My PhD research project investigated a type of placemaking that I have come to term social practice placemaking.

My thesis ‘Making places: performative arts practices in the city’ resulted from a research project focused on a practice of placemaking informed by performative and social practice artforms. The research is concerned with grassroots arts-led interventions in the urban realm, participated in by citizens with an aim to improve the urban lived experience and to form and cultivate connections between people, place and community. This has come to be termed in the course of the research ‘social practice placemaking’ (SPPM), a practice observed in the placemaking sector as an approach that is informed by social practice arts and an attention on these arts as a means of urban revitalization. 

Operating at the intersection of arts, placemaking and urban theory, and place attachment thinking, the research has used a comparative approach based on participant observation and interviews at three case study sites: Art Tunnel Smithfield, Dublin, an outdoor art gallery and garden space; the drawing shed, Walthamstow, London, a social arts practice predominantly operating in housing estates in Walthamstow and Wandsworth; and Big Car, Indianapolis, an arts organisation operating across the whole of this Midwest USA city.

Findings are along three themes. Firstly, of the art practice and process of SPPM, revealing the collaborative SPPM art experience. Secondly, of urban space and place and SPPM as a means of reinterpreting both spatial and cultural activities of the city. Thirdly, of place attachment and SPPM and its role in and citizenship conscientisation and the politics of SPPM activity in the urban public realm.

The research presents an original typology of practice for the placemaking sector and examines the practice, process and role of arts in the placemaking sector and positions social practice placemaking in the social practice arts field. Significantly, the presentation of data includes the voice of the artist and non-artist protagonists.

The research has various implications for the sector. Firstly, for creative and urban professionals and communities, by revealing how social practice placemaking can deepen an understanding of the relative agencies of the various modes of arts in place. Secondly, how this practice may advance placemaking practice as a whole by its use to better understand differences and similarities between placemakings within the placemaking sector, and from this, better communicate its practices to constituent stakeholders in the creative, urban design and community sectors. Thirdly, how this practice can inform the understanding of collective progressive citizenship in the urban realm and inform generative planning practices. 

The research question was:

How are urban places made and remade through performative arts practices?

and its research aims were:

1.       to examine the practice and process of performative arts-informed placemaking and its affect on the emplaced arts experience;

2.       to investigate what existing space and place thinking can contribute to performative arts-informed placemaking, and this artform as a means of reinterpreting the urban public realm;

3.       to explore the role of emplaced performative arts practice in shaping social cohesion, arts and civic participation and citizenship.

Papers, posters and chapters can be found on my page, here, as well as listed in my academic CV, here, and my blog carries news of my presentation and conference appearances. 



Published papers

‘Dublin creative placemaking and land use’, Irish Journal of Arts Management & Cultural Policy, 2016

‘Performative architecture: reclaiming a vital architectural practice’, All-Ireland Architecture Research Group, January 2016

‘Social practice placemaking: methodologies and findings’, Landscaping Change: Streets, Bath Spa University and British Academy, January 2016

‘What are the arts in social practice placemaking’, Arts in Society annual conference, June 2015

‘Moving beyond creative placemaking: the micropublic of a social practice placemaking project’, American Association of Geographers annual conference, September 2015

Panel member, Look At The (E)state We’re In, University of the Arts London (Camberwell, Chelsea, Wimbledon) and Peckham Platform, June 2015

‘Architecture with Society: social practice placemaking and architecture in the public realm: a Dublin case study’, All-Ireland Architecture Research Group annual conference, January 2014

‘Placemaking as performative art’, Royal Geographical Society annual conference, September 2014

‘The Global Phenomenon of Tactical Urbanism as an Indicator of New Forms of Citizenship’, Engage Journal, July 2013

‘Establishing an evidence base for the Cultural Olympiad: London 2012’, Cultural Trends Journal special edition, co-editorial, January 2013

‘100m, Creative Campus Initiative: cultivating talent, celebrating excellence’, Creative Campus Initiative, co-directors commentary, book, 2011


Convened conference sessions

‘The Nexus of Art and Geography as practice as research’, Royal Geographical Society annual conference, co-convened session National College of Art and Design, Dublin sponsored by Participatory Geographies Research Group, September 2016

‘Creative Placemaking and Beyond Part 2’, American Association of Geographers annual conference 2016, co-convened session National College of Art and Design, Dublin sponsored by Cultural Geography Speciality Group, April 2016

‘Creative placemaking and Beyond Part 1’, Royal Geographical Society annual conference 2015, co-convened session with National College of Art and Design, Dublin, September 2015

‘Art(s) in Spaces’, Royal Geographical Society annual conference 2014, co-convened session with St Andrews University, September 2014


Convened conferences

‘The Archers in fact and fiction: Academic analyses of life in rural Borsetshire’, at University of Liverpool in London, co-organised with University of Stirling and University of Liverpool colleagues, 2016 (100 attendees), February 2016


Published posters

Placemaking typology, August 2014/January 2015

Relocalism: local research of a global phenomenon, January 2013 - winner of University of Brighton Student and Public poster competition awards 2013


Sector publishing

‘Planning as a social art form’, New Planner, September 2015

‘Gentrification flipped by the arts in Indy’, Guardian Cities, July 2015

The Brighton placemaking project with a Mexico City Twist’, This Big City, November 2014

EDGEcondition, April 2014 – ongoing, co-founder/editor, online publication focusing on architectural creative working and discourse

‘How Brighton supports its artists working informally’, Global Urbanist, November 2013

‘Healthy Communities at the Placemaking Leadership Council’, This Big City, May 2013

‘Detroit Calling at the Placemaking Leadership Council’, This Big City, April 2013

‘Arts students: everything you always wanted to know but were afraid to ask’, Guardian Culture Professionals Network, September 2012

‘London 2012: are we nearly there yet?’, Guardian Culture Professionals Network, August 2012

‘Collaboration’ curatorial essay, Conran&Partners, June 2012

‘A Smart Guide to Utopia’, book contributor on placemaking projects, Le Cool, June 2012

‘FutureEverything: the how’s and whys of art and technology hook-ups’, Guardian Culture Professionals Network, May 2012

‘Women in the Arts: some questions’, Guardian Culture Professionals Network, March 2012

‘Women in the Arts’, AN Magazine, February 2012


Forthcoming and in development

‘Making places: performative arts practices in the city’, PhD thesis monograph, Routledge, 2016

‘Creative Placemaking and Beyond’, co-edited book, with Routledge, anticipated 2017

Placemaking textbook/reader, with Routledge, anticipated 2017

‘The Archers in fact and fiction: Academic analyses of life in rural Borsetshire’, conference proceedings, with BBC, anticipated 2016

Co-curation and chapter in next Lydon and Garcia tactical urbanism book, 2016

TOC development and chapter in Handbook of Psychospatial Dynamics, Colorado State University, 2016

‘The Nexus of Art and Geography as practice as research’, Royal Geographical Society annual conference, 2016

‘The rigour of the informal: the social practice placemaking or arts in place’, Urban Studies special issue (date TBC)