what do we mean by rewild the arts?

what's re-wilding?

National arts portfolio development is a lot like gardening: make a plan, take care of plants / arts organisations that feature in the plan and weed out competitors when they threaten to grow and flower without permission.

Weeding thwarts potential. Growth that could have happened no longer does. Seeds whose moment might have come in a future season never get that far. It’s wrong to let past planning decisions define the whole of the future if those decisions were bad or unimaginative in the first place.

Rewild the arts wants to open debate about thwarted potential and about new, fairer and more sustainable approaches to portfolio and audience development as art-worlds re=awaken after Covid-19.


Andrew Pinnock 2020

In the 1970s there was a move to increase the size and number of trout in the English chalk-streams. The weeds were cleared away and riverbanks mown. Non-trout species were removed, all in an attempt to help keep the trout alive. The health of the river was defined by how many large trout could be caught. Trout numbers declined and the fish got no bigger.


Today environmentalists understand the significance of the whole chalk-stream ecology. The weeds and riverbank plants provide home for small nymphs and grubs. These feed the other smaller fish that in turn feed the growing carnivorous trout.

To assess the health of a chalk stream environmentalists no longer look to count the number of big fish but instead who many small insects, crustaceans, molluscs, worms and nymphs can be found in a small area of the river. Larger numbers reflect a river able to sustain life. A healthy river sustains many small creatures that in turn make up a healthy ecology that in turn leads to healthy and bigger trout.

Re-wilding for me is to reconsider the approach to how we view and sustain a healthy cultural ecology. To not look at just the big ticket well known Trout, but to ensure that it’s existence is a the byproduct of a healthy and sustaining ecology from the bottom up. 


James Gough 2020

The nation and many Western countries have successfully suppressed, oppressed and controlled our arts and our cultures: narrowly defining and policing terms and practices, building brick and glass citadels for a wealthy minority and a false vision of economic growth, and creating a hierarchy which places artists as servants and denigrates many working-class communities as “hard to reach” and uncultured.
The privileged few have grown arts and culture as pretty, inoffensive cultivars, kept safe behind their walled gardens and pseudo-Victorian values. Artists are, if lucky, considered as gardeners, cultural managers as gamekeepers. This system is one of enclosure and subjugation. It is unnatural. It is (at least in the sense in which its is our cultures that make us human) inhuman.
Re-wilding our arts practices and our cultural lives means, for me at least, “uncultivating” our communities and our minds, freeing ourselves from the shackles of institutionalism and the enclosures thrown up by a colonising art world to be truly human and more at one with nature.
We are weeds and, whilst we can thrive anywhere, we are happiest outside their nurseries, orangeries, and walled “paradises”. Let us seed art and cultures everywhere so we can all grow and share our creativity and humanity freely, together.
So, let’s start re-wilding the arts.
And let’s start NOW!


Stephen Pritchard 2020