Greetings from Glasgow!
It's becoming a bit of a tradition to send a newsletter on my birthday, having done the same to celebrate my 31st and 36th.
I'm writing to you on this 'special day' to tell you about a little project I'm working on called The Glasgow Effect. It's an experiment to see what happens if I refuse to travel away from my home city for the whole of 2016...
It certainly caused quite a stir when it began at the start of the year, because of the funding it received from Creative Scotland (see some of the choice press cuttings below). In case this all passed you by, check out the article in February's Art Monthly, which gives a nice summary of events.
For those following the story, I thought you'd appreciate a small update on what's been going on. As well as our discussion event at Glasgow's Glad Cafe, and my first experiments in presenting remotely to the Centre for Environmental Change & Human Resilience in Dundee and The Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh, the first two months have also seen extensive negotiations with the University where I am employed as a Lecturer, about how the £15,000 grant should be spent.
Having initially agreed to support this 'research project', the University has now finally requested that I take Special Leave (without pay) from 1 March - 31 December 2016 in order to complete it. The University has also stated that because "the stipulated focus of the research contained within the original project application has partially shifted to include a critique of the University and the way in which it operates", it will no longer publicly support the project. The University's name and logo has now been removed from where it appeared online. This will make for some interesting conversations about what can/cannot constitute 'academic research' when I return to teaching in 2017.
It does mean, however, that it is now down to me to decide what to do with the money. What a responsibility that is. Without being too prescriptive, I intend to spend it in a way that allows me to explore two of my ongoing interests: asceticism and philanthropy, and the relationship between the two.
Firstly, by continuing to live in the thrifty fashion to which myself and many other artists are accustomed (detailed in my talk for Artquest last year), I aim to use just half the money to live off. I hope to achieve this with the added challenge of not travelling in any vehicles (other than my bike) for the whole year (I am wearing a GPS tracking device which will send an SMS alert to Creative Scotland if I travel at more than 20mph, or go beyond the Greater Glasgow 'zone'). You'll have to wait until my Project Evaluation in 2017, to see how well I've succeeded in this task. This will be available through a Freedom of Information request to Creative Scotland or, if you're lucky, it might even be my next update on the Tumblr.
This should leave the other half of the money for me to invest in projects and campaigns which I care passionately about. I will be building on my training in campaigning for systemic change (detailed in my talk about the Radical Renewable Art + Activism Fund last year) to invest in things which offer long-term positive outcomes for the people of Glasgow and beyond. This will include some match-funding to create a Project Manager role to develop the Radical Renewable Art + Activism Fund project in the city, and other exciting things I'm starting to investigate.
Of course, the irony of all of this public attention is that: to do meaningful, successful 'community' work of any sort, you must put aside your ego and work in a collaborative, low-key way. For that reason, I will be keeping a low-profile while I get on with the work for the rest of the year. There will be occasional updates on any public activity on my Facebook page and perhaps another Newsletter further down the line.
In the meantime, I really hope to see you in person around town in 2016.
Very best wishes,