Six months of Culture Squad v2.0. What next and looking for allies

Earlier this year during the edgeryders retreat in Turkey, @alex_levene and I sat down and decided we are going to give the Culture Squad a fair chance: a year to build edge in community art and culture for social change. We do this while looking for a business model that combines network building with meaningful work, as I believe is the strongest lesson that edgeryders as a whole has to offer. Here’s the state of things six months in, as far as I can tell:

We started from the treaded path of culture making in urban spaces, and it opened new ways.

For one, motivated edgeryders members brought their own ideas and asked edgeryders to stand in as the implementing organisation: biggest case in question is that with @matteo_uguzzoni @GotheInstitutAthen @sebquack and others we are starting Trust in Play, an international community school of urban game designers!

Secondly, our track record of working in European Capitals of Culture continues in the background. A few weeks ago, @johncoate, Alex and I hosted a training in community building for Rijeka 2020 (Croatia) and hope to go back for more hands on work.

The latest is that in Timisoara (Romania), we are building a community platform servicing civically minded groups ahead of the city’s year of European Capital of Culture in 2021. Thanks to @Val.Muresan and others, we are moving from a consultancy model towards community partnerships, which means that we don’t work with the city directly, but with local active groups, and connect them to international counterparts. No more landing and take off after a project please. I like this because it’s in sync with the edgeryders direction: to help grow mutually beneficial local communities, with strong local leadership, who learn together and from each other, through a connective layer of technical infrastructure to share resources, knowledge, practices etc (like The Reef in Brussels; OpenVillage in Tunisia; and Blivande in Sweden).

What is in the making? RebelVillage and a research project where we look for collaborators

Ultimately, the Culture Squad is born out of our desire to break new ground in making culture from experiences of communal living and working, with impact. We don’t know yet how this would look like. For sure, it has to do with using our ability to generate deep insights from collective intelligence and online conversation. We know we want to see physical instantiations out of this - the results of interaction made into powerful showcases: residencies and local exchanges, festivals, exhibitions which reach new significance levels because of constantly adding and refining knowledge and aesthetics.

Our first test case for community co-created art is Rebel Village (concept phase) – a collaborative art camp where activists work with artists to create cultural responses to broken politics. It ties with the human rights advocacy work done by partners in Sicily, who with @natalia_skoczylas just submitted a proposal for Creative Europe. It ties with the Edgeryders upcoming PopRebel research on the populism and adds to it renewed social cohesion through community creations. From the feedback we are gathering as we share the concept around the network, it seems that the strongest points are its timeliness (unanimity on this!) and our proven ability to build communities, but we are lacking still a path to show high quality, meaningful cultural works (and artefacts), and claim to impact and fame (!).

Here’s where we need help and how others can get involved:

  1. Join in to explore how edgy activist and or intentional communities (political, climate change, technology, solar punk etc.) can create cultural productions, practices and aesthetics with societal impact. We’re already looking at a new, multi-annual in-depth research (Horizon 2020) and have identified a funding call. We can already start with a practical exploration or a workshop together, or maybe you are already working on something that fits? We’re game.
  2. Do you know of experienced cultural organisations or universities who are already studying innovation in artistic productions and societal impact? Drop a line below with advice :slight_smile:



Thanks for the update

There is more!

First of all, we’re also planning to recycle Myths and Rituals - Dimitar, with whom we’re already collaborating on his Summer School and probably organizing urban games in the following years, we will also try to see where we could use our concept for this project. Let me know if you want to see any of the project proposals - we have Rebel Village in two versions and a couple of other ideas already developed, available for anyone to have a look.

The call for a research project we’re thinking of is About Societal Challenges and Arts - a wonderful fit for our interests and work. Here you can read about it: Research and innovation

We’re already in discussion with IETM board - they started putting together a consortium, so we’d be joining it, which is ideal as it would allow us to work with established cultural institutions and universities, while carving out our own niche in the project, and possibly combining it with some of the events and formats we already wanted to test anyway. Not to mention bringing our shiny methodology to the table.
I would like to ask whether @Carlos_Costa would maybe be interested in having a look at this one with us? Your Useful Theater seems like a wonderful partner for this kind of investigation.

What else is rolling?

  • Blivande (Stockholm): an event space, coworking space and artist makerspace where the Edgeryders team has access for 6 days in 2019; thanks @hugi for being responsive on this!

  • The Place (Bedford) community theatre, aka Alex’s current workplace and family. This is something to look into, as Bedford is not just in the UK, but in a funding blind spot of London and other places. Anyhow, we think of this space in terms of our future work for Climate KIC - no stress related to EU funding (I assume) and friendly space that wants to try things we thought of proposing as part of the engagement process.

  • ATSA - @alex_levene is rolling that ball, any updates, and thoughts very welcome

  • The Swarm Dynamics (London, Sussex, Brighton, Brussels) led by David Holyoake; they are making art for climate change using technology and a strong push towards messaging for system change; this connection was made long ago by the lovely @kate_g, thanks! Good partner for RebelVillage or maybe KIC again?

