Jubilee Arts Archive, 2022-23

Web site, photography, text, exhibitions

In 1974, when men last walked on the moon, in England, significant local government reorganisation brought into being the Metropolitan Borough of Sandwell, part of the urban conurbation of the West Midlands – with a population of nearly 300,000. A unique organisation called Jubilee Theatre and Community Arts Company was also founded that year in this part of the Black Country. Over the next twenty years this multi-disciplinary arts group documented their work with diverse local communities. They left behind a considerable repository of archival material, a complex portrait which not just reflected their locality and their hopes and dreams, but of the changing demographic of British society.

In co-operation with Sandwell Archives, the project investigated and celebrate the work of those artist activists – whose philosophy was expand the boundaries of what art is, who makes it, and where it is found. Based in local communities and engaging with everyday issues and concerns, they were inspired by both the animateurs of Paris ’68 and of the cultural activists of the civil rights era. There would be little ‘socially engaged practice’ without these pioneers.

The archive was shared through artist led workshops and commissions, events and exhibitions, curated with local community groups, and through the production of a website – with images, memorabilia, audio, interpretative texts and resource materials. Perhaps this will inspire a new generation of citizens and artists to challenge our current deeply conformist, risk averse contemporary culture?

Originally supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Arts Council England, Sandwell M.B.C, Community Development Foundation in 2014-15; a second reiteration of the project in 2022-23  supported by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund and Arts Council England.