn Taylor, Head of Participation, The Tetley, talked about artists working in post-industrial communities. Debbie Chan, FACT, introduced the project Networked Narratives.

Bec Fearon, Head of Engagement, Laura Yates, Participation Manager, Becky Waite, Blue Room Facilitator, Betty Ritchie, Out of the Blue Facilitator and Jade French, Facilitator for Arts as Advocacy, who all work on Bluecoat's programme of activity with and for people with learning disabilities, including support for artistic development, volunteering with children and a new strand of curating and commissioning work.

Polly Brannan, Education Curator, Liverpool Biennial and Rebecca Ross Williams, Engagement Director, Everyman and Playhouse. Brannan discussed the Children's Episode from the current Liverpool Biennial 2016 edition where artists were invited to make art with and for children, making children the primary audience. Ross Williams described the Everyman and Playhouse's work with vulnerable young people.

Jude Bird from Curious Minds focused on the Specialist Leaders in Education (SLiCE) Fellowship; delegates learned about the revolutionary qualities of data with Dave Moutrey, Director and CEO, HOME, Helen Dunnett, Director, HD Consulting, James Hanks, Marketing Manager, Liverpool Phil and Victoria Carlin, Insights and Data Manaer, The Roundhouse. 

Julia Bryan, Senior Education Manager, National Museums Liverpool, Sarah Han, Education Manager, Museum of Liverpool and Seized! The Border Force National and Matthew Exley, Project Curator, Pride and Prejudice presented a session exploring National Museum Liverpool's approach to audience development and increasing access.

Sam Cairns led a workshop on the civic role of cultural organisations, and Sam Wade from DaDaFest focused on their approach to developing young musicians.

engage International Conference 2016
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