  • Jubilee (Brussels) JUBILEE - About @jessevanwinden. Now, these guys are doing a wonderful, pretty local research and practice project called Caveat (, which “tries to find more sustainable, balanced ways of operating within the existing legal frameworks. And when the limits of the existing system are reached, it tries to come up with possible new narratives that open up space for reflection.” We had a few talks about it and I see great potential in exploring these questions together and taking them beyond Belgian context (obviously very interesting, but without answering questions about systemic challenges that go outside of the national realm, ideas stay limited). Anyway, this is something I’ve been discussing and slowly trying to build with Jesse. I also think this might sit nicely inside the H2020 research anyway?

  • Artburst (Berlin): collective of female curators and event organizers/producers, one of the board members (Maja Smoszna) is a friend of mine, we’re developing RebelVillage and other ideas together - as well as with Honi Ryan, independent artist living in Berlin and Sarah Wenzinger - theater professional and an ally, with whom we developed a good chunk of myths and rituals and worked a little bit on RebelVillage Palermo edition version together. Our main partners from Palermo was HRYO ( and Terradamare (, who work on the crossroads of physical heritage/culture/tourism and try to revive Palermo as a destination for tourists by promoting its less known spaces and stories and producing new cultural offer.

  • Artshare (Brussels): a partner of the Research Network, they have plenty of experience working on interdisciplinary art projects in the context of EU funding.

  • Other high potential collaborations: European Alternatives for their political/cultural manifestations, Wir Bauen Zukunft for their place-based hands on creating.


Very useful, thanks @noemi and @natalia_skoczylas.

Amen to that. AMEN TO THAT!

Hmm… no, bad match. Climate-KIC is EU-funded, and its mandate is limited to the EU. After March 2019, barring unexpected development, it will withdraw from the UK :frowning:

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bad news for Bedford - I kind of expected that, but also hoped this particular scheme would remain open. Well, Godspeed the UK

Thank you for the update!
I would love to read something more about the Myth and Rituals project proposals :slight_smile:

This is a very interesting topic and discussion:
for what I see that worked on the Research Network parabola (my perspective is iper simplified sorry!) but it seems that the key was to find a small thing that we are very good at deliver that fits in other consortium that are already in place. (@alberto @anique.yael am I missing the boat?).

So super fund oriented and in symbiotic relationship with bigger “mammals” (Symbiosis - Wikipedia).
This was a very successful strategy (of course infinite amount of work and love in between!) but maybe is the first step for Edgeryders that is relatively small and specific?
Maybe not, but I am so fascinated by metaphores!

If you have to see the next year with the same framework do you think that RebelVillage is the thing that other big consortium wants? Or is the community platform?

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Yep. We have SSNA. It turns out to be quite flexible and advanced. So, we propose it to everyone. With every project we win, we get better at doing SSNA, and so we stay ahead of the curve.

We are still pushing SSNA. We need to do one prototype RebelVillage before we can industrialize it!


@Matteo: I am with Alberto on this - I think the tested strategy of selling the SSNA is what we have the strongest in our favor. But we didnt try selling that. Or not systematically.

As we move forward in 2019, we need to get aligned on our goals, and agree on a sales strategy; we dont have one and with @alex_levene we have been talking a lot about the fact that we are currently approaching the Culture Squad quite differently: for me, it is to be a vehicle for team building, on one side, and generate paid work. I will not speak for him :slight_smile: The gist is we have yet to approach our work from a strategic point of view of growing ER work.
Our different approaches are not a problem if you want to explore, go slow, and have time.
But I am not sure we can be in that space for much longer, which is why I am ready to start with a strong research project borrowing from a successful strategy, to gain us some time while we still figure out i.e. where to prototype RebelVillage and other mission driven activities. What do you guys think?


I think we will all grow and benefit from the Culture Squad getting involved in a large project, with a structured delivery environment.

Thanks @noemi for the progress report. Sorry I haven’t been involved with the Culture Squad, but last 4 months have been filled with other commitments and projects. Please, get in touch with any help you need with European Capitals of Culture. As you know, I have worked with more than 20 of these. The most critical issue is to ensure than whatever is initiated by or associated with a particular ECoC is sustainable when the official organisation moves through (predictable) crises or no longer exists. It seems that you have taken this into account with projects in Reijka and Timisoara.
I’m interested in Rebel Village but am uncertain how I can help this. My feeling that this will work best if the project is ‘artist led’ rather than ‘politically led’ and where there is an entirely co-creative process between artists and communities, which is often very difficult to achieve in an artistic milieu. The best projects are often place-specific ( a city, neighbourhood, particular community).
Concerning cultural organisations that focus on innovative artistic production with society impact, have you looked carefully through recent projects and initiatives of the European Cultural Foundation? They might be interested in Rebel Village. One network that has experienced members doing such work is the IN SITU network
I am a Director of Archa Theatre in Prague that is currently working on a pilot project financed by the British Council to work in communities using Archa’s experience in developing productions on social issues with high levels of citizen engagement, one of the objectives being to explore populist behaviour. I can provide contacts if of interest.
I’m unable to take a lead in any of this, but am very happy to be involved where needed.


