Public Goods

a survey of the common wealth

Public Goods is our new five year programme of projects focused on making and sharing tangible representations of the intangible things we feel are most precious about the places and communities we belong to, such as stories, skills, games, songs, techniques, memories, local lore and experiential knowledge of local environment and ecology.

What is most precious about the places and communities in which we live, work and play?

How can we begin to communicate the value of the intangible goods and assets that define our attachment to people, places and things?

Britain is entering what promises to be the most radical transformation of our public services and social infrastructure since the establishment of the welfare state in 1945. As many of the more recognisable tangible assets (libraries, forests, public art and culture venues, arts activities) are run down, sold off or cut back, Public Goods aims to re-invigorate our appreciation of the immense ‘common wealth’ that persists in everyday life across the diversity of cultures in our society. It is a critical moment of artistic opportunity to investigate the resillience, adaptability and future of local communities.

Over the next five years we plan to weave together self-initiated projects with collaborations, research partnerships, new commissions and residency opportunities to create and distribute new artworks made in collaboration with other artists, technologists, researchers and educators as well as local groups. Through the Public Goods Lab we’ll be building on our previous experience of developing innovative online and offline tools and techniques to help realise and share these artworks with the public, as well as developing education and outreach programmes that connect Public Goods with schoolchildren, teachers and young people. Our Creative Placement programme is also a key element : aiming to create opportunities in the creative industries for young people unlikely to otherwise gain employment.

Drawing inspiration from Mass Observation and Daniel Defoe’s A Tour Through the Whole Island of Great Britain, Public Goods will consist of discrete projects, or ‘surveys’ that focus on a particular place or theme. We will work in collaboration with local people, groups and organisations as well as with other creative practitioners to investigate the intangible goods that people value in their own environments and communities, and what they wish to transmit to their fellow human beings both in the present and the future.

Public Goods is an ambitious programme which will re-value those things that are often over-looked or considered to be “of small beer” through artistic and creative engagement. To support it we plan to develop a model of social investment that acknowledges the public benefit it will generate and values the wider social impact artistic practice can have.