Sunday, 26 June 2016 existential blunt force trauma

Without doubt, I am suffering the consequences of an existential blunt force trauma. Last week I bleated uselessly about the lack of black and minority ethnic representation in the arts/health field, and in the blink of an eye the democracy I so cherish has meted out a slow death knell to Europe and free movement. Democracy in action, mediated by those without much to offer in the way of substance, just hyperbole - estimated facts, figures and fear. 

A near medieval image of utopia has been peddled by the nationalists and the fictitious world of Post-War Britain can be promulgated again in our little Albion, destined I’m sure, to become A Trump Anglo-Saxon theme park. Permission has now been given to all our neighbours to ferment their own isolated nationalistic delusions. Whose idea was it to have a referendum anyway? Oh I remember. But I cant seem to recall anyone asking for one in the first place. We need to move fast and if social justice and inequalities are to be visible in the political agenda - and our arts and agenda have any vision and purpose - we need to stop the inevitable march of the monstrous ‘free market’ state that will rapidly consume anything in its path. I can see the vapid forces of pseudo arts and health venture philanthropists laughing in the corner and preparing to capitalise on this political vacuum. 

As 1 of the 48% who chooses to identify as European and remain in the union, I say, all hail free thinkers - a new political generation might be motivated into action by all this? I will remain proudly European and enjoy learning from, and with my friends ‘on the continent’ - and us all growing together.

To those European partners we've worked with recently:

We are friends and cultural partners
 Mes esame draugai ir kultūros partneraai
  Táimid cairde agus le comhpháirtithe cultúrtha
   Biz arkadaşız ve kültürel ortakları
    Ми друзі і культурні партнери
      Siamo amici e partner culturali
       We zijn vrienden en culturele partners
        Olemme ystäviä ja kulttuurialan osapuolten
         Nous sommes amis et partenaires culturels
          Wir sind Freunde und Kulturpartnern
            Oleme sõbrad ja kultuurilise partner
             Somos amigos e parceiros culturais

Still - Billy Childish offers us his unique advice on dealing with our more local frustrations at Farrage et al. No apologies for any offence caused and thank you Billy.

I had a treat to witness the flourishing European movement that is Recoverism this weekend. Alongside colleagues from Dementia & Imagination - who shared work in the context of Sir Thomas More's vision of Utopia - Recoverists from Manchester shared their brave, challenging and beautiful work at Somerset House in Little Britain’s theme-park capital. 

A film by Amanda Ravetz 

Alongside Portraits of Recovery’s Mark Prest, artist and visual anthropologist Dr Amanda Ravetz, artist Cristina Nunez and Recoverist Jayne Gosnall had produced some sumptuous interactive work under the banner of WONDERLAND, to which I was invited to share the Recoverist Manifesto. Performing a reading of the manifesto reminded me of how it couldn’t have happened without fellow Recoverists in Italy, Turkey, Lithuania, Holland, Ireland and the UK. 

Utopia then - what’s that all about - Europa perhaps? Oh no lets stick with the cloying nostalgia for a much fabled yesteryear and go for Pangaea!

Winston Churchill Memorial Trust: Travelling Fellowships
Deadline: 20 Sep
In 2017, The Winston Churchill Memorial Trust will be investing around £1.3 million in British citizens by awarding 150 Travelling Fellowships. This will directly support British citizens who want to travel overseas to gain knowledge, experience and best practice to benefit others in their UK professions and communities, and society as a whole. Read more at: 

Your Evidence Wanted
As part of an Inquiry into the role of the arts in health and social care, the All Party Parliamentary Group for Arts, Health and Wellbeing is seeking examples of the arts and culture influencing health and wellbeing outcomes. The APPG is interested in examples of practice from the past decade, where there is reasonably reliable evidence of outcomes or evidence that a pilot or new approach has promise. Submissions are invited of up to 1,000 words, arranged according to headings outlined in the guidance. For the guidance, definitions and further information about the Inquiry, please go to:,-Health-and-Wellbeing-Inquiry.aspx    
The deadline for submissions is Friday 19 August 2016.

