Fire starters - the rise of a community wellbeing movement: four decades of participatory arts, co-creation and embedded engagement in the archive of Welfare State International


  • University of Bristol, United Kingdom

Project summary

The Welfare State International archive spans five decades and provides an unparalleled record of pioneering participatory arts practice for health and wellbeing a generation ahead of its time.  This project will make available this uniquely detailed history of the evolution of community arts for wellbeing, and provide evidence and inspiration for future research and practice. 

We are responding to demand from a broad spectrum of social science, health and arts researchers, and practitioners, to enable exploration of WSI's innovative methodologies.  Through community engagement and co-creation, WSI gave the marginalised a voice  and empowered communities. They evolved from radical travelling performers, by way of intensely researched place-based and co-produced performances, to become embedded community practitioners and celebrants. Their internationally acclaimed work shifted the parameters of arts practice and policy in the UK and beyond, kindling the arts for wellbeing movement and emerging practices in social prescribing.  

A comprehensive archive catalogue will be produced and published online, alongside selected, co-curated  digitised material responding to key research themes, increasing the resource’s usability in uncertain times. Repackaging will ensure long-term survival alongside remedial conservation for stabilisation where necessary.  Audiovisual items will be preserved and digitised for access. Dissemination activities will create additional research impact.