In Place of War: international network of cultural spaces

The power of the arts to sustain communities and to affect political and social change is a key focus of In Place Of War, a project that has been researching art in sites of conflict for over ten years. The project has many partners creating, or trying to create, their own cultural spaces. This project will formalise a global network of cultural spaces in sites of conflict, war and upheaval and explore what role they play. Looking at both state run institutions, and community led spaces, we will explore the challenges associated with administration, funding, ideology, community engagement and state sponsorship.

The central question of the project will be ‘What is the role and advantage of cultural, in particular arts spaces in the contexts of conflict, deprivation and social disadvantage?’ In answering this question we will engage with the following themes and concerns related to the topic: 

  • the utility of spaces that exist beyond the reach of policy makers in zones without the benefit of administrative oversight and government endorsement
  • the power of networked spaces in comparison to those operating in isolation
  • the overlap of cultural spaces with ‘safe spaces’, and how a space that exist predominantly for the promotion of the arts, can also serve to fulfil other functions within a community

The spaces we already work with exist in very different places, have developed out of entirely different contexts, and are based on often very different theoretical premises. All, however, see the value in using a physical space as a gathering point for creative and social endeavour within a community. For our partners, a ‘cultural space’ is a physical location, often a building or community venue, that has as its primary purpose the promotion of arts activities, exhibitions and performances within local communities.

There will be four phases to this project. The first is to bring together a network of cultural spaces from sites of conflict, war and social upheaval. Our partners include:

  • AltCity, Lebanon (enterprise and community)
  • Tiuna El Fuerte, Venezuela (architecture and community ownership)
  • Corporación para la Comunicación Ciudad Comuna (community communications organisation and space)
  • Contact Theatre, UK (youth programmes and social outreach) – this institution will act as a UK base and point of reference for the network
  • Search for a Common Ground, DR Congo
  • Magamba, Zimbabwe
  • Fora Do Eixo, Brazil (cross-country networks, mobility)

The second phase will take place at these meetings and will draw upon the expertise of the network members. By gathering together and interviewing members, we will begin to build an archive of best practice. The third phase is to create a network of support. Having collected this data, and drawn tangibly upon the expertise of more established spaces, we will begin developing a support system for new and developing spaces. In the fourth and final phase, the network will facilitate a process of international exchange, allowing both creators and users of cultural spaces to see how other spaces work around the world. Meetings will take place in Lebanon, Brazil and Zimbabwe, hosted by the network partners.

Miss Ruth Daniel (Network Facilitator)
University of Manchester

Tiuna El Fuerte, Caracas, Venezuela – an alternative cultural park, working with 500 young people each week, images © JoannYSandovaLC.