Starting at Tate Exchange

I am delighted to announce that I am joining Tate as Head of Tate Exchange. I'll be based at Tate Modern, and working across the Tate's sites.

Tate Exchange is both an experimental space and a programme that looks at the role of and the value that art can play in society. It is a space for dialogue and a platform to test new ideas that directly address issues of society; explores artistic practices/processes with the public; and works to create a closer relationship between Tate as an institution, creative collaborators and its many audiences.

I start on 5th February and am incredibly excited to be joining an amazing team and an institution (and that have made me feel so welcome already) I have admired and enjoyed all of my life, and to be playing a part in the story of Tate Exchange. It is a space that I have admired since its inception and this role is everything that my sector and academic career has been leading me towards and I can’t wait to get started.

All the info on Tate Exchange can be found here:

I’m sad to leave Futurecity - my colleagues there are the most dedicated, professional, creative and inspiring that I have ever worked with. I’m sure its not a final goodbye and I urge anyone involved in placemaking to beat a path to Futurecity’s door.

Theatres Trust keynote - notes

It was an honour and a joy to give the opening keynote at this years Theatres Trust annual conference, on the topic of placemaking. The day was packed full of fascinating, inspiring and useful case studies of projects up and down the country, a great insight into how others are approaching the placemaking challenges in their areas, a very beneficial knowledge exchange.

Thank you to Jon Morgan and team for putting it all together and creating a programme that really got to grips with the subject matter across a diverse cohort of stakeholders. 

The slides and notes from my keynote can be found here, defining what placemaking is, what placemaking means for theatres and theatre practitioners, and challenges for the future. 


(c) Alex Brenner, no use without credit, Theatres Trust Conference 2017 (_DSC0034).jpg

AAG 2018 – Call for Papers – Arts research, theory and practice

AAG 2018 – Call for Papers – Arts research, theory and practice

American Association of Geographers annual conference, 10th to 14th April 2018, New Orleans

With the theme of the 2018 AAG conference being Black Geographies and Geographies of Struggle and the Association’s concern with engagement outside of its academy thresholds, we are seeking papers from academics and practitioners from across the geography, arts and community development disciplines and sectors to form a three-part whole-day session on these issues.

Session 1 will focus on practice-based research; Session 2, on theory and its application in this regard; and Session 3, on practice and practitioners.

We are seeking contributions from a global field from all settings; urban, suburban and rural. We are especially interested in contributions from practitioners and ‘non-academics’ and in directly including the community voice in the paper presentations. We aim to include both qualitative and quantitative research and project evaluations, as well as methodologies, and critiques of the same.

Please submit an abstract for consideration, of no more than 250 words, by 20th October, to both and Successful applicants will be informed by 23rd October for their timely registration to AAG 2017.

We cannot offer funding for attendance at the conference at this time so responses to this CfP should be made on this basis. For all information relating to the conference and its registrations deadlines (25th Oct 2017), please visit:

Theatres Trust keynote

In October, I will be giving a keynote at the 2017 Theatre's Trust conference - I am delighted to be talking to such an audience and looking forward to the other speakers and the conversations that will arise throughout the day.

The conference this year focuses on placemaking and theatres and I will be talking about the agency of theatres in place-based work and the role of theatre buildings in placemaking. 

Further information on the conference can be found here and tickets are on sale. 

Musicity Southwark

The weekend of 10th and 11th September saw Musicity come to Southwark - and a huge thank you to all that made it such a success. 

Alongside the compositions in response to the borough's architecture (from Throwing Shade, William Doyle, Hejira, Stick in the Wheel, Moses Boyd, Sean O'Hagan and patten) saw a number of community events with artists and sound and architecture experts, a gig and a talk broadcast live on Resonance FM

My role was to commission artist Sian Hutchings to lead sound walks with member of the public and The Building Exploratory to work with an elders group to explore the local built environment, using the commissioned music. I also I led some urban rambles around the featured sites. 

Musicity seeks to encourage people to explore the city musically, architecturally and experientially by comissioning musicians to compose original tracks in response to a building, site or piece of the city that inspires them.


Placemaking isn't...

A keynote I am currently writing has got me thinking on what placemaking isn't, a a way to define what it is.  

Placemaking isn’t...

Putting a sculpture into a square. That’s public art.

