Participatory and community projects

make ugly beautiful

make ugly beautiful letter to HowDo readers by Jean McEwan

‘make ugly beautiful’ is an ongoing participatory photography project open to all, in which people are invited to make the words ‘make ugly beautiful’ however they like, in whatever environment or context makes sense to them, and photograph their action.

The letter above, published in the February 2012 edition of Bradford magazine HowDo?,  explains how the project started. Contributions in response to the above letter were published in the following issue of HowDo  – you can see them here , on page 23)

After seeing the great photos people sent me,  I decided to set up an open Facebook group so that people could continue to contribute photos and post them directly up themselves.  I’ve been constantly amazed by the imagination and  inventiveness behind the contributions – each one is so different. I like the idea of making the images into a book, but what makes the project so valuable and wonderful to me is that people continue to make and post photographs – and the idea of a continuing and growing project with no agenda other than to make ugly beautiful I think is, in itself a  beautiful thing.

A very big thank you to everyone who has contributed a make ugly beautiful image – by joining me you’ve made me feel more hopeful and less alone in this harsh and sometimes ugly world.
Below are the images people have made so far (February 2015). If you would like join the project and contribute your own make ugly beautiful action, it’s easy. Just join the Facebook group here and upload your photo.

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Instant book Workshops

An ‘instant book’ is a booklet made from one sheet of paper using some simple folds and one cut. They are a great and fun way to tell a story or explore a theme, with words, images, or a combination of both.

Here are a selection of instant books made by people in workshops I  have facilitated for various organisations and projects between 2014 and 2015. These include Bradford Libraries, Midland Road Nursery School and Children’s Centre in Bradford,  Falconer High School NY, and a  SWAN event at Infinity Arts Center, Jamestown, NY. If you would like to book me for a workshop, contact me on

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Creative Citizenship

In January 2015, in collaboration with Schools Linking Network  in Bradford, I co-ran a day-long creative workshop with 180 Year 7 students at Belle Vue Girls School in Bradford for their Citizenship Curriculum Drop Down Day.
We creatively explored ideas and experiences of fairness, justice and equality through collage, instant books and poster making. We were amazed by the thoughtful and creative responses of the students, some of which you can see here.

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Creatively exploring power change and resistance

In September 2014 I worked with the  CommUNIty Resistance Thinkspace group in Bradford to create a collaborative zine responding to ideas of activism, power and change.

The group  meet regularly at Bradford University to share ideas and reflections about change, activism and power. We worked together to explore the relationship between creativity, imagination and activism through play with words and images. This zine captures a snapshot of our personal and creative responses in photographs, words and pictures, some of which are below.

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You can also view the zine in full here. If you would like a photocopied print copy (in black and white) email me at

The commUNIty Resistance Thinkspace is supported by the International Centre For Participation Studies, part of the Peace Studies department at Bradford University. I have since become a member of the group, and am currently working with members of International Centre For Participation Studies  to develop ways of using creativity in dialogue, particularly around difference and disagreement.


Wur at Oastler Market

Wur’ in my native Scotland means ‘we are’ and ‘our’.

Wur at Oastler Market‘ was a two week residency in an empty market stall in which ran in July 2014 at Bradford’s Oastler Market. The project, supported by Bradford Council Creative Markets Scheme, asked market visitors to collaborate with me to explore the questions

What is the relationship between I and we?

How can creativity connect and empower us?

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Over the course of a fortnight, these questions were addressed through a range of activities, including creative play with images and objects, gift actions, conversations, and self-published booklets and zines.
Throughout the fortnight many unexpected acts of creativity and reciprocity happened: an impromptu gallery sprung up, which people visited daily to contribute artwork. People took images from, and added to the collage table. Endla, a 90 year old Slovakian lady, brought bags of food for the Bradford Metropolitan Foodbank donations box, which became full within days. Informal exchanges, collaborations and skill shares happened; Graeme, a self-described ‘outsider artist’ brought art books to share,  Elaine stopped to show us how to make a triangle book; members of Grow Bradford ran a stall on food foraging; Tracey from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation came to share her social action research on loneliness, and people from Peace Studies at Bradford University came to share conversation and ideas. Many people came in to tell stories of themselves, their families and their communities, many of them very personal and poignant.  Interactions and activities from each day were captured via a residency micro blog which can be seen here , and also collected and published in a specially produced zine, which was made freely available to all. If you would like a copy, email me at


WE ARE ALIVE AGAIN at Dark Matter Institute, Oastler Market, Bradford

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A selection of images from a site responsive installation commissioned by Art in Unusual Spaces for Dark Matter Institute, a temporary gallery at Oastler Market in Bradford which took place on 15th May 2014.

Comprising of collections of archival family photographs, posters, makeshift dioramas, assemblages, collages, everyday objects, zines, found props and projections, this work evolved from an experimental period of making at the Fabric Arts Lab (Bradford) earlier this year exploring performative and collage processes in working with personal and family archival materials. Market users were invited to ‘tamper with the work according to their needs, to perform a story for that moment, or that day.’


Bradford Baked Zines

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Bradford Baked Zines was a week long popup shop and self publishing project I organised  with the Loosely Bound zine collective  which took place in an empty shop space in Bradford in May 2013.
During the course of a week, as well as selling self published zines, comics, literature and music from self publishers , we ran workshops, an exhibition, a library, talks, performances and readings, all of which were free, and attracted participants and audiences from across the UK. To see details of events and publications we hosted, visit the dedicated blog at

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