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#7760

Anonymous

http://welfare-state.org/pages/aboutwsi.htm
The link above is to the work of Welfare State International (WSI), based in the North of England, UK. it was founded in 1968 by John Fox and Sue Gill, Roger Coleman etc., as a loose association of freelance artists bought together by shared values and philosophy- their work was often political and often worked in collaboration with host communities/sites.
WSI became well known for large-scale outdoor spectacular events in the UK during the 1970-1980’s. when they began, taking art out of theatres and galleries into the street and public spaces it was considered revolutionary at the time and was also parallel and complimenting a community arts movement across the UK. The company’s name originally ‘The Welfare State’ alludes to a philosophy of ” art for all” on the same basis as education and health services- which are government funded as founded by the UK as a Welfare state after the second world war.

Under the Welfare State umbrella talented artists, engineers, musicians, sculptors, performers, poets and pyrotechnicians invented and developed site-specific theatre in landscape, lantern processions, spectacular fire shows, community carnivals and participatory festivals all over the UK and in later years also internationally. Many of the original artists went on to establish their own companies who are now the backbone of UK outdoor arts: Walk the Plank, Emergency Exit Arts, Wildwork’s etc. Communities where often intrinsic in collaborating with the creatives and often the lines became blurred and many participants became artists as a result of taking part or observing the work of WSI. Indeed as a young girl I experienced WSI work and was greatly moved by the piece its response to locality and emersion- the opportunity to see ordinary people perform also with artists and say something about their lives, animate their spaces- As a student I followed their work and their book_ “Engineers of the Imagination” was a bible for any community artist or artist wishing to work in outdoor arts at that time- 1980’s. Indeed their work was the reason I was inspired into working in the sector and after I attended one of their summer school in 1988 I did go on to start a freelance career in the sector- it was the only relevant training or opportunity to learn and co-create outdoors at that time and preceded any degree courses specialising in that at the time.