Putting a building into a city. That’s architecture.

Putting a procession down a street. That’s live art.

Putting on events outside. That’s a festival.

Putting art on buildings. That’s street art.

Putting a workshop in a community. That’s community art.

Putting a bench on a street. That’s urban design.

Institute of Place Management paper

I recently presented on my placemaking typology and the agency of social practice placemaking at the Institute of Place Management's (based at Manchester Metropolitan University, UK) annual conference, this year focused on inclusove placemaking. 

Thank you to all in the room for the enthusiasm with which this was revived and also for the great questions and conversations that followed. 

Link here to the slidedeck and notes

Placemaking typology SPPM Jan 2015.jpg

Placemaking Typology paper at Inclusive Placemaking conference

The Institute of Place Management, based at Manchester Metropolitan University, is holding its fourth International Biennial Conference, this time with the theme of 'inclusive placemaking'. 

I am presenting on the Thursday on the subject of the placemaking typology created as part of my PhD. My paper, Creative placemaking: A typology of placemaking through the prism of arts practices and processes, is part of the 'Arts/Anchors - Placemaking, arts and culture/music' strand, and I will be presenting alongside Jan Brown (Creative placemaking using music: Supporting the development of a community-led approach to music policy in the city of Liverpool, UK) and Justyna Anders and Marta Herezniak (Community-bonding and placemaking function of music in the strategies of creative cities). Keynote speakers are Ethan Kent, from Project for Public Spaces and Phil Prentice from Scotland's Towns Partnership.

Full conference information and its programme can be found here

RSA blog post on Modern Brighton and Hove Map

The RSA funded the series of walking tours of routes of the Modern Brighton and Hove Map that have rolled out this summer, and I blogged for them on the subject - it can be read here

I've been a Fellow of the RSA for some years and its been great to be part of the very active and inspiring Brighton and Hove chapter, and so grateful for its support of the map project. 

Musicity - Southwark, 7th-10th September

7th to 10th of September sees Musicity come to Southwark - four days of specially-commissioned music and sound art inspired by the buildings of and place that is the borough.

Musicians include: Throwing Shade, William Boyd, Hejira, Stick in the Wheel, Moses Boyd, Sean O'Hagan, Patten, and Sooski is doing a live set on the Saturday night; Buildings include: Borough Market, The Shard, Time and Talents; Finnish Church, Canada Water Bus Station, Peckham Library and Elephant and Castle Shopping Centre.

Sound artist, Sian Hutchings, is leading two sound walks around Peckham; The Building Exploratory is working with a group of elders on a sound/place project; and I'll be talking at one of the events and leading a sound map walk.

Musicity is the idea of Nick Luscombe, presenter of BBC Radio 3's Late Junction, and its been a joy to join the team and work on this!

All info and to secure your free tickets here

map front-001.jpg
map back-001.jpg

Viva magazine column - Birds and Beasts

My Built Brighton column in Viva magazine this month focused on the many varied animals that can be found on the buildigs around Brighton and Hove.

It was a joy to write and also the chance to come full circle with my Brighton Look Up project, started some four years ago, as it was a chance to bring together all those dogs, cats, birds, insects, and a flamingo, that can be found 'living' amongst us in the city. 

Read the feature here - go to the back page and work back to page 97. 

TEDxIndianapolis talk now online

This April, I was part of TEDxIndianaplis, talking on the scale of placemaking from the bottom-up, the placemaking and civic agency of local people and of artists. 

The talk is now online and can be viewed here

It was an honour to be asked to participate and to be on that stage, shared with so many great speakers that day, as it felt like a home-from-home homecoming. The place and the people of Indy, not least those of Big Car, have had such an important and inspirational role in my PhD research and since, I was able to give something back to them in this tribute. 



Cheltenham Literary Festival

Delighted to be asked to join a panel at the Chelthenham Literary Festival, on 11th October, to talk The Archers, with a very esteemed guest alongside! 

Tickets will be on sale in due course, but in the meantime, this to whet your appetite: 

'Charting the ups and downs in the lives of residents of rural Ambridge, The Archers has captured record numbers of listeners for over 60 years. So what is the secret behind its enduring success? Cara Courage, co-founder of The Academic Archers conference, and Tim Bentinck, best known for his role as David Archer in the drama, speak to Paddy O’Connell about the world’s longest-running radio soap and its influence upon our contemporary culture.'

