DIY 13: 2016 - James Stenhouse ‘Survival Skills for Artists’


A 3-day expedition to find out what it means to survive as an artist, in the wilderness and in the world, and which is harder

Project summary

Trying to make a living as an artist is a significant challenge that requires fortitude, grit and determination.  This DIY takes the form of a 3-day walk into the wilderness. Carrying everything we need to survive with us, a group of 6 artists led by James Stenhouse will walk away from the comforts of the everyday to find out what drives us to keep on going.

What type of space is opened up by putting ourselves in a survival situation? By spending 3 days wild camping in the Yorkshire Dales, dealing only with the basic functions of survival- staying warm, finding shelter and clean water, what can we discover about the processes of art-making? What might we learn about our struggles as artists by helping each other to go the distance on this difficult journey with no turning back?

This project is an attempt to take care of ourselves in a hostile environment so we might learn more about the struggle of looking after ourselves in a long-term art practice. 


6 participants from the field of Live Art and independent performance practice with at least 2 years experience of trying to make a living as an independent artist are invited to walk for 3 days into the Yorkshire Wilderness.

Participants must be comfortable with the idea of walking for 3 days carrying a 10-15kg pack and wild camping in changeable weather. 

The application requires answers to the following questions:

  • Why do you want to escape the everyday?
  • Want challenges/demands are you facing with your practice at the moment?
  • What do you hope to learn?
  • Are you comfortable with the idea of walking for 3 days carrying a 10-15kg pack and wild camping outdoors in changeable weather?
  • Are you able to provide your own tent, sleeping bag, walking boots and backpack?

Answers can be provided in video format if preferred.

Dates, times and location

Dates: 5 Sep - 8 Sep 2016
Times: Arrival time on the Monday will be confirmed. Walking days will be Tuesday to Thursday, finishing late on the Thursday.
Location: Yorkshire (meeting point TBC)
This DIY is supported by Compass Live Art

The artist

James Stenhouse is co-artistic director of Action Hero. Action Hero have over a decade of experience in making, touring and producing live art, theatre and performance work in the UK and throughout the world. He is also a founding member of the artist collective Residence, a peer to peer artist led project providing practical support and shared resources for artists in Bristol. Growing up in remote Northumberland without mains electricity or water James Stenhouse has always had a keen interest in the relationship between hardship, remoteness, struggle and the therapeutic effects of the wilderness.

Part of DIY 13: 2016 Project List