Sunday, 17 May 2015

…what's in a name change?

So what’s all this eh? A change to the advertised programme? Nothing to worry about - I assure you, but this North West Arts and Health Network is having a moment or so to reboot, get its house in order, evaluate where it’s at and clean out the cupboards. There’s been something rank in the air this past few weeks - fermenting for some time - and it’s time to examine just where things are in this arts and health cyberspace.

Last week I threw out a question about the future of this blog to anyone passing by this space, and of the 3480 visits of five minutes or more last week, 38 people responded to my call for help. Ahhh 1.09% of the readers - quality not quantity! Thank you - you know who you are. Now if this were an electoral system, I’ve no idea where I’d stand - but it’s not - so when I asked for opinions on polemic, funding and the like, a staggering 98% of those who responded were crying out for opinion, passion and just a little bile, (whilst keeping a modicum of utilitarian servicing for the communities needs)! So the die is cast. The fact that 1.09% of you made the effort to even email, thrills me. Thank you. 

So with our Manifesto for Arts & Health and thoughts from the Chaos & Comfort event firmly in mind, we move forward as a free-state of like-minded people, driven by a belief that the arts offer something more than a life-enhancing elixir for the drones of aesthetic consumerism. Inequalities are endemic and set to widen, and those with the least access to the arts, are more often than not the same people trapped by poverty, marketed the cheap salt/fat/sugar mix that’s branded as food, let down by systems set up to blame and shame them, all the while being told to spend-spend-spend. 

66% of the population turned out to vote in this years elections, compared to just under 84% in the period just after the Welfare State was formed. More people than ever are confused by the electoral system and whilst the governments new cabinet has been given a blue-rinse of ethnic and gender diversity, the signs for both culture and health, look bleak. Prepare to face challenging times! Cultural commentator Dave O’Brien, offers some considered words of caution, worryingly suggesting ‘...the more culture depends on markets and philanthropy the less any democratic political agendas can be influential.’ With the enviable cuts to arts spending however, he notes, ‘arts and health will be a crucial area of work for many regional cultural organisations, based on extra funding and the belief in the power of the arts to impact on wellbeing.’

The language of philanthropy, business and entrepreneurship surrounds us and is synonymous with the market, hell-bent on reducing our work even further, pursuing evidence solely in terms of financial worth. Politicians and the free-marketeers of arts/health seem divorced from any higher vision for culture and the arts in terms of civic society, connectivity and inclusivity. In terms of the social determinants of health and cultural engagement, the next five years are critical to us. Perhaps too, we should be more nuanced in our own understanding of health? In our rush to get any funding going, to prove our worth in terms of ambiguous notions of wellbeing, we may be missing the boat? After all, our work is about society - both locally and globally - and I hope, ensuring we all live by the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Culture and the arts are only one part of that bigger agenda, but a significant part, spanning ages, contexts, peoples and places. If our work engages people in some sense of civic society and the politics of the common good, and if we can engage people creatively in a range of democratic process’s from taking to the streets, to casting their votes, then maybe by 2020 and beyond, people may be more inclined to be politically engaged and take control of the future of education, health and culture. In a recent book review, playwright David Edgar describes how culture and the arts widen our horizons, expand our perceptions, they excite, thrill and horrify us, providing us with a collective experience that “increases mutual tolerance, encourages cooperation and engenders trust”.

The election special a few weeks ago on this blog, shared some aspirations for 2020, so I’m asking an artist to draw up those thoughts from Chaos & Comfort, and present them in a way we can almost look at as a Post-Manifesto action plan for SOCIETY 2020+, both through its shared vision and aspiration, and through ongoing proactive, collective endeavours. In some ways this is about our dear old North West Arts & Health Network, but in others, it’s building bridges with those who make up this international community and who aspire to being a springboard for political renewal. Grounded in solidarity, surely our free-state, or republic is all about cultural and social change?

(All the jobs, grants, events and other sundry items, will be here just as expected next week and onwards)

All images are by Peter Kennard whose work is on show at the Imperial War Museum.                      .    

Saturday, 9 May 2015

◎ ◎ ◎ ◎ ◎ ◎ ◎

What do I do? Do I mention it? Do I move on and keep my head down? Stiff upper lip, and all that. Sometimes I let rip - other times I keep schtum. Perhaps - help me here - is this blog useful as something for a regional network - I know many people that get in touch are certainly not from this little island. Is it polemic and opinion you want, or simply some direction to funding, conferences and job opportunities? Let me know - your vote counts. email

Here’s Matt Carr, an independent voice from Derbyshire who neatly summarises ‘...the Horror’ of this last week.

