TestBeds Catalyst artist Phillip Stanier in 'I talk to the trees but they don't listen to me' an outdoor piece in Luton's Hightown ©Rachel Cherry


saturday 4th


keynote: keynote: vice chancellor bill rammell - the role of universities in building and sustaining world-class creative industries

The Vice Chancellor explored the University of Bedfordshire's contribution to building and sustaining world-class creative industries and discussed the University's creative and performing arts provision,  research in media, arts and performance and employability agenda.


performance: the gardens; re-rendered in the body

The Gardens: Re-rendered in the Body is a site responsive improvised performance, led by Tamara Ashley, that reconstructs audience members descriptions of their gardens in the moving body. Audience members were invited to share descriptions of their own gardens as starting points for small dances that accumulated over the duration the performance. 


group of talks: public art, placemaking and sited creative practice


paper: the weird and eerie woods

What constitutes a 'Weird' or a 'Eerie' place, and why might those experiences be of cultural value? Philip Stanier discussed the Woodland Spaces of Luton, how they have been critical in the creation of a new performance project 'The Designs of Trees', and the wider implications of the 'Weird' and the 'Eerie' in relation to Performance and Placemaking.


talk: tributary

In 2017, Luton based visual artist Abi Spendlove staged an 8 week mixed media exhibition at the Storefront Gallery in Luton. The exhibition, entitled 'Tributary' explored the river Lea and sought to bring the river into the consciousness' of town centre dwellers. Alongside images from the exhibition, Spendlove talked about her approach as a practitioner, and provided personal reflection on the impact that site-specific work can have on individuals and communities.


case study: gonzo curating

Andrew Hunt discussed recent research into 'Gonzo Curating', a category that includes new approaches to regional programming and public art. The presentation included subjects such as the potential of the medium of painting after the internet, Oscar Wilde’s essay ‘The Critic as Artist’ as a contemporary manifesto for art practice, slowness and radical forms of indolence, as well as 'art-as-criminality' and 'the useless' as an effective mode of resistance to cultural ‘accelerationism’. Case studies included Hunt's various three- to six-year projects for UK towns and the impact that they have had on an international level.


case study: raising the barr

In 2012 Walsall Council, in partnership with  the Barr Beacon Trust, was awarded £440,900 by the Heritage Lottery Fund for a project called 'Raising The Barr' – the restoration of Barr Beacon's historic features and community pride. The grant was also used to increase the number of activities - to help visitors, schools and colleges make the most of Barr Beacon. Sanna Wicks presented on the meeting of technology and heritage in this innovative case study.


group of talks: the politics of place: placemaking through community engagement


case study: luton irish forum

Fiona Martin of Luton Irish Forum presented a case study and findings to support ideas of a new approach to the exploration of Irish culture through arts, for second and third generations. She discussed how this is vital for the future of the Luton Irish identity as Global Citizens and what foundations they are building for fourth and fifth generations.


case study: take a part

Take A Part CIC is a socially engaged arts organisation based in Plymouth, UK. Developed from a grass-roots foundation, it focuses on collaborative approaches to place making with the communities that it serves, which are in areas of socioeconomic deprivation. The community set the agenda, select the artists and produce the work, which creates deep ownership. Using the case study by Dr Rory Shand, TAP presented its methodologies, developed in response to Arnstein’s Ladder of Community Empowerment. 


talk: what kind of england? The cultural battle over brexit in the press.

Paul Rowinski offered a critical discourse analysis of key UK mainstream newspaper coverage ahead of the June 2016 EU referendum, when immigration became the core issue and the clarion call went up, not only by some politicians but also supporters in the press: We want our country back.


paper: 'performing places:' carnival, culture and the performance of contested national identities during the 2012 and 2016 olympics

This paper outlined Dr Jon Croose's ethnographic research within town carnivals and the professional 'Battle for the Winds' performances that launched the 2012 Olympic sailing, alongside a recent research project that explored the role of art and performance in processes of economic place-branding in Rio, and attitudes within marginalised arts communities towards representations of Brazilian identity and place in the 2016 Olympic Opening Ceremony.