Arts in Place - free for the next 60 days!

In collaboration with Readcube, my Arts in Place book on my research into social practice placemaking and case studies in London, Dublin and Indianpailos, published with Routledge, is available for free download for the next 60 days. 

Its in PDF form and can be downloaded here


Academic Archers - book 2

Dr Nicola Headlam and myself are delighted to be working with Emerald to publish the second  Academic Archers book, out in the Autumn. 

Custard, Culverts and Cake: Academics of life in The Archers is the collected volume of papers from the 2017 Academic Archers conference, a sometimes serious and most often wry look at the people of Ambridge, and each chapter satirically peer-reviewed by one of those residents.

The book comes out of the 2017 Academic Archers conference that featured leading scholars in their fields that merged their love of The Archers with their specialist subjects, from aspects of the Helen and Rob story, through to food, geography, social media and faith.

The book blurs the line between The Archers being fictitious and Ambridge being a real place in a county called Borsetshire, deliberately obscuring boundaries between fact and fiction. It gives the reader a fuller understanding of the real life issues covered in the programme, a deeper insight into the residents of Ambridge, and the validation that their hours of listening to The Archers is indeed academic research.

To keep up to date with all things Academic Archers, head over to its website and sign up to its newsletter. 

IJAMCP paper

I have a paper published in Volume 4 of the Irish Journal of Arts Management and Cultural Policy. The paper focuses on my Dublin case study research as part of my PhD, Art Tunnel Smithfield, and is concerned with art practice, process, and new urbanism in Dublin. 

The journal is open access and the paper available to download



This paper presents research with Art Tunnel Smithfield (ATS), Dublin, positioning it in Dublin-wide placemaking practices, and situating it within the city’s tracts of vacant land and Dublin’s bespoke new urbanism. It focuses on the project as a form of social arts practice, giving examples of arts activities and agencies in the space, and locating the work within placemaking typology as ‘social practice placemaking’ (SPPM). SPPM is conceptualised as an extension of participatory public/new genre public art (Lacy, 2008) to a ‘new situationism’ (Doherty, 2004). This perspective views the co-production of art as constructive of new spatial configurations and emergent relations between users and space. Locating this work in the socio-politics of urban life, SPPM has to be understood as an art form that dematerializes the built object and is concerned with creative and social processes and outcomes.

Creative Placemaking and Beyond book

I am delighted to say that Dr Anita McKeown and I will be publishing a book of papers from our conference sessions at Royal Geographic Society and American Association of Geographers, Creative Placemaking and Beyond. The book will be out Spring 2018, published by Routledge. 

The arts-driven placemaking sector has reached a moment in both maturity and diversity where it demands a critique and deeper understanding of practice. Specifically focusing on notions of creative placemaking (Markusen & Gadwa, 2010) and Social Practice Placemaking (Courage, 2016) towards arts-led resilient practices (McKeown, 2015 ), this book addresses the vital need for theorists to be in dialogue with practitioners to create dynamic feedback loops that inform theory and practice .

This book curates a range of scholars and artist-scholars to present socially practiced, co-produced and citizen-led placemakings as a response to a bottom-up need or desire rather than a top-down imposition, with artists, participants and a range of creatives and other professions form ecologies of practice. If Creative Placemaking is to contribute to places-in-the-making (Silberberg, 2013) and encourage citizen-led agency new conceptual frameworks and practical methodologies will be required, advocating transdisciplinary, resilient processes and new models of theory and practice.  


USA book, conference and TEDx tour

I am currently in the US, travelling on a conference, research, book and talks tour. 

Starting in Boston, with a session at American Association of Geographers annual conference, and a session co-chaired with Dr Anita McKeown, Metrics of place: measuring and evaluating placemaking, we were honoured to be joined by Sunil Iyengar, National Endowment for the Arts, and Vinita Goyal. 

I then travelled to Charlottesville to workshop the draft of my creative placemaking metrics report to colleagues from Thriving Cities and University of Virginia and from the county creative and place sector. 

Now in Indianapolis, coming up is a talk on my research in Indianapolis with Big Car to the Strong Indianapolis cohort, part of the USA-wide Strong Towns group, and a TEDxIndianapolis talk on placemaking and its social role in healing divisions around place identity. 

