Issue 08 | May 2023

Welcome to the MAY edition of The Miaaw Monthly which tells you what to expect this month, and provides a few pointers to things you might like to explore.

Our podcasts are a way to have (hopefully) interesting conversations about the things we care about. Please spread the word as widely as you can, and encourage people to subscribe to The Miaaw Monthly.

If you have anything that you want to include in The Miaaw Monthly, or discuss in the podcasts, then please email us at and we will be happy to collaborate.


Today’s podcast, the final one for April, concludes our special month of podcasts from the International Festival of Community Art in Rotterdam. In this episode Owen Kelly talks with Bonface Beti about his workshop and The African Theatre of the Oppressed.

We have not finished with ICAF though. The special editions will continue for the near future on the last Friday of each month.


Every Friday a podcast appears at 12:34 UTC. Sometimes we get so eager that they appear an hour or two early to allow for any lag across the internet. Mostly they arrive on time. With that in mind, here are the podcasts that will drop in May.

Friday May 5: Meanwhile in an Abandoned Warehouse | Episode 61

Henry Mulhall joins Sophie Hope and Owen Kelly to discuss the relationship between Pokëmon, Oblique Strategies, event-specific card games, and cultural democracy, starting with Henry and Sophie’s project Cards on the Table.

Friday May 12: The Abandoned Bookshelf | Episode 18

Owen Kelly and Russell Southwood look at how the internet has grown in Africa, why it has taken the shape it has, and what we might expect in the future.

Friday May 19: A Culture of Possibility | Episode 29

Arlene Goldbard and François Mattarasso talk with Ben Fink and Kate Fowler about the new two-volume publication from Roadside Theater in Appalachia, Art in A Democracy.

Friday May 26: Miaaw at ICAF | Episode 05

Owen Kelly talks with Charlie Fox about the issues of culture, democracy, and the non-human that spring from the Marseilles River Project, organised by the Gammare Collective.


All our podcasts are available from, Apple podcasts, Google podcasts, Overcast, RadioPublic, Soundcloud, Spotify, and Stitcher.

You can also listen to them at the website where you will find additional links, notes, and references accompanying each episode. You will also find a full archive of all the previous podcasts there.


The first Miaaw Live took place on Wednesday, March 22. It will be happily polished, archived and available for viewing on the website from May 12. You will find it here when it arrives.

The second edition will be streamed live on Wednesday, June 21. You will find full details of that in the next newsletter, which will appear in your inbox on Friday, May 26th.


The majority of podcasts feature practitioners, but some interviewees study community-based arts rather than make it, writes Arlene Goldbard. As one of the podcasters (François Matarasso and I cohost “A Culture of Possibility,” which drops every third Friday), a question keeps coming up for me. How much does theory as reflected in academic literature—which tends to be more abstract than first-person accounts of experience—illuminate and advance work for cultural democracy? For example, there’s a lot of academic literature about social practice (which someone I admire called “the gentrification of community arts”), and I often hear academics treat that category as including community arts, which it definitely does not.

The main way to understand community-based arts work is through those who cocreate it. They know its reasons for being, its aims, its ideas of beauty and meaning, its ethics and relationships, and its conceptions of value. But some researchers and theoreticians try to wedge it into systems of thought and typologies that don’t really fit. They can do damage by judging work on standards its practitioners would never adopt, and finding it wanting.

With community-based arts work, the focus is naturally on the particular particular—this community, these people, this issue as it is lived—but theory looks for ways to generalize and categorize. To pick just one point among many, I hear some researchers criticizing work based on how they feel it should ideally be supported, without digging deeply into the economic realities of the places and funding systems in question.

The work has coherent values and aims, to be sure. It also has distinct histories that can’t be folded into some larger historical framework as if 15th century frescoes and today’s community murals have a common lineage. Consider the development of community-based media, for example. Many influences act on many different film/video practices, but no straight line can be drawn from 20th century experimental cinema to video cocreated by people working together on a project, some of whom identify as filmmakers. It makes me nervous when anyone tries to force a constantly evolving, relationship-based practice to fit a thesis crafted at a distance from the actual work.

That’s not to say community-based arts work shouldn’t be studied or written about. Indeed, everyone on the Miaaw team has done both, each in our own ways, with or without institutional connections. But when we talk with academic researchers and theoreticians, how do we separate what’s true to the work at its best and useful for practitioners from what amounts to deploying it for a more abstract end?

What do you think about this? How should we understand this as podcasters?

(These are not rhetorical questions. If you would like to answer, please email us at and indicate whether you would like your response published in the next newsletter or not.)


Join the Social Art Educators’ Forum

Social practice continues as a growing phenomenon amongst creative practitioners globally, who are increasingly drawing on their creativity to address urgent issues of social and environmental justice. There are nevertheless still relatively few courses that teach this as a specific discipline, though art and design educators regularly find ways of embedding it in a range of creative courses, and support also comes through cultural organisations.

As a community we are quite dispersed and it can be difficult to find both support and opportunities to discuss the ideas, challenges and possibilities of teaching and learning that arise through this work. A recent AHRC funded project The Art of Engagement, involving Middlesex University, the Tate gallery, Queens Museum and SPCUNY at City University New York, has been exploring ways to build an international learning community in social practice. The most positive aspect of this work has been dialogue between creative practitioners, educators and cultural workers, that has begun to explore what socially engaged creatives need and how we can best offer learning and support in this discipline. We are now inviting you to join the discussion.

The Social Art Educators’ Forum is conceived as a short monthly online session open to anyone interested in these issues, to which you can drop in according to availability and interest. Discussion is informal and open-ended around participant experience and ideas on proposed topics. Recognising that everyone is busy, sessions are only one hour in duration. Timing has allowed for as many time zones as possible amongst those who have already demonstrated an interest, though of course others are welcome.

The forum will be held on the last Friday of each month, hosted by Loraine Leeson of Middlesex University in collaboration with Roxane Permar of University of Highlands and Islands.

Next discussion: Friday 28th April 2023

9amCST/ 10amEST/ 3pmGMT/ 4pmCET/ 5pmEET/ 8.30pmIST – for 1 hour

At April’s session there will be two parallel discussions to choose from:
Working with the Non-Human
Ideas for a Collaborative Project

Zoom link:

To be added to the mailing list contact

A celebration of nature’s symphony

From the Wildlife Trust’s website:

Dawn Chorus Day has grown from a small event in Birmingham in the 1980s to a global annual celebration, enjoyed in over eighty countries. You don’t need to be surrounded by countryside to enjoy nature’s symphony – cities have songbirds of their own. Beyond the cooing of pigeons you could hear the serenade of robins and blackbirds, the chatter of house sparrows and the laughing calls of herring gulls, to name just a few!

Taking place on the first Sunday of May, International Dawn Chorus Day is the worldwide celebration of nature’s greatest symphony. All across the world people rise early to revel in the sweet sound of birdsong, from rattling wrens in Rotherham to crooning cowbirds in the Caribbean.
And remember you don’t have to head out to a nature reserve, you can always just open your window – and listen…

Wikimedians in Residence

Andrew gryf Paterson has just published the results of a one year project at Pixelache in Helsinki called Wikimedians in Residence. The project includes three online podcasts which include practical suggestions for getting small cultural organisations onto Wikipedia.

We will interview Andrew about the project and its outcomes in the near future.

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