Public Wisdom Picnic

On 23rd July 2013 Cubitt Education held a picnic on Islington Green to celebrate our exhibition of work by local older artists, ‘Someday is Today’. It was also part of our Public Wisdom programme, which aims to creatively connect older people with the public realm.

The picnic was for, and led by, our local seniors and included a ‘flashmob’ disco dance; a life drawing class led by artist Darren Marshall; poetry readings; a ukelele group; and a live band from The Drovers Centre, alongside a picnic lunch provided thanks to the support of the Business Design Centre. The event was attended by around 100 participants making it a great success.

The picnic was part of our joint campaign to make Angel an ‘Age Friendly Town Centre’, which we are developing in partnership with Angel AIM, Age UK Islington and Claremont Project.

Public Wisdom Takover

Thursday 11th September 2014, Islington Green 

Public Wisdom is our creative programme for local people over 55 with an active interest in public space and their local area.

We have a core Public Wisdom group of around 10 local people who run and participate in creative workshops in and around public space, facilitate thought-provoking public consultation around urban regeneration projects and attend council consultations on changes affecting their local area. See our previous projects by searching ‘Public Wisdom’ on this site.

Public Wisdom is all about getting the voices of local people over 55 heard in the public sphere, and The Public Wisdom TAKEOVER on Islington Green aims to spread that message further through exploring different and unusual ways we can interact with public space and enabling older people to reclaim the public realm. This could be through having our say making protest banners, yarn-bombing and guerilla knitting, live life drawing, performative dance interventions and even parkour for all ages.  We will also be hosting an organic buffet and picnic which will be free for local people over 55.

We have been working in partnership with Angel AIM and Age UK Islington to make Angel a more ‘Age-Friendly’ town centre. Join us at The Public Wisdom TAKEOVER to have your say and add to our ongoing research.

We had an incredible afternoon reclaiming our space on Islington Green. We danced like water, knitted fences and trees, shared words of wisdom and took chalk for walks. We drew, sewed, photographed and ate to our hearts content and – for the afternoon at least – the space was ours.

The Public Wisdom and Elders programmes was coordinated by our Elders and Community Programme Coordinator Ellie Shipman.

Public Wisdom in Chris Avis' Barbican Residency

Our Public Wisdom group of local people over 55 were invited by local artist Chris Avis to contribute to her OpenLab five day residency at The Pit Theatre in The Barbican exploring art and ageing. Inspired by Chris’ research from her Winston Churchill Foundation fellowship on the perception and prejudice surrounding artists over 55 across Europe, the residency invited older creative practitioners from a range of fields to respond to her findings.

Our Public Wisdom group of 8 local people over 55 with an active interest in their public realm, as well as their own creative practices, responded to Chris’ research by creating an installation and holding a debate around art and ageing in The Pit Theatre space. Exploring ideas of ‘invisibility and visibility’ the group worked collaboratively using a selection of found materials from Cubitt to build an immersive den-like structure, which they adorned with brightly coloured banners stating slogans and quotes which they felt reflected how, in their view, older people should be perceived.

Reflecting traditional imagery of ‘wise elders’ the group sat around a contemporary campfire of domestic lamps they had brought in from home – signifying their own individuality and range of aesthetic interests. We then commenced our debate around our views on being a creative person over 55 as well as our responses to quotes from Chris’ research. Everyone had their voices heard, and the 50 minute conversation produced a huge range of opinions and some fascinating responses to the current arts climate and it’s relationship with older people.

Public Wisdom Conference 2015: Ageing, Creativity and the Public Realm

Public Wisdom 2015 was curated and produced by Daniel Baker, Education Director at Cubitt from 2008-2016.  The event was the first major symposium on ageing, creativity and the public realm, featuring a wide range of speakers and presentations.

And there is a new publication, produced by Cubitt in 2016 entitled Ageing in Public. The publication brings together practice from across the UK, featuring stories from practitioners, photographs and quotes from participants: celebrating and sharing excellent work in ageing, creativity and the public realm.

The publication is available as a pdf download and as a physical copy from Cubitt.  


Public Wisdom Con2015

26th March 2015, 9.30-5pm.

Richard Sennett; Lois Weaver; Jason Danely; Nick Tyler; Sophie Handler; Anne Karpf; Bolder Voices; Counterpoint; Grand Gestures; Sarah Cole; Pollard Thomas Edwards; Older Women’s Co-Housing; The Decorators; Rama Gheerawo

Is the aging population a ticking time bomb or an extraordinary asset?

What would our cities look like if they were designed for an aging population?

Could older people play a bigger role in public life?

Research has shown that post retirement, many people feel less visible in public spaces, less able to navigate the built environment, and less valued in public life. Isolation and disconnection is a depressing reality for millions of older people; whilst new developments, regeneration projects, and urban planning rarely accounts for the needs and capabilities of the older body.

We are aiming to set a new agenda around discussions of aging: bringing the conversation out from care homes and day centres, and to the public arena.  In the past couple of years we have heard the phrase ‘a ticking time bomb’ in relation to the economic impact of an aging generation. But can we instead view this growth in our collective experience and knowledge as an asset? Can we reframe aging as a shared and celebrated public experience?

Public Wisdom 2015 is a one-day event produced by Cubitt Education and supported by the Baring Foundation, bringing together anthropologists, artists, performers, sociologists, designers and architects to explore how we can respond creatively and imaginatively to these issues through and within the arts.

The day will include practical and inspiring presentations from leading thinkers and creative practitioners, alongside in-depth open discussion, networking and a delicious lunch. Highlights include:

  • Richard Sennett sociologist and author of The Fall of Public Man and Together on collaboration, communication and the collapse of the public realm;
  • Lois Weaver performance artist and founder of Split Britches Company on sex and ageing in public;
  • Nick Tyler Chadwick Chair of Civil Engineering, UCL on the capabilities of the ageing body in the urban environment and re-thinking our cities around connection and community;
  • Pollard Thomas Edwards Architects and Older Women’s Co-Housing on a radical co-designed housing development for older women;
  • Artist Sarah Cole on her performance work In Kind, which brings acts of care into the public realm;
  • Anne Karpf journalist and author of How to Age;
  • Performances by Counterpoint Dance and Bolder Voices Choir;
  • Anthropologist Jason Danely on ageing, abandonment and public life in Japan;

Sophie Handler urban researcher and author of The Alternative Age Friendly Handbook, on working creatively with older people to imagine possible public spaces

Booking for this event has now closed.