My work is about people and places, and the stories that connect them. I often start work with a crowdsourced exploration of a place, or with archives or collections relating to a place or topic. Exploration, walking, and leading guided walks form part of my practice. My work often touches on themes of migration in the UK.
I am also interested in the creation of social capital, in activating abandoned or underused spaces, and in DIY approaches to art, culture and social action. I have written a number of books on the activation of empty shops, including Pop Up Business For Dummies.
Current & recent work
For Your England, I am writing 100 poems about 100 places in England, that tell a history of the country. Supported using public funding by Arts Council England, and with the support of Turner Contemporary, Dreamland Margate, Towner Art Gallery, Theatre Absolute and others.
With five artists, I have been working for three years at the Lochnagar Crater on the Somme battlefield, creating work around themes of memory, loss and remembrance. This has connected to work around TS Eliot’s The Waste Land, and the story of a forgotten soldier I found remembered on a 1920s park bench in Penrith. In 2017, I curated an exhibition for this project, as part of Turner Contemporary’s offsite programme.
In 2018, I founded Appletye with two other artists, a company to explore the overlap of arts and heritage. We are exploring the archives of two Margate printing companies, and the social history of the printing industry on the Isle of Thanet, in a project called Print Works. And in Paper Trail, we have given 100 artists pieces of heritage paper to make work which will be exhibited at Maidstone Museum in 2020.
With Tracey Thompson, I host a bi-monthly poetry event at Turner Contemporary, Margate – Landing Place combines live performance and film.
In 2016-17 I wrote the Dreamland Trilogy, ghost writing series of short history books about Dreamland, Margate with a woman who’s lived in the town since 1700. This was an HLF-funded project.
I have also written a short history of Margate Caves, published by the Margate Caves Community Education Trust in 2017. This followed on from writing a number of documents making up a successful £1 million bid for Heritage Lottery Fund money to reopen the Caves. In early-2018, I was artist-in-residence on an archaeological dig on the site.
In 2017, I programmed The Troublemakers’ Festival for From The Station To The Sea in Swansea. This included artists like Mark Thomas, Stella Duffy, Bernadette Russell and Charles Tolfree, alongside an innovative community-commissioned programme.
In 2017, I published Pop Up Culture Southampton for the Southampton Cultural Development Trust, mapping creative use of space across the city.
In 2016, I made new work for the first Estuary Festival (exhibited at Gravesend, Tilbury and Margate). Two sets of signal flags marked the stories of the MT Empire Windrush (a story I have also explored during a residency in Brixton Village) and the SS Arcadia. The Arcadia flags were subsequently used as a stage set by The Libertines, on a South American tour.
In 2015, after a year-long residency in the city, I published a complete history of Stoke, from the Ice Age to thirty years in the future, told through stories I collected on one road.
A brief biography
During the 1990s, while Dan was in his 20s, he was the manager of a former workshop space at the Connaught Theatre, Worthing and oversaw its transformation into a studio. He also founded the Worthing Dome & Regeneration Trust, and wrote a business plan and funding applications which saw the historic cinema’s complete refurbishment. Both buildings are still in use today.
Dan has used empty shops since 2000, and he is now a recognised expert on the reuse of empty shops, and on how to create a pop up shop. His work has been referenced by two governments and Arts Council England. He is the author of the Pop Up People report, and of Pop Up Business For Dummies, published Oct 2012.
Dan has provided advice and support to projects across the UK, and spoken at workshops, festivals and seminars across the country, and in Holland, Italy and Australia. He has worked for Unilever, RIBA, Renew Australia, the Transported Creative People & Places programme, Place NI, vInspired, University of the Arts, Spacemakers and Yell.
In 2011, Dan started #riotcleanup, bringing together thousands of people to start a post-riot relief operation which spread from London to other cities affected by rioting. This work saw him praised by the Prime Minister, and led to the creation of #wewillgather, a social volunteering platform which was funded by Nesta and the Office for Civil Society. The #wewillgather website was used directly to start over 365 actions, recruited at least 5475 volunteers, and unlocked over 8200 volunteer hours.
Dan has a Culture 100 award, recognising him as one of the hundred most influential people in the world of arts and culture. Dan also made The Independent Happy List 2012, the BBC Radio 4 iPM Alternative New Year Honours 2011, received a Team London Award from the Mayor of London, was named in GQ’s 100 Most Influential list and was winner of the Coast Awards 2011 ‘Unsung Hero’ trophy