" I absolutely love the way it (the Social Practice Surgery toolkit) is written - clear, easy to read, friendly and with all the fine points considered without it being arduous to read."
Natalie Hughes, Assistant Producer, Heart of Glass, 2020

"Beautifully facilitated and absolutely necessary"
Social Practice Surgery"
Workshop, NECP Case for Culture Annual Forum, 2018
"This will give me a wonderful framework and reference source to work with."
Ann, Social Practice Surgery
Workshop, Durham University, 2021

“Social Practice Surgery”

(part of Mess Making as Social Glue)

A mutual support and research project for, and by, people who make art

with people*

Facilitated by Dan Russell and Lady Kitt


*socially engaged craft & art practitioners/ community artists / participatory artists / organisations / facilitators / producers, this is not an exhaustive list


Social Practice Surgery is a series of continually developing, live(ly)* resources created for and by social art practitioners to support each other in a variety of circumstances, and in particular when we are suffering from "Mess Fatigue"*.

The project is being facilitated by artists Dan Russell and Lady Kitt. It’s the result of openness and generosity by many artists and organisations, who have shared their stories, ideas, experiences and resources with each other and us over the last 2 years

You can find some resources we've created and gathered during the project so far in our Social Practice 1st Aid Kit: HERE


The project aims to offer opportunities for people involved in social art to get together and share the complexities and joys of our work. “Surgeries”, face to face and digital events, are facilitated by Dan and Kitt. They can take a variety of forms including workshops, interviews, informal chats, performance lectures, collaborative making sessions, training and mentoring. For us, the value of the project in the “us-ness”* of it: the collaborative experience and knowledge of everyone at each individual surgery, our collective capacity to empathise, elicit, support, respond, and create.

Kitt and Dan collaborate on this and related projects. We are interested in lots of stuff, but particularly:


  • Creative- intimacies*

  • Live(ly)ness* in research

  • Mutual support in the field of contemporary social practice

  • Social-ness* in institutions

  • Making, thinking and reflecting activity about where the intimacy and empathy is in digital, virtual and socially-distanced methodologies


*Please see Glossary below for more info 

Social Practice Surgeries, face to face and digital events, facilitated by Dan and Kitt can be booked by contacting us: HERE

Any upcoming events will be posted on this page:

Thurs April 22nd 2021, Social Practice Surgery in collaboration with East Street Arts

121 surgeries are free and bookable HERE


Social Practice Surgery has been developed through and supported by: an Axisweb R&D Award, year-long (2018-19) residency with Orbis and Ampersand Inventions (Newcastle) and with funding / commissions from North East Cultural Partnership, The New Bridge Project, East Street Arts, and Heart of Glass as part of Home Work (with support from Cultural Hubs – St Helens Arts in Libraries, the Bluecoat, Knowsley Council, Rule of Threes, Sefton Council, Human Library, The Atkinson, Halton Borough Council and Culture Liverpool).


"I believe that socially engaged work is some of the most thoughtful, useful and challenging art being produced now. I think practitioners are a powerful cultural resource& I’m extremely committed to collaboratively creating methods for supporting development and resilience of our practice.


In my experience, socially engaged work is messy- physically, conceptually, socially, emotionally, joyfully messy. And, the mess is needed. It’s where the most fun, interesting, useful stuff happens; where people can use creativity to be vulnerable, to ask questions, to solve problems, to understand our own culture, to the create change. The mess is also exhausting, draining, confusing. Tidying up, making sense of, organising, recording this mess and its’ effects is a huge physical and emotional labour. A labour that mostly falls to the practitioner and is rarely given many (if any) resources. This creates a situation where socially engaged artists often suffer from what I call “Mess Fatigue” (MessF); Tiredness, sometimes sadness, often frustration, nearly always a seemingly over whelming amount of physical organising and emotional processing which a socially engaged project can generate.


"The Social Practice Surgery" project will offer opportunities to listen to the experiences of others and together to begin considering how practitioners can tackle the big "MessF" also what we can ask of commissioners, funders, producers, colleagues, participants to ensure that everyone involved in a project helps with the “tidying up”.”


Lady Kitt, 2018

*Social Practice Surgery Glossary:

Creative Intimacies:

For us, “creative intimacies” are human connections formed through and for creativity, and they exist on a scale.

One end are "civic creative intimacies" (ideological and structural togetherness that happens because of and through collaborative creative and social action). At the other end are “personal creative intimacies” (emotional and physical connections that happen because of and through collaborative creative and personal action).

An example of "civic creative intimacies" could be a community group who use crafting as a connecting activity which offers time and space to think about and build their shared ethos. Maybe they then use the togetherness they’ve created to lobby for political change or improve their local environment. Typically, members of the group probably only (or largely) interact through the group’s activities.

An example of “personal creative intimacies” could be a parent and child who play music together as a way of sharing time and ideas about /enthusiasms for, the world. Maybe this closeness helps them to develop, discover and appreciate mutual understandings, skills and interests- part of them growing a shared family culture. They probably interact often (maybe constantly) through a multitude of creative, practical and personal activities.


Collectively doing the thing(s) together. 

Collaborative experience and knowledge. The collective capacity to empathise, elicit, support, respond, and create.



Happening in real time- living it, doing it, being it. Now. Together.



living/ doing/  being  connections, dialogues, communities, sharing and togetherness

“Mess Fatigue” (MessF):

Phrase coined by Kitt in 2017 describing the tiredness, sometimes sadness, often frustration, nearly always a seemingly overwhelming amount of physical organising and emotional processing which a socially engaged project can generate

"Thank you for sharing my prescription! I found the session really helpful. Thanks for being so generous with your advice in the session/in the prescription and for holding such a welcoming space"
Lily Lavorato, Social Practice Surgery, East Street Arts, 2021