Entelechy Arts

The case for cultural ownership.

Ambient Jam collective at the Liberty Festival, 2022. Photo: Samuel Dore.


Entelechy, from the Greek entelecheia, is a philosophical concept that describes shifting from ‘potential’ to fully realising something. Entelechy Arts intends to live up to its name by giving members of the community the opportunity to take what was merely potential in their minds and bring it to life through creativity and care.

Based in Lewisham, South East London, Entelechy Arts is a joyful and diverse group of artists and changemakers that work across the boundaries of creativity, wellbeing, and the community. Over the past 30 years, Entelechy Arts has worked with the young and old, focusing on marginalised people who feel invisible due to age, disability or cultural background.

Arts for wellbeing

Working in partnership with local policymakers in health and care, Entelechy Arts sets an example for the benefits of art for wellbeing. Its programmes address fears, create space for dialogue and help people find new connections and skills. One long-running initiative, the Ambient Jam, has brought together people with disabilities, musicians, sculptors and volunteers for improvised dance sessions.

Another initiative, ‘Meet Me at the Albany’, was born out of the question – what if isolated and lonely older people could go to an arts centre, rather than a day centre? Joan Nightingale is a member of the ‘Meet Me’ choir and her doctor said it was “the best thing she could have done for her health.” Many people who take part in the programmes, including Jacquie Channing-Hamon, say they have “a new zest for life” and are inspired to do more things with their newfound confidence.

Meet Me at The Albany. Photo: Roswitha Chesher.

From co-creation to cultural ownership

Community runs through the everything at Entelechy Arts. Its website includes a “Family Tree” that gives information on the board, staff, artists and volunteers in alphabetical order, emphasising the equalness of all involved. People who take part in its programmes are known as ‘members’ rather than ‘participants’.

Entelechy Arts is determined to continue improving and push the boundaries of co-creation. The board – comprising members of the community – has set Interim Director Mike Brookes the task of reviewing everything to make the organisation better reflective of and representative of the communities they serve. Soon, a member of the community will be joining Mike as Associate Director. The organisastion is exploring how to give power back to communities at every level, and for Entelechy Arts, this means going on a journey “from cultural participation towards cultural ownership.”

What exactly is cultural ownership, and what makes it different from cultural participation? Mike says the prevalent trend around participation in cultural experiences is “incredibly fulfilling and brings so many benefits to society… But we feel the next step is to allow them to own that process, not just to own the experience, and not just to create that experience for themselves, but to also own everything behind it.

Entelechy Arts is taking things a step further than the average arts organisation – with a long-term goal for members to run everything, and to become a “a community-owned arts organisation”.

Living up to its name, Entelechy Arts is recognising its own potential by allowing the community it serves to have power. While it is too soon to see what happens when an organisation totally shifts from cultural participation to ownership, it is certainly a leap in the right direction and gives people agency over their own creativity and care.

We don’t have a certificate to say we went to drama school but in this community, here we are recognised. We want to be remembered.
Entelechy Arts Participant Gwen Sewell

By Kathryn Mokrynski, Cultural & Creative Industries MA student at King’s College London.

Other case studies
Updated on 20 march 2023

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