CfP RFS 2017: Decolonising placemaking knowledges: considering global placemaking

Convenors: Dr Cara Courage, and Dr Anita McKeown

Paper/panel session at Royal Geographical Society 2017 Annual International Conference, London, Tuesday 29 August to Friday 1 September 2017.

Placemaking as a practice and philosophy has been written about extensively since the 1970s, in the main by US, UK and European scholars and practitioners. This session aims to open the consideration of placemaking from a global perspective, through papers from global practitioners and projects from the non-Western, non-Northern hemisphere.

Attempts to humanise the process of spatial planning and design (Healey, 2011, 2010) has evolved with the re-emergence of the importance of place (Casey, 1998) and post-colonial discourse. The potential to engage creative, collaborative and ecological practices within placemaking’s processes (Schneekloth and Shibley, 1995; Silberberg, 2013; Wright, 2005) become necessities if we are to combat the negative impacts of planetary urbanisation, anthropocentric climate change and social justice and cohesion.

Broader philosophical definitions such as ‘retrospective world-building’ (Basso, 1996:5) the creation of a meaningful humanly authored world (Tuan, 1976), ‘daily acts of renovating, maintaining, and representing the places that sustain us" (Schneekloth and Shibley, 1995:274) and ‘to create a sense of belonging through place’ (Silberberg, 2013) further complicate the relationship between professionals, residents and the practice of placemaking.

From this perspective what placemaking knowledges have yet to be integrated into current practices and thinking? How might global placemaking, in particular practices and processes of placemaking from non-Western/non-Northern hemisphere countries, Indigenous practices, feminist practices and more expand the current discourse?

The session forms a panel/paper session from a broad range of fields and perspectives presenting short provocations that explore and share the concerns of such practices and how these practices can lead thinking on issues in placemaking faced in US/UK/Europe today. The panel/papers will be followed by world café breakout sessions to discuss the issues raised by the panellists with the sessions attendees.

If you are interested in joining the panel/submitting a paper, please submit an abstract for consideration, of no more than 250 words, with a short biog, by Friday, 10th February, to and

Successful applicants will be informed by 13th February, to confirm attendance by 16th February. Regretfully, particularly in light of the topic, no funding is available to support national or international travel so those interested should only submit an abstract if they are able to self/institution/organisation fund. 

Academic Archers 2017 conference

February 2017 sees the second Academic Archers conference, this time held over two days and including a field trip, and hosted by University of Lincoln, with thirty-two academics from all fields and across the UK, gathering to talk on a subject that crosses their discipline boundaries, Radio 4’s The Archers.

The Archers in fact and fiction: Academic analyses of life in rural Borsetshire takes an academic perspective on life in Ambridge and Borsetshire, with papers from across academic disciplines, from social media, education, religion, the negative aspects of competing at Flower and Produce shows, birdwatching, class and masculinity in Ambridge, eating disorders and dietary health, flood resilience, social status and perceptions of physicality, and family dysfunctionality.

Unsurprisingly, the conference is dedicating a whole strand to the Helen and Rob story line, with papers covering coercive and controlling relationships, the disablement of Rob Titchener, nurturing traditional gender roles in The Archers, music and the ‘soundtrack to a stabbing’ and forensic Blood Pattern Analysis (BPA) at Blossom Hill Cottage. This sits alongside strands on Genteel country hobbies?, Educating Ambridge, The geography of Ambridge, Power relationships, Bereavement and spirituality and Ambridge online.

Taking place over Friday 17th to Saturday 18th of February 2017, the Friday evening sees a field trip to one of the places considered to be an Ambridge birth place, Rippingale, for a film, talk and meal at The Bull Inn. 

The full programme can be found here and listed below. The book of papers from the first conference, with reviews by The Archers characters can be found in bookshops and online

To register to attend the conference please go to the University of Lincoln shop page at

Conference Fee – £50. This rate includes entry to all of the conference presentations as well as refreshments throughout the conference and lunch on both days. If the conference is over- subscribed a waiting list system will be available. Friday evening trip to Rippingale including conference dinner - £30 (including return travel, talk and a film on how the village inspired the programme, and The Archers-themed menu at The Bull Inn). 