SOUND Arts & Health Event
Vic McEwan and Toby Heys will be sharing their practice on Tuesday this week, ten tickets are left HERE. I'm thrilled to have Vic working here at Alder Hey and some profound work is unfolding, which we'll share over the coming year. A huge thanks to Vicky Charnock for making it all possible and for Jane Radcliffe and her outstanding team - particularly one person whose having treatment at Alder Hey and is working with Vic on some collaborative work. Quite beautiful stuff.

Arts Council England told to promote everyday creativity
ACE advised to change funding structures to promote everyday creativity
Street parties, guerrilla gardening and engagement with cultural buildings must be encouraged if creativity is to become as accessible as sport, a new report has concluded. Arts Council England (ACE) should create a new small grants fund to ensure ‘everyday creativity’ is embedded across society, a new report has advised. It should also reconsider using language such as ‘excellence’ and ‘great art’, which ultimately discourages people without talent from practising creativity, and consider a more ‘democratic’ use of funded buildings and future capital developments. The report, produced by campaign group 64 million artists with funding from ACE, is the result of a five-month nationwide study into how to move from ‘Great Art For Everyone’ to ‘Great Art By, With and For Everyone’. It defines ‘everyday creativity’ as grassroots arts activity, encompassing everything from breakdancing in open spaces to guerrilla gardening and painting in sheds. Its publication follows the Warwick Commission Report, which found only 8% of the UK population regularly attend funded culture. It hopes to build on the success of projects and organisations with a similar agenda, such as BBC Get Creative, Fun Palaces, and Voluntary Arts.

  • A lack of an accessible space, either virtual or physical, in which to be creative;
  • A lack of general appreciation for process over product;
  • A lack of creativity in education and work, with pressures on teachers and continual assessment stifling playful creativity;
  • The apparent requirement to be ‘professional’ in everyday life, instead of expressing ideas and opinions.
Read it all by clicking on the beautiful and ancient green Ankerwycke Yew.


Thursday, 16 June 2016 you see the noses growing - wonder where the truth is going?

Last Tuesday saw some of the pioneers of the arts and health movement come together at the Wellcome Trust to mark the Trust’s acquisition of arts and health archives as part of its 5-year strategic plan. The plan is to make this collection of archives available to the wider public. To mark the event Dr Langley Brown, Damian Hebron and Guy Eades have worked with Dr. Jenny Haynes, Head of Special Collections and Research at Wellcome, to organise and facilitate an Arts and Health Witness Seminar to mark this handover. I owe my huge thanks to them for this work and for inviting me to speak at the event which was chaired beautifully as ever, by Lord Howarth of Newport and with input from amongst others Peter Senior, Prof John Wyn Owen, Ali Clough, Gary Andsell and Prof Jane Macnaughton. Each ‘witness’ had five minutes to share their personal story and participants could ask questions of the panel. Lovely too, to have friends old and new in the room.

For my part, I chose to expand my thinking around public health and the arts and particularly what we know - but do so little to meaningfully address -  around social justice and inequalities. An extract from a performative presentation I’m preparing (Weapons of Mass Happiness), for a conference in the autumn, formed the basis of what I spoke about and I gently toyed with the casual racism of Oliver Letwin when he co-authored a confidential memo for Margret Thatcher’s Policy Unit following the Broadwater Farm Estate riots in 1988, in which he suggested that the riots were caused by bad behaviour not social conditions, arguing against investment in regeneration across the community, which he proposed would do little more than "subsidise Rastafarian arts and crafts workshops" where black "entrepreneurs will set up in the disco and drug trade.” Outrageous. 

I went on to explore an analysis of the 2011 riots across the UK, written by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett in which they describe the inequalities that lay behind the riots as a ’social poison’ and the contributory factors that are well known: ‘lack of community, family difficulties, low social mobility, poor relations between police and young people, consumerism.’  The authors suggest that inequalities and status are rooted, ‘…in issues of dominance and subordination dating back to pre-human social ranking systems. They shape behaviour because we need different social strategies depending on where we come in the hierarchy and how hierarchical our society is’. 

