An great meeting yesterday with fellow creatives Ivan and Georgia Mack yesterday to talk about possible gift economy projects over a fantastic lunch at The Treehouse Cafe in Bradford ( where all food is locally sourced, organic and home-made – a great place to support)

We talked around the possibilities for various projects including Freeshops, skills exchanges and gift circles. From the oustet we agreed that we dont want is to do an online project which may replicate exisiting exchange projects such as Craigslist and Freeconomy and suck up all our time in administering. We want to do a real world project, local to Bradford which involves real time conversations and physical presence, and building of community. We talked about creative exchanges as a starting point, perhaps among people we know within Bradford’s arts community and potential diffculties of getting people to commit their time and come to events. Georgia suggested linking in to existing networks and communities and perhaps a flexible approach that wasn’t tied to a particular space or venue. We came to the conclusion that we just need to try out some stuff and see how it works without being too precious about it. Part of the experience is seeing what comes up, learning on the way: R and D as Ivan put it.

We talked a bit about gift circles which I had come across via Mark Boyle’s book ‘The Moneyless Manifesto’. Gift circles are a really simple idea, involving meeting the needs of a group of people at any given time via gifts (of time or resources or skills). This article by Charles Eisenstein explains it really well…

The beauty is the simplicity of the idea and they can happen anywhere and with any group of people, and also and there isn’t the adminstrative burden of creating and maintaining a structure. We got excited about the possibilities of using this model in a variety of contexts and environments (art and non art) began to identify some upcoming events/projects in Bradford that we could link into. More soon.


… continued from last post:

A week in reciprocity, part two:

7. Vantage Art Prize (..continued).. There was a huge breadth of work, including live art, sculpture, painting, video, print and photography, shown on three floors of an unused office building. My personal highlight was ‘What is Left? () a participatory photography project being made by Leeds based performance artist Ellie Harrison, Manchester-based artist Roshana Rubin Mayhew and 50 members of the public. Working with individuals, community groups and bereavement charities, Ellie and Roshana are generating 50 portraits, corresponding texts and audio recordings exploring experiences of grief and mourning. Some of these portraits with audio were shown as part of Vantage. This project is part of a wider work called The Grief Series, a sequence of seven projects by Ellie using a seven stage Grief Model from popular psychology as a starting point. ( ) I experienced one piece (Ellie’s own) and found the audio of her talking about her mother hugely affecting. I found the work generous in its honesty and very cathartic to experience as it has moved me on in my own process of mourning.

8. Ongoing reading of Charles Eisenstein’s ‘Sacred Economics: Money, Gift and Society in the Age of Transition’ (read it here online for free ). I found out about this book via Alinah Azedeh’s excellent a-n blog ‘Burning The Books’ and I’m so glad, as it has made me think, learn and re-asses my relationship to and knowledge of money. It’s been mind-altering. Here’s a quote from Chapter 14 ‘Relearning Gift Culture’

“To fully receive is to willingly put yourself in a position of obligation, either to the giver or to society at large. Gratitude and obligation go hand in hand, they are two sides of the same coin. Obligation is obligation to do what? It is to give without ‘compensation’. Gratitude is what? It is the desire to give, again without compensation, borne of the realisation of having received. In the age of the separate self, we have split the two, but originally they are one: obligation is a desire that comes from within and is only secondarily enforced from without. Clearly then, reluctance to receive is actually reluctance to give. We think that we are being noble, self-sacrificing, or unselfish if we prefer to give rather than to receive. We are being nothing of the sort. The generous person gives and receives with an equally open hand”

9. Progress on the multi-author blog on generosity/reciprocity is going well. The majority of people I have asked to contribute have said yes, either to being a regular author, or to guest posting. People have been really positive about the idea, which has been so encouraging, in particular fellow a-n blogger Kate Murdoch ( who has been really generous from the outset with her time and support of all my reciprocity doings. I feel very fortunate to have made such good connections on a-n with artists such as Kate whose work I greatly respect and which feeds my own. The plan is to launch the blog on Friday 1st March.. more to follow!

10. A stunning A1 edition, sent to me from artist Alex Hetherington from ‘Modern Edinburgh Film School’, a research and production project which includes curated screenings, film essays, a group show and participatory forms, a published zine Edinburgh Homosexual, texts and editions: A Party for Young Artists. I am a great fan of Alex’s work () and I have had the pleasure of showing his work at a number of projects/exhibitions I have curated over the past 6 years or so. Although we have only met once briefly in real life in all my communications with him I have found him to be one of the most reciprocal and generous artists I have encountered. And his work is stunning. Lucky, lucky, lucky me.

‘Modern Edinburgh Film School Wallpaper’ prints are available from:


A week in reciprocity, part one:

1. “Slavery never ended in the nineteenth century, it was merely re-branded and marketed to us in a different packet. The monetary economy doesn’t serve us, we serve it” Mark Boyle, The Moneyless Manifesto”.I got this book from the library and read it this week. It details the author’s decision to live without money, the philosophy he developed on the way and how he went about it. It is a thought-provoking, eye opening look at living without (or being less dependent on) money which is totally non-pious and also pretty entertaining. It’s making me think a lot and given me ideas for possible projects. You can read the book for free here.

2. Our friend, public artist Martin Heron ( came to stay last weekend. Martin lives in France but works in the UK, currently on a collaborative public project with a residential community in Hull. We had a very interesting chat about the politics of participation, touching on ideas of permission, authority, and hierarchy. It’s given me much to think about.

3. I did a daily mini zine exchange project with my nephew Oisin, age 10, when he visited us for a few days over half term with his dad and sister. We each made four zines. We agreed that we wanted to continue the project so we are going to make a zine each week and send it to each other for the next 5 weeks. Fun.

