Ben Jones’ practice-based PhD aims to understand how people and groups, in the community where he lives, through creativity and digital media, can implement change in their immediate environment. The research investigates the possible interim uses of ‘urban cracks’ - derelict and underused land - and proposes creative and alternative uses and temporary solutions. The initial project is temporary or ephemeral, but with the idea of becoming sustainable enabling an understanding of how the immediate environment and surroundings can be improved. This has been achieved by volunteering and working with community organisations, investigating the past and present of the area such as housing, cultural events, community groups, initiatives and campaigns, and future possibilities of how the people who live in it can take control of their local environment. The research takes as a starting point the modus operandi of Deveron Arts ‘the town is the venue’, as a strategy to work with people within my locality, and questions the role of government and local policy in terns of localism, digital technology and the Big Society.

The approach is to understand and work within the area not just as an artist and researcher but also as a community member and resident. By taking on these various roles the purpose is to question whether this potentially changes, conflicts and enables the work to take place alongside and with community organisations and other community members. The project is seen as long term to continue beyond the initial practical period with the aim of developing a sustainable organisation.

Through discussions with community organisations, community groups, community activists and residents and the needs that were expressed, a series of cooking and growing projects were developed in collaboration with community organisations, community members and professionals, and the development of an online resource and mapping project of potential community growing sites. The aim for these projects to become sustainable beyond the initial actions through community interest and activism.

The project encourages and bring about discussion around the needs of the community, community organisations and local resources, volunteering, localism and the role of hypermedia and social media. Achieved through the creation of temporary events and projects, working with local community groups and organisations on projects and understanding what digital resources they currently and potentially could use. It aims to work across both the ‘physical’ and bounded (urban space) and the digital and open. It straddles both the authoritative (community groups, council run organisations) and independent structures (resident-led groups) to work with and acknowledge these groups and structures that already in place.

Ben Jones’ PhD is based at Culture Lab with the research project SiDE and is funded through EPSRC

For further information, please visit:

The Saltwell Road Project http://thesaltwellroadproject.wordpress.com/ Twitter @SaltwellRdProj

Bitton J, Cavaco A, Gaye L, Jones B, Mearns G, Richardson R, Tanaka A, 2012, Situating Community through Creative Technologies and Practice, AHRC Connected Communities, http://side-creative.ncl.ac.uk/communities/book-united-we-act/

Jones B (2013) ‘Sustainability, community action and social media (what if no one turns up…?)’ in Sustainable North: a workshop on the role of the arts and humanities in re-imagining sustainable development in the North of England, The Biospheric Foundation, Salford, Manchester, 30 October

Jones, B (2012) ‘The potential for socially engaged digital art as a grassroots medium’ in Participation and Engagement in the Arts, Leeds University at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield, 26 June

Jones, B (2012) ‘Possibilities for social engagement in shifting cultural contexts’ in North East Photography Network Annual conference at the Mining Institute, Newcastle, 18 May

Jones, B, (2011) ‘Community, Social Networking and Participatory Art’ in New Media and Academia: Public Engagement Training for PGRs at Northumbria University, 10 May