Who has the right to create? It’s not something you hear or read about often in the rights discussions that pervade society. Our equality legislation is a mechanism to deal with historical inequalities  and many strides have been taken in this area, including the arts but what about the right to create?  

I’ve had the pleasure of working with adults who need some assistance in this area, alongside Clare Lawson, Ngaire Jackson, Tonya McMullan, Hugh O'Donnell and Rohan Woodcock.

IN THE FRAME: Work by Kieran Bannon

IN THE FRAME: Work by Kieran Bannon

We have all been delighted with the range of talent and the interest in visual art that we found. Some adults came to us already with their own visual language, others were starting from scratch. We are no longer in weekly contact with the artists and I am disappointed with current provision for them to develop their artistic practice in a professional manner.

We looked around for models of best practice around the world.  Finding for instance KCAT Arts Centre in Kilkenny which has been running for 21 years and Thikwa Werkstatt  in Berlin and Project Onward in Chicago. All are all workable models of how to facilitate the right to create. 

Ngaire Jackson and myself have curated the ‘Right to Create’ exhibition in the PS2 project space to move that conversation forward. As artists, we have a natural ability to visualise what we mean by assisted studio space but many people did not understand what we were talking about when we sought support. Our original idea was to use the exhibition time to run an assisted studio along with a range of talks, discussions, and outreach. It is sad to think that current regulations prevent this from happening but the exhibition stage has been set and art must continue regardless.

Creativity waits for no one.

The exhibition includes work from three West Belfast artists, Christopher Simpson, Anna Cananvan and Kieran Bannon all of whom display a talent that, with some assistance, could flourish further. 

Current studio provision in the city is poor. There is a lobby for improvements but with no mention of assisted studio spaces. Is this another example of the most-able leaving out those for whom social disability is a daily lived experience?

The exhibition also shows the amazing work of artist Andrew Pike at KCAT Kilkenny who has been working on an animation called “Waiting for Bucket” where five famous Irish writers, AE Russell, Bernard Shaw, Brendan Behan, WB Yeats and Samuel Beckett with Gussy all have an encounter at a bus stop. This is excellent work produced after a life time of creating at KCAT.

We also chat with Riann Coulter, curator of the FE McWilliams Gallery Banbridge, and have Zoom discussions with some of the artists involved and live stream exhibition tours. If interested in learning more about Right to Create, please email our group. 

Pssquared project space itself has been a powerhouse of cultural activity emerging from the charity Paragon Studios and run voluntarily by Peter Mutchler. It boasts 11 artist's studios and a project space. It has suffered from various planning decisions within the city centre, moving its location four times in as many years (all buildings it moved from are still empty) yet despite this its arts bona fides are impeccable.

As chair of the organisation I must use the opportunity to say we are looking for more permanent premises to bring its unique cultural kudos to a permanent central city location — either as a cultural caretaker or perhaps an anchor tenant. I have been personally disappointed by the lack of support from Belfast City Council in particular for the organisation, despite being an important part of the arts ecology in the City and their strategy of supporting maker spaces.

Pssquared over the years has encouraged, hosted or instigated hundreds of opportunities for artists and cultural producers in the city. There are very few in Belfast in the high artistic standard category who have not instigated or participated something from the space. That includes Household, who are currently making great waves in Sailortown and Peas Park artists who have won awards and tried out new projects. We have experimented and ensured a contemporary cultural richness that many other cities are jealous of, yet we do that under constant threat.

One of its recent successes is being the Northern Ireland precipitant of the coveted  Freelands artists programme which is an initiative supporting creative and professional development for emerging artists based in Northern Ireland. This regional award has opened connections and opportunities for local artists in Scotland, Wales and England.

On another note Catalyst Arts would be hosting the Masters of Fine art show this month but the event has moved online. You can book a virtual tour, led by the artists with a trolley showing you around the exhibition live from the art college on 14,15 21 and 22 January. 


BBeyond  are celebrating 20 years of performance art with RAW a recorded action web exhibition  40 works from around the world starting 6pm 15 January on their Vimeo channel organised by Sandra Corrigan Breathnach. 

The Mac has brought out an interesting art from home pack downloadable here.

The RNLI also have some interesting art activity packs if your home schooling to download and it’s always good to know about water safety and, of course, the Out to Lunch festival continues with many free or ticketed events until 30 January.