4. A letter arrived from Cruse Bereavement Care, thanking me for my donation of £75 and asking me to fill in an evaluation form for the one to one sessions counselling sessions I had recently with them. (This is a free service, provided by a trained voluntary counsellor ) These sessions were invaluable to me at a time when I was feeling overwhelmed by the losses of my grandmother and a close friend who both died last summer. I am so grateful to Cruse for their support

5. An email from fellow a-n blogger Stuart Mayes ( Stuart emailed me directly to answer a question I had asked him via the comments section of his blog about the ‘Art and Social Context course’ he did at Dartington College of Arts. In his email Stuart explained the ethos and philosophy of the course. Since I started blogging on a-n last year, Stuart has shown me a lot of generosity, taking the time to encourage and support my work and my blogs. I really appreciate this.

6. Studio day, working with some photographs from my Nana’s archive. I am just about to start the process of scanning and sharing the archive with my extended family who are scattered across Scotland, England and Australia. Hopefully this will also involve sharing stories and memories and making a booklet to distribute among all the family. I’ve also applied for a photographic residency in Glasgow to collaborate with family there in response to the archive. Fingers crossed. This week I emailed a couple of my cousins in Australia and one in Manchester about sharing the archive. I haven’t been in touch with them for a while but all were really positive. I’m excited about what this project might bring us all.

7. Vantage art Prize, Thursday 21st February: a new cross arts prize, by and for Leeds artists, curated by live artist Adam Young for Departure Arts Foundation () 45 artists living and/or working in Leeds were shorlisted, including me, for my text work ‘Recipe For Reciprocity’ which I showed as two A1 posters. The vibe of the night was very supportive and celebratory. – a great sense of excitement and goodwill abounded. Adam is just great – very proactive in artist-led activity in Leeds and full of energy and good humour. I chatted with artist and a-n blogger Alice Bradshaw about value and money ( who told me about a book on the gift economy she had been reading and thought I might be interested in – she tweeted me the link next day: ‘The Social Life of Things’ ed. Arjun Appaduri ( ) Thanks Alice!

Continued next post..


Inaugural ‘Art Coven’ meet up last week in Leeds with artist Louise Atkinson ( Debi Holbrook ( Helen Harrop ( and Emma Bolland ( -getting together to talk loosely about ideas of gift/exchange/value/reciprocity

Three happy and lively hours spent talking, listening, laughing.

Here’s is a very partial snapshot of stuff we talked about. There were so many ideas and conversations flying it was impossible to keep track of everything (so apologies to the others for stuff I’ve missed out) but here are some of the things that have stuck in my mind:

Value and worth of artworks (Helen) Pricing work. Ambivalence for some of us around the market: comfort/discomfort with naming a price for an artwork. Is it easier to put a price on your time as an artist than a piece of work ?(depends who is paying) Attachment to artworks we make- not wanting to let them go (Lou)

Grizedale Arts Honesty Shop Selling locally produced produce, crafts and baking… Pay what you want. The shop contains artworks and other donated items objects become re-contextualised/aestheticised as a consequence of the nature of the space. The local community are involved and support it. (Emma)

Debi: exchange/ gift economy going on informally in her neighbourhood in Leeds.. thinking documenting this via blog..

Thinking about the possibility of running a temporary popup free shop in one of Fabric Bradford`’s temporary shops… (Jean) discussion about how this would work.. How would people use/engage with it? do you impose rules on how much stuff you can take? Can people donate? How clear should this be made? Like the idea of no rules.. an experiment.. but giving stuff away is difficult.

Everyone is an artist.??? professional vs amateur..

Giving attention: (Simone Weil: “Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity,”)

Idea of project offering attention. (eg offering to meet for coffee) What, if any limits do you put on this? Is putting any kind of limit ungenerous? Discussion about sharing/oversharing –… (link via Lou)

Talking about the framing and documenting of relational/participatory art projects. The artists documents, controls, frames the experience? Then owns the experience and calls it art? Power, hierarchies. Is it art or isn’t it? Keep it ephemeral?Our experiences are always filtered through our own perceptions (Helen) each person will have a a completely different experience of an encounter – so documenting is problematic.

‘The relationship economist ‘ applying economic principles to love… (link via Lou)

Alain Badiou’s ‘In Praise of Love’ ( Emma) about the commodification of love

Finishing with a quote from a David Whyte poem Helen tweeted me after the meeting

“Innocence is what we allow/ to be gifted back to us/ once we’ve given ourselves away.”

A great, thought provoking, social meeting – we all clicked – looking forward to the next gathering.


A couple of discoveries today:

“Ways of Knowing” an experimental year long project “exploring the different registers, values and subjectivities of collaborative research”

I found out about the project because I follow one of the participants, Sheffield University academic Kate Pahl on twitter. ( I came across Kate’s work via enthnographer Irna Qureshi who works with Kate. I’m extremely interested in collaborative research practices so discovering this project at this stage when it is just beginning is great timing for me.

Secondly a pretty fine blog article on participatory art, “Beuys’ Concept of Social Sculpture and Relational Art Practices Today”, discussing the work of Joseph Beuys, Jeremey Deller and Thomas Hirschhorn…

I’m also thinking about a possible popup project for one of Fabric ( empty shop spaces in Bradford. Fabric have recently aquired seven new spaces in the city centre and are offering people the opportunity to run events/popup projects in them. An exchange project? A free shop? Reading Eisenstein discussing historical examples of alternative currencies such as the Worgl experiment in Austria… and the WIR in Switzerland is getting my brain whirring.