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


sunday 5th

keynote: marie kirbyshaw on sustainable creative placemaking

Chief Executive of Luton Culture Marie Kirbyshaw presented on the regeneration of the cultural quarter and the organisations plans for the expansion of the Hat Buildings.


walking event: qalam

Qalam Creative Writing collective led a mini walk of central Luton, walking and stopping at several different locations to explore the stories and psycho-geography of the area through investigation, inquiry and creative writing exercises in an ‘embodied way’.


group of talks: placemaking through participatory practice


case study: here comes everybody

Nela Milic discussed finding herself alongside other Hackney residents moved out to South London, as part of an artist residency. “We, dispersed found each other. So, I am to draw the line between the past and the present in my artwork whose form I am yet to find. I look at the traces the previous artists left in the space and I decide to open the window and let the community decide what to do there.”


talk: let our feet become ears

Ienke Kastelein introduced three ongoing projects, and presented on Saturday's performance of 'Walking with Chairs' ahead of the repeat performance in the afternoon.


talk: photography, ethics and space: an artistic approach to placemaking

This talk took an artistic approach to addressing some of the complexities of place making, from the perspective of those most affected. By focusing on photography, this proposal reflected on how some artists have used the still image as a means of communicating their lived experience of a 'sense of place' to others. Rachel Cherry focused on how photography has enabled the subject and/or community to engage a wider network of people from their perspective.


talk: changing the picture: a photographic project working with people with experience of homelessness

This presentation was an account of two successive projects undertaken in 2015-17, facilitated by photographer Jon Legge. The purpose of the projects was to work with small groups of disadvantaged and vulnerable people with recent experience of homelessness, and also to produce a high quality touring exhibition to disseminate personal experiences of homelessness to a wider audience.


group of talks: urban gentrification and arts practice


talk: where there's smoke

Luton-based artist Stephen Whiting led a partially metaphorical tour of whimsy through issues of gentrification, focusing on particular aspects of Luton, both now and through history.


talk: re:connections

Re:connections is a creative place-making project exploring residents emotional responses to where they live through sensory arts practice. Jenny Peevers devised and produced the project, and involved artists who engaged residents through conversations prompted by their practice. The arts practice is dialogical as it is a way of facilitating conversations which encourages people to articulate in a sensitive way.


case study: maginhawa

In this paper, Giselle Garcia argued that the regenerative role of food in urban gentrification, as in the case of Maginhawa in UP Village, is akin to theatrical regeneration. Does theatrical nourishment then supply the energy necessary to rehabilitate an exhausted urban ecology, providing the ginhawa (noun form of maginhawa) needed to satisfy the hungry?


group of talks: transdisciplinary placemaking


paper: placemaking and the transitional space

In this presentation Beverley Bothwell and Garry Layden examined whether the Transitional Place, together with discipline-less collaboration rooted in the human body, can transcend even urban design and “…respond to the vastness of globalisation and its tendency to effect a loss of proportion and proximity for human contact and encounter.” (Attiwill, 2010). As the Transitional Place liberates - temporarily - form from function, freeing the designers’ imagination, a number of design directions have included spatial and fashion responses, product design, jewellery, furniture, games and narrative illustrations.


talk: augmented interiors

The augmented age is posing challenges to the future of the interior design discipline. Korina Zaromytidou asks: Which is the skill-set required to secure interior designers against technological unemployment and how should academic curriculums be revised to prepare students for the future? Are the new augmented/digital spaces creating a new reality that is changing the way we interact challenging the boundaries between public and private spaces? Will the design of 'physical' space become the 'new' hand-made?


talk: a sense of place, theatricality and archive as found footage in repented

Central to the de-colonial project is the question of finding a voice, understood as both a matter of language and identity. In this paper Agnieszka Piotrowska discussed her film adaptation of a new play by the Zimbabwean playwright Stanley Makuwe, in which a sense of place is combined with a profound sense of historical legacy which impacts the most intimate sphere of life.

group of talks: group of talks: creative spaces: arts, health and wellbeing

case study: open arts

The case study presented a model of good community art practice, of the Open Arts High Town based art collective that is rooted deeply with the urban ecology of High Town and Luton. Discussion was encouraged around how the trained occupational therapists, teachers, community arts officer and artists use this locally based knowledge and assets to develop a wide ranging socially engaged art practice that is accessible at all skill levels. 


paper: first, second and third: exploring soja's thirdspace theory in relation to everyday arts and culture for young people

Taking its core influence from Edward Soja's (1996) research on Third Space, Steph Meskell-Brocken conceptualised the significance of space for young people's arts activity. In this paper Meskell-Brocken argued that a conceptualisation of space is vital to understanding these activities, whether those spaces are formal or, in many cases, informal, it is the way in which First and Second space interact to create Third Space which helps to create the conditions needed for creativity to take place in everyday life.


workshop: the impact matrix for public arts

Whereas public art may play a pivotal role for social cohesion, urban boosterism and city marketing, these benefits are hard to measure. Cecilie Sachs Olsen and Sigrid Merx asked: how can we facilitate a creative, innovative and yet reliable framework that can be the basis of all good public art evaluation? And what are some simple, yet effective, evaluation methods that most organizations can implement?


sunday plenary and afternoon tea

Led by Head of the University of Bedfordshire's Research Institute for Media, Arts and Performance Alexis Weedon, there was coffee, cake, and discussion to wrap up the conference.