Whilst not explicitly mentioning that thing that happened this week, in other news, I can tell you that I’m thrilled that the Wellcome Trust are working with Arts for Health to take all our archival and research materials in under their roof, and over this next 5 years as part of their strategic plan, the Arts and Health repository of research and archives will be catalogued and digitised for future generations and be part of the freely accessible Wellcome Library, Special Collections. This is a fantastic move and I’m personally grateful to all of you individually and organisationally around the UK who have contributed to this. Thanks particularly to Dr Langley Brown and Dr Jennifer Haynes for your commitment and vision. Of course, as this progresses, we will share information on content and access.

Arts & Health Consultancy
There’s a cracking Arts and Health consultancy job going in Blackpool. Deadline is the 18th May and the fee is £25 - 30k. Click below for more details.  

Dementia & Imagination
I’m working with three very different artists as part of the Dementia & Imagination research project. I recently asked them to succinctly reflect on their ongoing work - here are there thoughts, respectively - Penny Klepuszewska, Carol Hanson and Jeni McConnell. You can read some more of Penny’s reflections on the Dementia & Imagination website.

- - - -

persistent repetition
not i
incorrect continuation of a response
not i
constant expression of a desire to leave
not i
is somebody there?
not i

let me know if you agree

and then what happens?

- - - -

Pasting cartoon wallpaper. Tinkering with cardboard cogs. Sitting in endless paper jams. Roll on Bank Holiday. Roll on Funny Summer...

- - - -

laughter-full rooms prick
unbalance expectation
darker places peep

- - - -

#Rites, is a powerful and provocative piece of theatre being performed at CONTACT this week, which explores the complex issues surrounding FGM, developed from testimonies from survivors and those still affected by the practice. Many of the interviewees are Manchester people. It’s a co-production with National Theatre of Scotland and Contact and is in Manchester at CONTACT from 12 – 14 May.

Grants to Help New, Innovative Visual Arts Projects 
The next deadline for funding applications to the Elephant Trust is the 15th June 2015. The Trust offers grants to artists and for new, innovative visual arts projects based in the UK. The Trust's aim is to make it possible for artists and those presenting their work to undertake and complete projects when confronted by lack of funds. The Trust supports projects that develop and improve the knowledge, understanding and appreciation of the fine arts. Priority is given to artists and small organisations and galleries who should submit well argued, imaginative proposals for making or producing new work or exhibitions. Arts Festivals are not supported. The Trust normally awards grants of up to £2,000, but larger grants may be considered. Read more at: 

…and last, but by no means least - a number of people have been in touch about the Recoverist Manifesto. You can access the online version of it either by clicking here, or also on the icon on the right hand side of this web page. If you just want an easy print option, click on the image below.


Friday, 8 May 2015

. . . - - - . . .

Sunday, 3 May 2015

…all we have is now

...for Nigel Barton

Oh well, since he’s fictional just cast your vote this week. Here’s a film from the most compelling documentary maker out there. This is a five minute short from 2014 from Adam Curtis. That he manages to conjoin avant-garde art and politics, is superb. If you enjoy his thinking, why not try something meatier and his recent film, 

A Review of the Social Impacts of Culture and Sport
The DCMS has produced two reviews of the evidence for arts impacting on health and wellbeing. The first, ‘A Review of the Social Impacts of Culture and Sport’, is a systematic literature review led by Professor Peter Taylor of Sheffield Hallam University’s Sports Industry Research Centre. The review found that: “evidence of beneficial effects of the arts extends to clinical and non-clinical populations, and physical and mental health… not only in helping to improve clinical outcomes, but also as a powerful force in re-integration into society, thereby improving the social impacts via the arts.” It goes on to assert that “The evidence base that exists is considerable.” The second report, Further Analysis to Value the Health and Educational Benefits of Sport and Culture’, uses cost-benefit analysis to assess culture and sport related interventions. The report concludes that “culture and sports participation can help to generate wide-ranging social benefits and cost savings to the exchequer.”      Oh, that’s ok then!

Spring has returned. 
The Earth is like a child that knows poems. 
- Rilke

Castle is a print magazine about video games and the worlds they inhabit and affect. We want to celebrate the diversity of games while delving into the extraordinarily broad impact they have had—and will have—on our lives.