I’m interested in Rebel Village but am uncertain how I can help this. My feeling that this will work best if the project is ‘artist led’ rather than ‘politically led’ and where there is an entirely co-creative process between artists and communities, which is often very difficult to achieve in an artistic milieu. The best projects are often place-specific ( a city, neighbourhood, particular community).

Other than the need to co-creation, do you also think that this process is the selling point as we pitch the project to potential partners and funders?

Yes, I would appreciate that! Can you make the connection as early as possible in 2019? They seem like a really good fit! Just a quick ping to see if @MariaAlinaAsavei who’s working on Populism with us knows of Archa?

I havent looked into ECF more than their flagships i.e. Tandem… I believe the next step is, rather than eyeball one source of funding and spend our time writing, maybe to meet as many people as we can and pitch, and see where that takes us

Finally, we are not working with Timisoara 2021 official, but with a civic alliance (informal) made of initiatives and orgs in town with a leadership who wishes to build a community in order to fill in the gap that the official team can’t, because they are busy doing something else (politics, big projects and programming etc.). I think that will make the work so much more meaningful, because they are there to stay.

Bob, can’t thank you enough for staying in the loop… At this point connections are key I believe, so whenever you see something that we could contribute to from our current state, do match-make! :slight_smile:


The process will be critical, in my view, to the the achievement of objectives and the proposed outcome, which need to be clearly described. The artistic leadership of the project should be clear, including their relevant experience. This is currently a weak point for Edgeryders, since ER is not an artistic organisation and has little track record (as far as I know) in artistic production. So, there will need to be an experienced artistic partner involved with a successful track record of such work. Only after the partners are clarified should the approaches to funders be explored. The partners may also have connections to potential funders based on their past work.
If you want me to have a look at the draft project proposal when it is finished, I would be happy to comment.

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I think the project I am working on in Athens could be of interest. Did you see my comment to @richdecibels? Athens won the competition as European Capital of Innovation (where I helped to prepare the bid), and I have been asked by the Mayor of Athens to advise.
The focus will be on social innovation (processes of civic activism and citizen participation), and priorities are now under discussion. Who in Edgeryders might be interested in this? I did talk briefly to @anique.yael

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Sorry. Precise link is

For sure we’d be interested, I mean at the least myself, @natalia_skoczylas and may I say, @matteo_uguzzoni. We are now working with the Goethe Institute and Innovathens (, a hub of innovation & entrepreneurship in town, as well as a design school in Amsterdam to organise an urban games program in Athens next year in the fall.
I think it will be a good starting point to connect to the capital of innovation ideas.

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Very interesting. Had Athens already been doing all of those innovative projects before seeking this award? Did you also have a hand in shaping those projects? OR do you guide them through the process of attaining the award?

We’ll be back in our agrarian, feudal society that the overlords want by then anyway, so we won’t need electrical power. We can get by with burning peat, and the occasional ‘unbeliever’ sacrifice… :sob:


Athens has slowly been developing innovative projects, particularly since the Greek debt crisis of 2011 when a period of severe economic austerity began. Many public services were significantly cut or removed altogether, which led to civil unrest and citizens taking certain responsibilities into their own hands. From about 2015, the municipality has tried to support a number of the initiatives. I have been working closely with the Vice-Mayor of Athens who is responsible for civil society action and innovation (an interesting combination), and who needs to raise significant resources from other sources (private foundations, business, EU funding programs, etc) to develop projects. Initially, I got involved with Athens having been asked by the British Council and Rockefeller Foundation to produce a report on culture as a means of developing city resilience, using Athens as a case study. This was linked to the 100 Resilient City initiative that had been pioneered by the Rockefeller Foundation, which focused mainly on issues and methodologies connected to developing a city’s resilience to economic, environmental and social crises. Athens had been selected to be one of the 100 resilient cities. After completing the study, the city asked me to help guide them through the bidding process, and building the case for Athens to be designated Innovation Capital of Europe, which was decided last November. I have been asked to continue to advise on how the award could be utilised, with enormous constraints on time and resources. One of the intended projects will be a conference and ‘expo’ on social innovation to be held in Athens at the end of February 2019. Are you interested?

entirely agree with you here @bob. We’re currently missing being seen as an org that can successfully attract these artists to the project idea.

Great. I know well the work of Innovathens, which I dealt with during the study I was doing on building resilience through culture in Athens commissioned by the British Council. Would love @noemi @johncoate @matthias @natalia_skoczylas and any others to somehow get involved with Athens as European Innovation Capital. Should we perhaps convene a conference call where I could share what I know, and test how Edgeryders might get involved. There are not huge resources, however!

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I also hope somehow to involve @owen who lives in Athens if he is interested and who I met when I visited last September. Are there other Athens-based edgeryders?

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