It’s alarming then, that Oliver Letwin still works at the heart of UK Government and is currently Minister for Government Policy in the UK Cabinet Office, frequently described as a ‘cabinet of millionaires.’ You’ll be pleased to know then, that when his confidential memo became public, he expressed regret at any offence caused by his earlier comments. Well bravo Mr Letwin, that makes me confident in your ethical stance and that of our prime minister.

Before any official inquiry took place into the 2011 riots in the UK, writer Gillian Slovo was commissioned by Tricycle Theatre, to create a piece of verbatim theatre called The Riots about the events, and their possible causes, in which she used interviews from politicians, police, rioters and victims involved in the riots. Interestingly she spoke to the politician Michael Gove, who asked why young people needed the state to pay for services, when they could always join the scouts! Down with the kids Mr Gove.

Theatre critic Michael Billington described how, ‘once again, the theatre steals a march on officialdom {…} and, if the result can hardly be expected to provide any definitive answers, it asks the right questions in a way that is clear, gripping and necessary.’ Billington suggests as a piece of art, The Riots passes a vital test, ‘it offers us the evidence, and leaves us to form our own opinion as to why there is such anger on Britain's streets.’

Suggesting that artist led research offers us a nuanced understanding of how culture contributes to public debate, I highlighted the work of writer Jimmy McGovern, who has pre-empted the long-awaited Chilcot Inquiry into the legality of war in Iraq, through his drama REG about Reg Keys whose son died in 2003, in Iraq. Keys simply wanted an apology from Tony Blair when he stood against him in Sedgefield by-election 2005. Poignant, relevant and yet again, questioning the validity of what is considered gold-standard research - albeit this time, into weapons of mass destruction.

I posited the idea that we should be less concerned with instrumentalising the arts and more worried about the weaponising of the arts, particularly in light of the emergence of middle managers with little experience or vision in the field, and who are hell bent on commodifying the field - self aggrandising opportunists - who spot a hole in the market, and want to fill it with their ill-considered commercialisation of civic society. What the archive exposes however, is a slow and evolutionary reveal of intuition, experimentation and experience - born of vision.

But with the unpalatable Oliver Letwin on my mind, the seminar did leave me acutely aware that similarly to an event about devolution in Manchester earlier last week, we seemed to be a mono-cultural gathering. The old guard of the arts and health world appears to represent a very white mix, with, to my knowledge, no-one from black or minority ethnic communities in the room. In London or Manchester in 2016 - this is wrong in every way. I’m acutely aware of language when it comes to any form of discrimination - so please bear with me if I get it wrong - some questions then: 

What can we do about this?
I’ll do anything to help make change happen - get in touch with ideas.

Following the seminar, the first annual Mike White Lecture took place in which the poet Fiona Sampson gave a lovely presentation which conjoined her poetic research and healthcare, and something that Mike would have undoubtably been thrilled at. Mike was very present throughout the day.  

Biggest thanks to Langley Brown and John Hyatt for your enthusiasm and constant support.

SOUND - Arts & Health
An Afternoon with Vic McEwan and Toby Heys
Weds 29 June 2:00 - 5:00 
Manchester School of Art
Australian artist Vic McEwan is the Artistic Director of The Cad Factory, an innovative arts organisation based in regional NSW, Australia. He is the recipient of the Inaugural Arts NSW Regional Fellowship and was the 2015 Artist in Residence at the National Museum of Australia. Vic is in the UK over the next two weeks in residency at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital and with Clive at the Manchester School of Art where we’re collaborating on joint work over 2015/17. Dr. Toby Heys is an artist working through and with a large range of electronic media technologies, mostly with a sonic focus. He is a Digital Technologies Researcher and Leader of the Future Technologies Research Centre at the Manchester School of Art and will present a project called ‘Furniture Music’, which is currently exhibiting at the Level Centre in Derbyshire. The project stemmed from working with people with Williams Syndrome, and more specifically from investigating their relationship to the soundscape given that many of those with the condition have a heightened sensitivity to music, noise and rhythm.

Vic will be giving a presentation about his recent arts practice focussing on 3 major projects. 