Castle’s forthcoming first issue will explore health in games. How can health function as a game mechanic? How can our health be affected by digital experiences? We will investigate the increasingly bizarre relationship between health technology and games. We plan to pore over addiction in games as well as addiction to games. While we don’t expect to find all the answers, we hope to, at the very least, unlock more questions. And in doing so, underscore the importance of games in our cultural landscape.

Castle are currently taking pitches and would love to hear from health writers and professionals. Pitch us, tell us about your studies, or just say hello. They’d really love to hear from you. Click on the banner above to email them. Tweet @Castle_Magazine

...and with an oh-so-neat segue, Dr Sarah McNicol at MMU has recently completed a research project exploring - 
The Impact of Educational Comics 
This new work involved interviews with people who either have a health condition themselves, or who have a relative with a condition to investigate their reactions to educational comics about health issues. The two questions she was interested in were:
  In what ways can educational comics provide support in dealing with feelings and attitudes towards health conditions, as well as improving understanding of factual information?
  How should educational comics be evaluated to ensure that their impact on patients’/relatives’ feelings and attitudes is considered, in addition to factual recall?       
Want to know more? Click on The Third Sex above.

Creativity, Wellbeing and the Community 
Tuesday, 19 May 2015 from 09:30 to 16:30, Huddersfield
Support to Recovery (S2R) is a Kirklees based mental health charity that works to improve mental health and wellbeing and reduce the stigma surrounding mental ill health. In recent years it has been engaged with a number of innovative and creative projects, including the Packhorse Gallery, Create Space and The Great Outdoors.

Two Research Posts with Posts King’s College London
We are seeking to appoint two outstanding researchers to work on the Get Creative research project. The Get Creative (GC) campaign aims to boost creativity in the UK, as well as celebrating the millions of people already doing something artistic and creative everyday. The project will collect data and analyse key research questions investigating i) the breadth and depth of everyday arts participation and creative activity across the UK, and what ‘the arts’ mean to the British public (application); and ii) mechanisms for ‘giving permission’ to engage in arts and creative practice, exploring the reciprocal relationship between professional ‘national’ arts and arts at an amateur and local level (inspiration). The project will also evaluate how successful the GC campaign is in promoting a national conversation about the value of creativity and the arts.
Funding for Social Businesses from Big Issue Invest (England)
Early stage social businesses in England can now apply to the Big Issue Invest Corporate Social Venturing (CSV) 2015 programme. The programme is specifically tailored for early stage social businesses who often face challenges when it comes to securing finance. Applicants don't need to be trading to apply however providing proof of concept is essential. To be considered, applicants must operate in the following sectors:
  Arts and culture
  Education, employment and training
  Tackling homelessness
  Sustainable and community transport
  Health and social care
  And/or financial inclusion.
Applicants have the opportunity to pitch for up to £50,000 investment, receive mentoring from the programmes' investment and support partners, attend professionally designed workshops and learn to how measure their social impact. The deadline for applications is 25th May 2015. Read more at: 

                   THAT'S THAT

Sunday, 26 April 2015


Following last weeks Election Special, it’s worth keeping an eye on other commentators, with Arts Professional always distilling relevant information. Here’s an extract, but read more by clicking HERE.

“Six of the seven leading parties have now published their manifestos, revealing varying commitment to arts and culture. The Green Party is alone in its pledge to reverse the tide of cuts with an additional £500m for the arts, while UKIP say they would abolish the DCMS. {…} Labour makes a clear commitment to working with public bodies to rebalance funding across the country, while The Greens go a step further, pledging to “give local authorities powers to encourage local live performance in the arts by moving funding from the regional to the local level”. 
. . .

This week I'm thinking of a friend who's up against it, so the blog is what it is - no more - no less...
. . .

…and the World Happiness Index is out. Sweden and Iceland are at the top and Syria and Rwanda figure quite badly. You couldn't make it up! Read it by clicking on the link above if it rocks your boat.


"It's been two years, almost to the day, since I had a stroke" 

Euan Ferguson writes exclusively for PRN, a platform for opinion, interviews, features and discussion, alongside exploring wellbeing, lifestyle, food & drink. Infused with writing, illustration and photography from some of the most exciting and creative people around, PRN is unique in both it's mission and aesthetic. Founded by Anna Magnowska, a nurse and illustrator, with creative direction by illustrator Laura Quick, PRN makes connections between art, medicine, culture, science, technology and history. It also focuses on the practicalities of nursing.

