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Utopia and Connected Communities: a one-day conference

Event date Event time Event location
07/12/2016 8:45 am - 5:15 pm British Library, London

As we reach the end of the 500th anniversary year of the publication of Thomas More’s Utopia, we want to reflect on the relation between utopia and community as articulated, explored and problematised across the various utopian or utopia-centred activities of the Connected Communities programme over the past 12-18 months. These include:

  • Utopias, Futures and Temporalities: Critical Considerations for Social Change symposium, Bristol, May 2015
  • Jazz Utopia international conference, Birmingham, April 2016
  • Connected Communities Festival 2016: Community Futures and Utopia nationwide festival of events, February-June (and beyond) 2016
  • Creating Real Utopias in the 21st Century, part of Bristol Festival of Ideas, May 2016
  • Utopia Fair, Somerset House, London, June 2016

These were some of the prompts for our 2016 programme events:

  • what ‘utopia in the 21st century’ means for diverse communities;
  • community fears and aspirations for the future;
  • in its urgency and presence jazz is now here. As improvisational and transitory, jazz is nowhere. Utopia is nowhere and now here
  • dystopian as well as utopian visions for community futures
  • utopia as participatory/ creative method.

What we want to do at the final conference is learn from you and your Connected Communities projects and activities about how you responded to such prompts. What do we know about utopia and community that we didn’t before? Can we share reflections on Utopia 500 that might be useful in Utopia 501? Is the Connected Communities programme itself utopian? This may be a day of celebration (perhaps it’s mourning), of practicalities or idealistic refusal, of glimpses and fragments of culture. Join us and make it good. Make it a good place.

Say no to utopia fatigue. Keep on dreaming.

There are a large number of blog entries at http://www.utopia500.org.uk/blog/ from projects participating in the 2016 Connected Communities Festival.

Conference Programme

8.45-9.15 Registration, tea and coffee

9.15-9.30 Introduction ‘Utopia 501’

George McKay

9.30-10.15 Keynote address ‘Free cultural spaces’

Alan Dearling

10.15-11.15 Utopia and well-being


Teri Howson, Bangor University, Lisa Carter, Artist


Anne Rathbone, University of Brighton, Mikey Reynolds, Arts Connect, Ruth Mowbray, Arts Connect

Chair: Carenza Lewis, University of Lincoln

11.15-12.15 Performing utopia

‘The Reasons’

Mike Wilson, Loughborough University, Antonia Liguori, Loughborough University, Sharron Kraus Singer/Song writer

‘Ghost Lab’

Geoff Bright, Manchester Metropolitan University, Sue Moffet, New Vic Theatre Borderlines, Rachel Reddihough, New Vic Theatre Borderlines, Max Munday, Community Broadcaster

Chair: Kate Pahl, University of Sheffield

12.15-13.00 Lunch

to include ‘Utopian picnic’

Tessa Tricks, Hubbub, Stine Wilhelmsen, Hubbub, Paul Hurley, University of Southampton, Emma Roe, University of Southampton

13.00-14.30 Utopia, space, place

‘Belonging maps’

Yvonne Hall, Durham University, Kate Pahl, University of Sheffield, Josh Cameron, University of Brighton, Paul Neale, the Recovery College, West Sussex, Saff Brooker, the Recovery College, West Sussex


Dr Deborah Maxwell, University of York, Dr Toby Pillatt,University of Sheffield, Liz Edwards, Lancaster University

‘Exploring Middlefield’s utopia’

Professor Carenza Lewis, University of Lincoln, Dr Ian Waites, University of Lincoln, Lucy Picksley, Community Engagement Officer

Chair: Geoff Bright, Manchester Metropolitan University

14.30-15.10 Utopia, movement and tradition

‘Re-use of cultural heritage’

Graeme Evans

“Welcome”: utopian methodologies and epistemologies’

Samuel McKay

Chair: Mike Wilson, Loughborough University

15.10-15.25 Short Break – tea and coffee

15.25-16.25 Utopia and culture; or, ‘Utopia and play’ Kate Pahl, University of Sheffield, Steve Pool, Artist, João Paulo Simões, Frontier Media, Patrick Meleady, Luthfa Meleady

‘Wonderland: the art of becoming human’

Amanda Ravetz, Manchester School of Art, Michaela Jones, Mark Prest

Chair: Teri Howson, Bangor University

16.25-17.15 Theory and practice

‘Utopia, religion, theory’ Johan Siebers, Middlesex University, Marcus Hurcombe, Lapis Philosophorum’


Kate Pahl, University of Sheffield, David M Bell, Newcastle University

Further information is also available at: http://www.utopia500.org.uk/ & https://connected-communities.org/

We invite presentations, panels, provocations, short screenings or performances, dialogues, rants, theories, interdisciplinary or indisciplinary contributions, about the utopia you constructed and/or critiqued in Connected Communities.

For more information and access details, please contact Rachel Daniel, Connected Communities Administrator, University of East Anglia r.daniel@uea.ac.uk

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