group of talks: regeneration or gentrification? sustainable creative placemaking


talk: you're what happens here

Ashleigh Griffiths and Cara Davies presented You're What Happens Here, a provocative, poetic paper exploring the impact of Tracing the Pathway's project Groundwork in championing the restoration of artists as key community figures in the town of Milton Keynes.


talk: luton as a playable town

In this talk Luton artist Sophie Gresswell looked into the current position and future business plan of her visual arts program for Luton and the benefits of using development sites and urban spaces to increase interaction and aspiration in the visual arts for local communities. The talk culminated in an overview of the playable city conference and a discussion about the potential of interactive public arts and possibilities for Luton to become a playable city in the future.


talk: a field guide to working with artists on regeneration projects

Part how-to guide, part interrogation of the role of artists in regeneration projects, this performative paper by Corinne Furness set out to not only reflect on practice as is but to imagine how it might be different in the future.


group of talks: cultural entitlement: the role of education in placemaking 


talk: placemaking and the smsc agenda

Emma-Rose Payne examined the role of cultural place-making as a priority for university outreach departments, working with secondary school-age students for the purpose of Widening Participation in education. 

talk: luton learning cultural education partnership

Emma Van Niewenburgh introduced the Luton Learning Cultural Education Partnership strategy and talked about the role of education and cultural entitlement in placemaking.


workshop: spaces and places between the disciplines: reflection in action

Maria Kukhareva invited practitioners and academics to take an introspective, reflective look at how boundaries, rules, identities and belongings affect their own sense of place and identity; the challenges, the impact and the creative power of the discomfort, which can leader to greater outputs.


Keynote: Keynote: Professor Alexis Weedon, head of the Research Institute for Media, Art and Rerformance, University of Bedfordshire


performance: solo for two

Jean Abreu (choreographer), Michele Panegrossi (creative technologist) and Leon Watts (humanrobot interaction scientist) are collaborating on an interdisciplinary project, developing the functions and role of a prototype performance robot to explore issues around social robots and the new dimension they add to placeness.

group of talks: placemaking through participatory practice


case study: eastern angles

Eastern Angles has been producing theatre with a sense of place for over 35 years. Just like the National companies of Wales and Scotland, they have focused on producing theatre with a flavour of the area they serve: East Anglia.


case study: departure lounge

Matthew Shaul, Founding Director of Departure Lounge, discussed some of the often faltering steps that were taken in the process of setting up Departure Lounge in Luton in 2010, and how to go about setting up a new cultural business where (as was the case in 2010) there was little or no visual art provision or expectation of any. With boundless enthusiasm but no start up capital, Departure Lounge has had a peripatetic existence in Luton. The Storefront opposite the Hat Factory where it is currently located is its fourth incarnation.


paper: a sense of play: creating social and communal movement in artistic running explorations

Recreational Running, a mass participatory, mobile and rewarding exercise has become an increasingly popular, cultural and international phenomenon since the late 1980s. This paper, presented by Kieran Holland, investigated how artistic explorations of running can help to develop social and cultural cohesion within place through a sense of play.


group of talks: placemaking, home and identity


paper: home

In this paper Caroline Molloy explored the concept of ‘home’. Home, house, migration and belonging can be seen as interconnected. In a complex world where boundaries of homeland and belonging are increasingly blurred, it cannot be assumed that practices of home/home making, coincide with the country of birth. 'Home' as a construction of domestic space where meaning is made, can be expressed through a variety of social customs.


talk: around here: photographing the local

Emma Lambert explored, through practice-based photographic research, the concepts of 'the local' from the perspective of a village in the southwest of England. By exploring a sense of place through the physical curation and cultivation of site, the work examines the enduring correlation between where we are a ‘local’ and what we call ‘home’.

paper: haiti

This paper, presented by Adrian Leibowitz, explored the theme of Haiti in the arts. For a short period Haiti's revolutionary history and enduring African culture made it a symbol of resistance, renewal and independence in the Americas, playing a vital role in the claim of equal citizenship by politically conscious African-Americans. Through this process Haiti became the centre of attention through myriad artistic expressions. The reason for all of this focus is partly explained by the nineteen year military occupation of Haiti (1915-1934) by the United States, which threw a spotlight on its Caribbean near neighbour.