The 4th International Public Health & Palliative Care Conference taking place in Bristol between the 11 and 16th May and this year dovetails beautifully with the city’s May Festival.  Find out more by clicking on the sugar skull poster.
Wish I was going!

Art, Design and New Technology for Health: The Sackler Conference 2015
Fri 19 June 2015 10:30 – 17:00 

The V&A, London
This conference will explore the role of interactive and digital art in healthcare environments. It will reflect on the principles of design in health and consider the potential of digital innovations to empower individuals and revolutionise healthcare experiences. Click on the hand below for more info.
Wish I was going - Oh - I am! I’m chairing part of the day. 
Come along and say hello, it looks a brilliant event.

Hilden Charitable Fund
The Hilden Charitable Fund is open for applications. Within the UK, the Hilden Charitable Fund makes grants to projects that address disadvantage, notably by supporting causes which are less popular. In particular, the Fund wants to support projects that address:
  Supports asylum seekers and refugees
  Supports community based initiatives for disadvantaged young people 16 – 25
  Penal affairs.
The average grant awarded is £5,000 and preference is given to supporting small community organisations with an income of less than £500,000 per year. The Trust will consider funding project as well as core running costs of organisations. The closing date for applications is the 10th June 2015. Read more at:

British Academy - Small Research Grants 
The British Academy for the Humanities and Sciences has announced that its Small Research Grants programme has re-opened for applications. Through the Small Research Grants programme grants of between £500 and £10,000 are available over two years to UK research institutions to support primary research in the humanities and social sciences. Funds are available to:
  Facilitate initial project planning and development
  Support the direct costs of research
  Enable the advancement of research through workshops
  Visits by or to partner scholars.
All applications should demonstrate that Academy funds are sought for a clearly defined, discrete piece of research, which will have an identifiable outcome on completion of the Academy-funded component of the research. The closing date for applications is the 6th May 2015. Read more at:            

Sunday, 19 April 2015


Over the last 5 years Arts for Health and people who are part of our North West Arts and Health Network, have contributed to the development of three, yes three manifesto’s! A Manifesto for Arts and Health in 2011, a follow up in 2012 and just this year Recoverist Manifesto. We’ve contributed to similar developments in Lithuania and Australia and of course, influenced a National Charter in the UK. What connects all these statements of conviction - what are they all about - possibilities, passion and belief, but above all this, real vision.

So this week in the UK, we’ve seen the publication of political manifesto’s across the spectrum. As bedtime reading, I set about reading the major parties statements of principle, hoping for some glimmer of vision beyond hollow, promises.

I’m left deflated but not unbowed.

The Reality
First of all, these faux policy documents are intended to swamp you. Just too much sales jargon, with little in the way of meticulously thought through methods of delivery. The full documents, with all their big community photographs, would be beyond digestible to most people, the summaries all fur coat and no nickers. So, bleary eyed, I focused down to the arts and culture, (with a wary eye on health) or, as so many of them refer to them, ‘the cultural industries’. (question to self - does this make me an industrialist?)

Do I have to include UKIP? Well if I must, other than noticing only one black face in the whole epic shambles (and that was on the ‘overseas aid’ page), their cultural section is headed by the legend: ‘UKIP believes in Britain. We believe Britain can be a strong, proud, independent, sovereign nation. We are the envy of the world for our rich history, our art and our architecture, our monarchy’.  It’s leader is committed to scrapping, ‘tuition fees for students studying science, technology, engineering, maths, or medical degrees’. So here’s a clear message to arts and humanities students everywhere! That’s about it for their contribution. It’s worth noting that people from different ethnic backgrounds make up 14% of our population...that’s around eight million people, including the artists that provoke and entertain us and the surgeons that cut out your tumours, nurses that care for you and the teachers that educate your children - and just about every other walk of life that contributes to our grand country.

The Green Party manifesto was actually coherent and intelligent with great LGBT policy, but its references to culture and the arts were near nonexistent. Shame - in my heart, it feels it should be something they understand intrinsically. They suggest ‘Public support for the arts is part of a civilised society,’ but only go on to promise to ‘support initiatives the arts and sport accessible to all’. Other than working to support ‘fair pay’ in the arts - that’s about it, though their commitment to public health seems fair. 

