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Decorate / Disrupt: what’s the role of art in transforming public services?

Group of men with one holding a sign that says ART CANNOT HELP YOU

We live in an era of economic, political and social instability characterised by uncertainty and unpredictability. The intractable nature and complexity of challenges, such as climate change, homelessness and growing inequalities have raised fundamental questions about the design, culture and practices of all public services. But…. do these unique challenges also provide an opportunity to “develop the capacity to imagine the world as otherwise”?

Do arts provide an opportunity to stimulate imagination and experience differently?

Can we create new ways of being together that recognise and work with complexity, encouraging different forms of collective meaning-making?

Can artists disrupt our thinking and habitual patterns?

Is it their role to provoke, to kindle our imagination? Or, do they provide decoration rather than provocation?

And, if we assume that art can make things better, who is defining “better”? What proof do we have of this ‘better’?

To engage with this debate, and provoke rather than please us, we are delighted to welcome:

Jocelyn Cunningham, director of Lancaster Arts (previously director of Arts and Society, RSA)

Anthony Schrag, artist and lecturer at Queen Margaret University

Paul Gorman, creative director with Hidden Giants

Leonie Bell, strategic lead, Paisley Partnership Cultural Regeneration, Renfrewshire Council


This event is the second event in the “Exploring the influence of the arts on public services” series. The series is curated by the Fire Starter Festival events team and hosted by various partners. The event is part of Fire Starter Festival 2020 – #fsf2020

Fire Starter Festival (FSF) is an annual three-week festival highlighting and celebrating innovation and creativity in Scottish public services, with a particular focus on transformational change. It allows people from all aspects of public service to showcase and share the innovative and creative ways they are making a difference to Scotland. Please check out all the different events in our FSF events calendar. The festival runs between 27 January and 14 February 2020.

This event is on 28th January 2020, 1pm-3.30pm.

Other events in the series are:

The Art of the Impossible: the producer competencies (28/01/2020 : 09:30-12:30)

Trailblazing dialogue walks for Scotland (28/01/2020: 16:00 – 19:00)

Image © Anthony Schrag

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January 28
1:00 pm - 3:30 pm
Event Category:


Fire Starter Festival


36 King's Stables Road
Edinburgh, EH1 2EU United Kingdom
0131 625 5500

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We believe cultural and creative organisations have a significant influencing power to help shape a sustainable Scotland for the 21st century.

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A project initiated by Edinburgh’s Festivals with key partners the Federation of Scottish Theatre and Scottish Contemporary Art Network

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