Merje Laiapea_by_Kairi_Laiapea

Merje Laiapea


Exploring new visions in building and sustaining cultural infrastructure

Merje is a cultural producer, curator and researcher from Estonia and an alumna of SOAS University of London with an M.A. in Global Creative and Cultural Industries. Her previous work has been published in Sounding Out! and Screenworks.


This project explores new approaches to building and sustaining cultural infrastructure. It documents the work of collectives and organisations visioning and building life-affirming infrastructures. In neighbourhoods and communities often underserved by institutions and policy, practitioners are trialling ways to reenergise precarious community structures and build capacity for new types of cultural space. The work is propositional, imagined through creative curricula, community link-ups and publications that rewrite the narrative. Art and culture are seen as tools with which to rehearse just and equitable futures. MAIA, Freedom & Balance and Kin Structures are organisations operating in the precarious conditions of post-industrial urban neighbourhoods in London and Birmingham. They are responding to the harm caused by an exclusive cultural sector, urban regeneration and austerity. While scholars are calling for a reset of policy to articulate a socially just vision, there is a lack of research on practical examples from the intersection of cultural practice, education and public health. Rooted in radical hospitality, care and non-hierarchical governance, these experiments demonstrate a path towards a deeply regenerative, non-extractive and polyvocal cultural landscape. They are localised propositions of differently built or repurposed cultural containers that nourish and grow capacity for lives worth living.