The Liberal Democrats produced another very full document and their pledge to both transform mental health services and equalise parity between mental and physical health is not to be questioned. In fact most of the other parties have jumped on the bandwagon with this one. So too, they promise to ‘publish a national wellbeing strategy, which puts better health and wellbeing for all at the heart of government policy. This will cover all aspects of government policy, including transport, access to nature, and housing, at national and local level.’ I found this appealing and interesting, but the fact culture and the arts are missing here, is a real disappointment. In fact, I had to scroll through the index to find their minimal reference to ‘Pride in Creativity’, which started well with, ‘Liberal Democrats understand that arts, creative industries and culture are crucial to Britain’s success and essential for personal fulfilment and quality of life’, and ended with the usual platitudes common to all manifesto’s around the familiar refrain of maintaining free access to museums and galleries. They do however, seem committed to equality and diversity across the board.

The Conservatives sandwiched ‘Heritage, Creativity and Sports’ coquettishly between the NHS and Big Society! Do they realise how visionary they could have been if they’d bridged the two? So near, and yet so very, very far. They inevitably lead the way in the language of commodifying culture and the arts, declaring, ‘the creative industries have become our fastest-growing economic sector, contributing nearly £77 billion to the UK economy – driven in part by the tax incentives for films, theatre, video games, animation and orchestras we introduced. Our support for the film industry has resulted in great British films and encouraged Hollywood’s finest to flock to the UK.’ Hey Ho - it’s all about the money (...and yes, I know there are mentions of Manchester in there - obviously). 

Although it’s on the back page of its manifesto and may seem out of the loop to our North West community, Plaid Cymru give 2 pages to the arts and commit to access for all, young people’s acces to the arts and family participation in the arts. Their celebration of Welsh culture and identity is rich and central to their strategy. Again, the Scottish National Party whilst seeming distant from the NW, inevitably holds some power in the event of a hung parliament. At the time of writing this blog however, they were the only party not to have published their manifesto.

And finally, for our English voters at least, there’s the Labour Party who kick off with something of a vision, that, ‘Labour believes that art and culture gives form to our hopes and aspirations and defines our heritage as a nation. The arts allow us to celebrate our common humanity in the creation and celebration of beauty. The arts should belong to all and be open to all to take part in. We will guarantee a universal entitlement to a creative education so that every young person has access to cultural activity and the arts by strengthening creative education in schools and after-school clubs. Institutions that receive
arts funding will be required to open up their doors to young people, and we will work with public bodies to rebalance arts funding across the country.

Labour do do something a little more solid, and balance the story of ‘economic innovation’ alongside the arts as being a ‘powerful force in social renewal’. But they offer a small nugget in a commitment to ‘create a Prime Minister’s Committee on the Arts, Culture and Creative Industries, with a membership drawn from all sectors and regions. The Committee will bring issues of concern direct to the attention of the Prime Minister.’ It’s early days, and this is of course a manifesto promise from a party in opposition, not in office. But if Labour are successful, the arts and health community must hold them to this promise and insure our agenda’s (plural) are heard, and acted on - not in some reductive, mono-cultural, geographically specific, prescriptive manner - but as a deeply rich movement, with cross-cutting potential across the political spectrum - less disease focused - and truly focused on the social determinants of health.

It should be mandatory for all eligible adults to vote. If you haven’t registered to vote do so before the end of play on 20th April @ 

The Delusion
So, eight million people are from ethnic minorities in the UK and one makes it onto the pages of UKIP’s manifesto. I guess we should be reassured by our current senior ministers and the rich ethnic and gender balance of our Cabinet Office. Let’s have a peek eh? Of the 22 current Ministers, we have five women. Well that’s four more then when Mrs Thatcher was in power. OK maybe she let homophobic Janet Young have a seat at high table for a year, but my rather sordid namesake Cecil Parkinson, soon pushed her off it. Still, surely today's Cabinet must have a rich ethnic mix? Hmmm Secretary of Sate for Culture, Media and Sport and former Vice President at Chase Manhattan Bank, Sajid Javid. So that looks pretty much like 1 of 22 people. Oh dear. Still, we have Pickles in the cabinet - that’s one thing to be grateful of. (a pickle is a vegetable isn’t it?)

