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Curated by: Amanda Parker 

The diversity activist and founder of Inc Arts is on a mission to create spaces for everyone to follow their dreams in the arts. But what inspires her own imagination? Amanda Parker shares her cultural picks… 

‘For me, the best and most boundary-pushing creative endeavours come from the margins, not the mainstream.’ 

When your job is to spark change in the arts sector, it helps to have your finger on the pulse of what’s now and next. So, who better than diversity activist Amanda Parker to launch our new series, Curated By, inviting members of the COS community to share their cultural recommendations.

‘My roles vary from arts campaigner and magazine editor, to film festival director and model, all depending on the day/time/need!’ says Amanda. ‘What’s consistent is a passion to shine a light into the corners of the arts to articulate what’s not centre stage, to then create spaces where everyone has the right and the means to be creative and enjoy creativity. I want to create an arts sector that is truly “open” and exciting for everyone, not just the usual suspects.’

This year, that means everything from helping organisations attract and support diverse workforces, to commissioning content on arts activism during the pandemic. ‘For me, the best and most boundary-pushing creative endeavours come from the margins, not the mainstream,’ she explains. ‘Those of us at the margins have exciting, inspiring perspectives and insights to share. Alternative perspectives make great art, so it makes no sense to me that those artists and makers are not adequately supported to build careers that are celebrated globally.’

As for her style? ‘Over the top, always. I even shaved my head, leaving just a fringe to look like Tank Girl!’ she says. ‘I love the theatre of dress. I’ve also been known to have spent three months making an Egyptian-style collar for fancy dress. I’m dedicated to say the least!’

Here, Amanda shares the things that inspire her – from documentaries to disco.

‘I’m a born and bred Londoner, and love the mess, chaos and do-it-yourself spirit of the city. It’s packed full of difference, everywhere you go. You can truly do what you want here; it chimes perfectly with my professional vision – to create spaces that are home for everyone.

‘The Rivoli Ballroom in South London has a special place in my heart. It’s one of the last surviving ballrooms, and it has a faded glory that’s been captured in many films. It is a great place to imagine that you’re in the 1950s, or 1930s, or 1960s, because it hasn’t changed its décor… The other place that tugs my heart in much the same way is the Royal Vauxhall Tavern – a glorious, riotous gay bar and cabaret club where you can bring it any how you like. Almost too much fun, both of them. But luckily, there’s no such thing as “too much fun”.’

‘Wise Children by Angela Carter is my all-time favourite book ever. It has everything you could want in a family saga: potty-mouthed old Londoners, old-time inappropriate child-rearing, a wonderful portrayal of the early days of talking pictures and the end of music hall, mad English families, bitter rivalry, casual sex, brilliant comedy and glorious, dizzying fantasy that has deep appeal to anyone who’s remotely interested in performance.’


Jazz pianist Thelonious Monk 




Rivoli Ballroom, Brockley, London 


‘I actively try to avoid watching anything that I feel fetishises violence. It’s depressing how difficult this can be! So, I recommend Netflix’s The Speed Cubers documentary… It’s the most beautiful, life-affirming story of neurodivergence, friendship and competition.’

‘I love Jessica Palmer (@jessicapalmer_studio). She’s a visual artist who cuts rather than paints or draws.’

‘As an East London kid with way too much energy, I was very lucky (or perhaps my parents were) to have a dedicated and ambitious primary school teacher, who introduced me to contemporary dance. This opened my ears to everything from Meredith Monk to Thelonious Monk, and my eyes to what has turned out to be the golden age for modern dance. The discipline and love of dance has rooted me in creative endeavour and championing the right to create… Disco is my vice – if your vice is the thing that you indulge in whenever you get a chance. Just a few bars of soaring chords, a bouncy 126bpm and shiny tambourine, and I am in heaven.’

‘A better future is one where we say “yes” to ideas, opinions and experiences that are loving, inclusive and tolerant.’ 

‘I’m a bit obsessed with Mansa Musa. He was the leader of the medieval African Kingdom of Mali, who had the world’s greatest library and decided to go on a tour of Europe to build his collection. His wealth was so huge that he left a trail of havoc on his journey through Europe dropping gold here, there and everywhere. I would love to have seen his library. The contrast with medieval African wealth and that of Europe (and what was happening in England in particular) is fascinating to me; I studied medieval English at university, and just can’t leave it alone.’

‘For me, a better future is one where we say “yes” to ideas, opinions and experiences that are loving, inclusive and tolerant: a world where we embrace and amplify alternative positive perspectives.’

Amanda Parker (@amandaparker.ldn) wears the AW20 collection for COS. Photography by Jack Davison. Styling by Clare Richardson.

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