Buckingbong to Birrego - A 3 day walk over 55 km’s that commissioned artists to create work along the way.  This project started in collaboration with local Aboriginal Elders, at a place of historic Aboriginal Massacre and ended on a farm that is leading the way in environmental farming practice. Artists, community members, farmers and academics walked and camped and had discussions over three days that embraced tragedy, climate change and complexity.

Haunting - Vic’s major outcome of his residency at the National Museum of Australia was a project that explored the consequence of advances in technology that allowed the expansion of people and agriculture into inland Australia. This body of work was created by projecting large images over the Murrumbidgee River into shifting environmental conditions such as fog, mist, smoke. ThIs created a stunning series of images which propose to allow new understanding to emerge about the consequence of human decision making. 

Re-Hearing - This project is currently under development at Alder Hey Children’s hospital, and will see Vic, Clive and Arts Co-Ordinator Vicky Charnock working together to explore the negative effects of sound in hospitals and how artist led interventions might allow a process of education, understanding and rethinking.

Secure a very limited free place at this event by following this link: 

Meanwhile back in London
Sadiq Khan: I'll take the arts as seriously as housing and crime
London’s new mayor Sadiq Khan has pledged to take the arts as seriously as housing and crime.  The Mayor has vowed to take the arts as seriously as housing and crime, and confirmed he will appoint a “night czar” and help to protect music venues threatened with closure. Khan stated: “Supporting the arts and creative industries will be a core priority for my administration; right up there with housing, the environment and security, as one of the big themes that I want to define my time as Mayor.

People’s Postcode Trust: 2016 Grants
Deadline: 30 Sep
People’s Postcode Trust exists to try to make the world a better place through short-term, designated funding for projects that focus on the prevention of poverty, support healthy living initiatives and uphold human rights for some of society’s most vulnerable groups. It will also consider projects which help different communities come together for the benefit of their local area. Registered charities in England, Scotland & Wales can apply from £500-£20,000 (£10,000 in Wales), whilst other organisations may apply for up to £2,000

Paintings in Hospitals
Freelance Opportunity: Regional Coordinator (North East)
Contract: 12 months+, 30 hours per month (estimate). The role may include some evenings.
Fee: £400-450pcm retainer, exclusive of travel expenses
We are seeking a dynamic Regional Coordinator to help us increase the number of health and social care sites using our services in the North East of England.
As a national charity that uses art and creativity to improve the wellbeing of patients, staff and those caring for them, we create uplifting environments to benefit the lives of over 1.8 million patients, visitors and staff every year. 

'What I HATE about Arts in healthcare'
No - this isn't more about jumped-up twerps with their grandiose hyperbole, this is Victoria Jones formerly of Great Ormond Street Hospital and who launches her own organisation in Australia and starts with a naughty, but spot-on look, at what she hates about arts in healthcare!!10-Things-I-Hate-About-Art-in-Healthcare/c1e1p/57564f560cf2cc77abfa8ea4 


Saturday, 11 June 2016

...a few things to share:

Storytelling for Health Conference
Friday 16th and Saturday 17th June 2017 in Swansea, South Wales
Call for Contributions
Our aims are to acknowledge and celebrate the importance and growth of storytelling for health and to understand and promote good practice. To this end we are seeking contributions within the following three conference strands:
. Sharing good practice
. Sharing and building the evidence
. Embedding storytelling in health & sustainability
We would be delighted to hear about projects which facilitate communication and build shared language across different cultures (eg: patients and clinicians, artists and commissioners), projects which embed storytelling in training of health professionals, projects which have influenced policy, examples of project evaluations, examples of methodologies or projects which utilise different methodological approaches, case studies from any stage of the life of a project from origination to completion, inter-disciplinary evidence, and explorations of gaps in the existing research.
BBC Children in Need Small Grants Programme 
Not for profit organisations such as such schools; registered charities; voluntary organisations; churches; and community interest groups; etc. can apply for grants of up to £10,000 through the BBC Children in Need Small Grants programme. The grants are available for projects that help children and young people experiencing:
. Illness, distress, abuse or neglect
. Any kind of disability
. Behavioural or psychological difficulties' and / or living in situations of deprivation.
The closing date for applications is the 1st September 2016. Read more at:

£200,000 Available to Support Women Innovators 
Innovate UK has up to £200,000 and a package of tailored support to award to businesswomen who have exciting ideas and the potential to become leaders in innovation and deliver significant economic growth. This is the first women only Innovate UK competition and is part of a new ‘infocus' initiative to encourage diversity in innovation. The competition is open to any woman in the UK with experience in business innovation and each of the 12 finalists in the competition will receive a package of support tailored to their needs, and the four winners will each receive £50,000 to support their innovation project or activities. Innovate UK are looking for women who have real potential to become leaders in business innovation and/or successful entrepreneurs and have exciting ideas that promise significant economic value to the UK. The closing date for applications is the 12th August 2016. Read more at:

Sunday, 29 May 2016

...use your vote

It was great to stand side by side with people affected by homelessness in the House of Parliament on Tuesday as part of the ongoing collaborative work of arthur+martha. Homeless people in Greater Manchester and Stockport have handmade the first history of British homelessness, opening up previously untold stories of the lives of homeless people through interviews, artworks, poems and handmade books. 

This unique and unprecedented history of British homelessness is profound and you can find out a little more about the work by clicking on the film above, and about all the artists involved by clicking HERE. You can find out about a sister project with Socialiniai Meno Projektai taking place in Lithuania by clicking on the image directly below.

Marcus Jones, Under Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government commented:

"The Houses of Parliament is a place that is full of history. By bringing your Homeless Library here, and speaking here you, are connected to all of our history. It will be heard.”

Now - let’s see exactly how it’s heard and what changes are made to those multiple factors that underpin homelessness. This isn't about housing - its about social justice and inequality.

1-3 SEPTEMBER 2016
An international conference exploring how theatre can contribute to radical social and political change in the 21st Century.

Over the past 30 years participatory and community arts has been largely depoliticised and now too often functions as a quick fix for social problems. This conference takes the position that maginalised individuals don’t need fixing: the system does. Rediscovering the radical will be a unique opportunity for artists, activists and academics who are passionate about the need real change to come together. It will be a hot-bed for new thinking and a fabulous melee of creative experiences. 

Rediscovering the Radical is an international conference exploring how theatre can contribute to radical social and political change in the 21st Century. Hosted by Collective Encounters and the Department of Applied Theatre at The Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts (LIPA) in conjunction with Unity Theatre, Rediscovering the Radical will be an inspirational and agitational weekend of international performances, papers, workshops and discussion.

…an horrific vision of white middle England, or a rural idyll? Use your vote on 23rd June.


Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Arts & Health as a Social Movement
A big thanks to Kat Taylor who has held the fort whilst I’ve been away from work. As well as looking after my friends and colleagues from Finland and a North West Arts and Health Networking event with Carola Boehm, she supported the Arts, Health and Social Movements workshop on May 12th
‘LIVE WELL:MAKE ART’ which saw arts practitioners, clinicians and researchers come together to share knowledge and resources across the arts and wellbeing sector. 

The Devolution of Health and Social Care budgets from central Government means some real improvements are anticipated and we came together to consider and inspire action. Change designed and led by communities is more likely to be self-sustaining and far-reaching than that led by public bodies. Using ‘Health as a social movement’ as a provocation, the participants were invited to share information about arts and health work happening across Greater Manchester. Artists from ‘More than Minutes’ created a visual snap-shot during the course of the event. Group discussions focussed on Values & Principles; Cultural Spaces; Collective Intelligence and New Ways of Exploring Difficult Subjects. The workshop identified approaches and models, and potential barriers, before a number of organisations and individuals committed to several action points to effect change. The group will continue to meet regularly to share progress and take actions forward, to create healthier, culturally engaged and socially connected communities across the city. #LiveWellMakeArt

Whilst all this is unfolding, I am reminded that as informal as it might be, we have quite a strong North West Arts and Health Network and we created a shared vision statement in our MANIFESTO for Arts, Health and Wellbeing.