Accommodation is NOT included in the conference fee, but a wide range of accommodation to suit all requirements and budgets is available in the city of Lincoln at

The University of Lincoln has secured a preferential rate for Academic Archers conference delegates with the Holiday Inn Express Lincoln City Centre for the night of Friday 17th February 2017. This is very close to the conference venue, and 50 rooms are available at £70.00 per room, per night on a first-come-first-served basis. This rate includes breakfast, WiFi and VAT. Car parking, if required, is £5.00 per vehicle, per night, payable on arrival at reception. Lincoln is a lovely city and if you decided to make a weekend of it and stay Saturday night as well, there are also 20 rooms available at £95 per room per night for Saturday 18th February, also on a first-come- first-served basis.

To book at this rate, call 0871 902 1617 option 5 which will bring you straight through to the Holiday Inn Express Lincoln City Centre Team. When booking your room please let them know that you are booking as part of The Academic Archers Conference. Payment will be taken in full at the time of booking and is non-refundable once paid. This rate cannot be booked via the website, any third party or via the central reservations team. You can book at this rate up to and including the day of Monday 23rd January 2017. Please remember that accommodation is not included in the conference fee and needs to be paid for separately.

2017 Schedule: 

Session 1 – Genteel country hobbies? – Chair Dr Cara Courage

Daniels & Maddison Warren: “My parsnips are bigger than your parsnips”: The negative aspects of competing at Flower and Produce shows.

Dobson: ‘Big telephoto lens, small ticklist’: birdwatching, class and masculinity in Ambridge.

Michael: The Ambridge Paradox: inverse correlations between cake consumption and incidence of metabolic disorders in a defined rural population.

Session 2 – Educating Ambridge – Chair Professor Carenza Lewis

Lefebvrere: Ambridge as Metaphor: Sharing the mission and Values of a 21st century library.

Turner & Bage: We Don’t Need No Education - the absence of primary education in the Archers.

Macdonald-Smith: Phoebe goes to Oxford.


Session 3 – The Geography of Ambridge – Chair Professor Carenza Lewis

Connelly: ‘I’m an Archer, get me out of here!’: assessing Ambridge’s flood resilience.

Gleed: After the Flood: how can Ambridge residents develop resilience to future flooding.

Nicholls: Placing Ambridge in the West Midlands – Geography, Identity and Culture (pre-field trip think-piece).

Field Trip and dinner (optional)

 Latham: Rippingale and the Origin of The Archers, followed by dinner at The Bull Inn, Rippingale.

Session 4 – Helen ’n’ Rob - Chair Dr Cara Courage

     Runswick-Cole & Wood: Bag of the devil: the disablement of Rob Titchener.

     Medland: Culinary Coercion; nurturing traditional gender roles in Ambridge.

      Campion: Coercive and controlling relationships: the case of Helen and Rob.

     Jarman & Baker: Soundtrack to a stabbing: what Rob’s choice of music over dinner tells us about why he          ended up spilling the custard.  

      O’Connor: – Forensic blood pattern analysis at Blossom Hill Cottage

     Taylor: Dietary provision for pregnancy and lactation in women’s prisons: an illustration from the case of Helen Archer

      Keynote : Brown: A legal perspective on ‘Helen & Rob’


Session 5 – Power relationships - Chair Dr Peter Matthews

 Goode & Courage: Does personal and social status affect perceptions of physicality? Or, The Archers and big willies.

Gillies & Burrows: Ambridge – a case study in using genograms to assess family dysfunctionality.

Headlam: The Small Worlds of Ambridge: Power, Networks & Actants.

Session 6 – Bereavement and spirituality – Chair Dr Nicola Headlam

 Hustler: “God in Ambridge” – The Archers as Rural Theology.

Janssen & Heilbronn: Freddie Pargiter - underachiever?.

Meyer: The Archers as lieux de memoire of the Great War in Britain.


Session 7 – Ambridge Online - Chair - Dr Cara Courage

 Coles-Kemp and Ashenden: ‘An everyday story of country folk’ online? The marginalisation of the Internet and social media in The Archers.

Vandyk: ‘An everyday story of country folk’ online? The marginalisation of social media in The Archers

Turner: Being @borsetpolice: proposing an (auto)ethnographic understanding of Archers fan fiction on Twitter