presentation: quiet life

Tasos Giapoutzis presented Quiet Life, a documentary giving a glimpse of life in Kavala, which, as numerous other towns in Greece and across Europe, has severely been affected by multiple changes over the last decade. The presentation aimed to examine the ways in which Quiet Life, as cinematic piece, explores the themes of togetherness, symbiosis and loneliness in relation to the issues of home and identity, investigating simultaneously the impact of its creative process on the local community as well as on its author.


group of talks: creative entrepreneurship and a sense of place

talk: clearhead media

Clearhead founding partner Gavin O'Brien celebrated Clearhead's 10-year anniversary and explored how being born and based in Luton has made an impact on the company.

case study: beam

Beam is a creative organization based in Wakefield, which works across the Yorkshire region and beyond to enhance places through the development of bespoke arts projects. Beam has been working with independent curator Kerry Harker to revisit the organisation's substantial archive, which illuminates wider histories of art in the public realm, the changing discourses surrounding it, and the evolving roles of major stakeholders. Beam opened up their archive in this talk with an aim to enable a rethinking of the histories and current positioning of this area of practice, in order to contribute to a collective debate on future possibilities.

talk: doing things differently: a mythology of manchester otherness supporting creative enterprise, but also capital investment

Dr Pete Atkinson highlighted the aspects of a cumulative mythology of Manchester difference, developed over a long period and how this provides a ‘place story’, the characteristics of which inform perceptions of the city. Manchester is still doing things differently, but its otherness is being commodified and, as Atkinson argues, threatened.


paper: The impact of location for freelance dancers

Presented by Rachel Farrer, Dr Imogen Aujla and Tori Drew, this paper drew together the findings of a research project examining the work of freelance dancers, with the experience of one case study community dance practitioner. The aim of this research project was to gather the narrative accounts of dance artists working in the freelance sector, and this paper focused specifically on their experiences of place, networks, community and belonging.



performance: the dance we made

Over lunchtimes and tea breaks, Tim Casson invited conference participants to share their experience of A Sense of Place to create a unique dance performance. Working with dance students from University of Bedfordshire, Tim presented a special version of The Dance WE Made at A Sense of Place.


group of talks: community regeneration and celebration


talk: revoluton arts

Coming at a point where the programme had been running through its first phase, Revoluton Arts reflected upon their learning to date, exploring their methodology and sharing the narrative of Luton’s CPP. The presentation opened up around some of the thinking behind their work to date, including redefining the notion of ‘artist’ in Luton, specificity and Universality, and the introduction of their local CPP interpretation of Luton’s diversity as grounded in the diversity of story and authentic voice. 


case study: e17 art trail

This year 7000 people created artwork for the E17 Art Trail, an 18 day biennial festival celebrating talent in Walthamstow. The E17 Art Trail inspires collaborations among neighbours to create art for the places where we live, play and work. Artists enjoy the freedom to make work beyond the client’s brief. Residents become creative activists. Artillery shared their approaches inviting people to participate and evidenced the ownership expressed locally for this non-selective grassroots arts festival.


performance: forest bathing

Performance from 'The Designs of Trees' project, presented by the Strange Names Collective, which explored our relation to trees and wooded landscapes, and their relation to us - covering themes of memory, ecology, nature andcivilisation.


walking event: walking with chairs

A performance event from Ienke Kastelein - a group of people went for a walk in silence, carrying one white plastic patio chair. Before leaving they briefly introduced themselves. They took one camera, and took turns carrying the chair and taking pictures of each other sitting on the chair. 


guided walk to the cultural quarter with a digital public art experience

Twenty participants met and discussed public realm artwork, actively engaging in developing artwork and considering placemaking and what local spaces mean to them. This involved seeing developing public artwork that Luton artist Sophie Gresswell is creating as part of her visual arts program for Luton as part of testbeds.


performance: gods and mortal

Kadam presented Katie Ryan of The Odissi Ensemble in two solo pieces that showcased the grace and the power of this classical South Asian dance style. An artist born and raised in Bedfordshire, where she also trained in odissi, Katie is living proof of the positive features of today’s multicultural Britain.


performance: human wall

By realizing the sensitivity of borders between people, dancer Sung-Im Her looked to share an exploration of our vision of global citizenship. There is a desire for this research to contribute a healthy, constructive, and progressive vision on the subject of global citizenship, A sense of place where we are living now.