Medical students explore communication with musicians on children’s wards
Ten more third year medical students studied approaches to holistic healthcare with Music for Health and Lime Arts in January 2016. For many this was their first experience of visiting a paediatric hospital, and in seeing first hand the impact of hospitalisation on children and their families. All the students had an interest in either music, or the arts in general – or both – and used their own interests to explore the benefits of music and the arts to young patients who find their lives disrupted by medical treatment.Want to know more? Click HERE.

Art with Heart developed with The Lowry
Thu 23 & Fri 24 June, 8pm
The Studio at The Lowry
£10/ £12

Instinctive, curious, bold and bouncy; Sarah is a mighty proud square peg, which wouldn’t be such a problem if the hole wasn’t so damn round.
Sarah grew up feeling different. Her childhood Doctor thought it was sugar. Her current doctor thinks its ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder). Sarah still feels different, so what will a label do? Will it change the way you see her and the way she sees herself? With autobiographical comedy, storytelling and conversations with audiences, join award-winning theatre company Art with Heart on a vibrant and daring adventure with new production - Declaration. Read more by clicking on the image above.

Monday, 23 May 2016

...a holding slide

service will resume shortly...

Sunday, 8 May 2016

...a moments distraction from the chaos of existence


More art and sport lessons will boost mental health

'The government’s mental health champion has warned that children are being made ill because art, drama, music and sport lessons are being squeezed out of school timetables by ministers’ insistence on a more academic curriculum. Natasha Devon, who suffered from the eating disorder bulimia nervosa as
a student, said the scale of self-harm among schoolchildren has soared in the past decade, partly because of exam pressures, the rise of social media and parents being too “stressed” to give enough quality time to their families.'You can read more by clicking on the smiley above but be warned, it’s the Sunday Times and you’ll need to be a subscriber!


Mental health champion for UK schools axed after criticising government

'The government has dropped its mental health champion for schools after she publicly criticised current education policies, in particular the testing regime, which she claims is detrimental to children’s mental health. Natasha Devon was appointed by the government last August to raise awareness of and reduce the stigma surrounding young people’s mental health, as part of a wider £1.25bn drive to improve care. On Wednesday, however, it emerged that the high-profile role had been axed, raising concerns that the government was attempting to silence her.'
Read the full article for free by clicking on the sad face above!

New £15 Million Funds Open to Increase Diversity of England's Arts and Culture 
The Arts Council England has launched two new funds which focus on diversity in art and culture. The Change Makers fund will help address the lack of diversity in arts leadership, while the Sustained Theatre fund will support Black and minority ethnic theatre makers.
The new £2.6 million Change Makers fund will provide grants of £100,000 - £150,000 to support a cohort of Black, minority ethnic and disabled leaders to develop their leadership skills. 

The £2 million Sustained Theatre fund will provide grants of £200,000 - £500,000 to support the development of established and emerging Black and minority ethnic theatre makers and increase their representation across the wider theatre sector in England.

The closing date for submitting an expression of interest to the Change Makers Fund is the 28th April 2016 with a closing date for full applications on the 23rd June 2016. Click HERE.

Artists International Development Fund 
The Arts Council England has announced that the next closing date for its Artists International Development programme is the 1st June 2016. This funding stream is for artists to develop links with artists, organisations and/or creative producers in other countries. Freelance and self-employed artists can apply for small grants of £1,000 to £5,000 to spend time building these links to broaden the Artist's horizons and open their work to other perspectives. The programme is open to emerging and mid-career artists working in combined arts, literature, music, theatre, dance, visual arts and crafts and design. Click HERE.

Sound Sense Director
£36k – £41k, location anywhere reasonable in the UK
Closing date: 5pm Thursday 9 June
An exciting opportunity to lead Sound Sense, the UK professional association of community music and community musicians, following the retirement of the post holder after more than 20 years' service. You would join us at an important time, with membership numbers ever-increasing, UK-wide strategic partnerships to develop further, significant projects (getting care homes singing, community music pedagogy) to fundraise for, and fresh plans for organisational development. More details and application pack HERE.