Common Ground: Rewilding the GardenCommon Ground - Rewilding the Garden is a new report from Creative Lives (formerly Voluntary Arts) based on an ambitious programme of work investigating how creative activity is supported in areas of socio-economic deprivation across the UK and Republic of Ireland. The report (download or view below) shows this activity to be thriving in many areas that are regularly overlooked by the cultural sector, but this grassroots activity is in need of significant support and recognition.

A programme of 'Open Conversations' undertaken from 2017-19 revealed a huge amount of existing creative activity in almost every part of the UK and Ireland. This activity is often unfunded, amateur, everyday creativity rather than professional arts but it is no less valuable. Our 'Open Conversations' model is based on long-form, exploratory, conversations that take place where people meet to practice their creativity.

We set out to talk to people who are successfully organising any kind of creative cultural activity in communities where there is little public investment in the local cultural infrastructure. We wanted to celebrate some of the amazing local cultural activity that is often under-appreciated, unrecognised or under-valued. We visited places where official surveys suggest there is nothing going on but there is actually a rich grassroots culture - where local people are achieving amazing things with the help of volunteers, donated materials and resources.

Our aim was to surface and celebrate the full extent of voluntary and amateur creative activity within different communities of place and interest, which predominantly exists without the support of public funds. Ultimately, we wanted to explore whether the shared undertaking of creative activity has a part to play in contributing to the reconciliation of divisions within communities.

The resulting research report: Common Ground – Rewilding the Garden: Reconnecting with overlooked, self-cultivating culture in our communities identifies three overarching benefits that arise from taking part in creative cultural activity: 

  • social connectedness and community identity 
  • fun and enjoyment - “My time” 
  • positive impacts on participants’ health and wellbeing 

Pippa Coutts, Policy and Development Manager, Carnegie UK Trust echoes the report findings: “one of the key benefits of participating in community arts work is this sense of social connectivity”

It also categorised three requisites for local creative cultural activity:

  • space
  • creative citizens
  • recognition 

David Bryan CBE, Chair of Creative Lives  reflects on the report saying: “we need these spaces for people to breathe, explore, tell their stories and have validation”.

Watch a panel discussion hosted by the journalist Geeta Pendse and including some of the authors of 'Common Ground - Rewilding the Garden' to learn more about report and what it tells us about the challenges of class diversity in the arts.

The report concludes with a Common Ground Pact, which asks local and national arts and cultural policy makers and influencers to make three simple pledges:

  • To open up more public spaces for creative cultural activity
  • To to build strong connections and relationships to support participation in creative cultural activity
  • To demonstrate how taking part in creative cultural activity improves social connectedness  

Following this report launch, Creative Lives will be promoting these findings and encouraging organisations to sign up to the three pledges.

Download the full report here [PDF, 6MB] or view below.