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WMPAF Arts Outside

What is WMPAF?

On Wednesday I attended ‘Arts Outside’, the second major event for the West Midlands Participatory Arts Forum.  Since ‘Direction of Travel’ over two years ago I have attended as many WMPAF meetings as I have been able to and thought it might be helpful to share my thoughts on what it means to me and what it can offer other artists working in the public realm as there still seems to be some confusion.

I think it might be simplest to begin by saying what WMPAF is not:-

·         It does not currently receive any funding.  (Events and meetings have relied on small one off grants, pulling favours and good will).

·         There is no hierarchy.  Unlike other forums, council initiatives or Arts Council funded organizations, no one is in charge.  Anyone who is interested is welcome to attend meetings and decisions tend to be made by whoever was there on the day.

·         An informal ‘committee’ of core members has evolved as regular faces have chosen to attend meetings; this is by no means an exclusive group.

·         It does not expect anything of its members; no one is expected to volunteer their time unless they want to.

So what is WMPAF?

·         WMPAF is a collective of artists, arts workers and other professionals who share a common interest in creativity which involves a participatory element.

·         Its purpose is to provide networking opportunities, putting people in touch with one another in order to share ideas, knowledge and experience.  Safety in numbers.

·         Membership is open to all and does not involve any fees or official paperwork.  Just turn up, join the mailing list and get involved!


I have personally found WMPAF to be extremely useful.  I understand that it is fairly unique in that it is supported by both Staffordshire County Council Arts Development and Staffordshire University Creative Communities Unit, not because they are contractually obliged to to fulfil some kind or remit but because of key individuals and their genuine passion for participatory arts. 

As a freelancer in an increasingly tough field it is all too easy to feel isolated and disheartened.  An event like ‘Arts Outside’ is a breath of fresh air.  I am not alone; I am not wasting my time, I am part of a huge legacy and growing network of talented, intelligent, passionate and above all tenacious people.


So if you’re still not sure if WMPAF is for you, why not just come to the next meeting or event and find out?  Chances are you won’t regret it!

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