I actually miss Sayeeda Warsi being in cabinet. She resigned over the government’s policy on Gaza, which she described as ‘morrally indefencable’ - ah a politician with a free voice and principles - very rare indeed. Perhaps I’d give her a role in my dream cabinet alongside Glenda Jackson who could share some arts responsibility with Banksy. Maybe Adam Curtis and Warsi might make a great job-share in Justice. Peter Tatchell - you can share Equity + Diversity somehow with someone from Femen and maybe, just maybe we can rope Russell Brand in as PM for a while. Hey - maybe even as El Presidente? But I guess that's another story.

Hey ho - who’d be on your dream cabinet reshuffle? 

Still, we need to vote. If our arts/health agenda is concerned with anything and we’re serious about addressing inequalities and the social determinants of health - we should look to civic society and social justice in our work. Let’s exercise this right, long fought for by our relatives and let's motivate other people to vote too.

Let's remember the key things (edited down for this blog) that we agreed when we pulled our first manifesto together:

>we aspire to our vision of a better society, not a big society, and will share this vision far and wide and inspire and support people in the struggle to get there

>we will plant culture at the core of other strands of decision making and influence the hearts and minds politicians and the public

>our language will speak to a wider community and not be self-congratulatory or sanctimonious

>we embrace diverse disciplines and are not constrained by individual professions

>we will challenge ourselves to engage with the cynical

>we take the long-view and look beyond short-termism to generational change

>we will nurture local activity that embraces a world view

>we will not reduce our work to a standardised form, but will articulate our potency by co-creating a common language and shared vision

>this is a movement, we are the resources; we will tell the story of our work and like a virus, will spread 

>we will meet, we will talk, we will argue and we will influence change, thriving on critique and rallying our resources...face-to-face, person-to-person

>creativity goes beyond materialism and is like food and water, art is an expression of imagination and a powerful vehicle for social change

The Aspiration
At the Chaos and Comfort event in February, 200+ people came to MMU to discuss arts and public health research and practice. It was a damn fine day. As part of the event we discussed the Arts and Health Manifesto and where we were in the here and now. Those present made copious notes of which I have studiously aggregated and transcribed, so to round off this Election Special, and in a period where our politicians seem a little devoid of vision, may I share our rapid-fire 2020 Chaos and Comfort aspirations:

Prevention is Better than Cure (FACT)

The poorest people are disenfranchised, disengaged and disempowered by the current political system  

Arts and Culture inspire and influence people, but so many people feel disconnected to the arts 

Inequalities in health and culture are endemic amongst the most economically disadvantaged people 

Charges in education prevents people expanding their horizons and progressing

Increasing inequalities are unacceptable - our work is increasingly political with both a small p and a big p


We will start with What Works and not get bogged down with what doesn’t 

We will smash & burn the BARRIERS & BOUNDARIES that we are told prevent us from moving forwards

By 2020:

- the economic case for the arts (+ health) has been accepted 

- artists and health professionals working together are being paid well for their endeavours

- a national/international body of evidence is freely available and constantly expanding

- we are a valued profession

- arts education from early years onwards is expanding and flourishing

- we will be providing free, enthusiastic support for each other through multi-sectoral events

- we have developed new research models

- culture will have escaped the clutch of pseudo-scientists and understand its value in its own terms

- the arts will be valued within their own rights, within health and social care and beyond slavish instrumentalism

- passion for the arts is nurtured in schools

- human experience will be valued alongside scientific evidence

- bridges between research organisations and communities will be commonplace

- the arts are reconnected to the people

- we speak a rich and common language

- health and wellbeing are influenced by participation and engagement in cultural activity

- research is undertaken for deeper understanding of culture beyond blind financial justification

- wellbeing is understood in terms beyond selfish individualism and superficial happiness 

- pessimism is not seen as a symptom of depression but a healthy response to injustices 

- health doesn’t just happen in a clinical vacuum and culture and the arts don’t just happen in galleries and theatres 

- we are a cultural and political movement


Friday, 10 April 2015

…the door is ajar

Short and sweet again this week, but back to normal (whatever that is) very soon. For a number of reasons, I find myself coming back to Dennis Potter and his conversation with Melvyn Bragg in which he describes seeing the spring blossom with new insight, only possible - he insists - when you’re facing your own death.

It was and still is, a remarkable interview. I’ve just read a small collection of poems by Clive James, called Sentenced to Life. Coming to terms with his own mortality, James shares his powerful and personal ruminations eloquently and in a way, for my part at least, that would be beyond my ability. I could share so many of these profound pieces, but I guess it would be far better to buy the book, so here’s one that’s freely available on his website.

Event Horizon
For years we fooled ourselves. Now we can tell
How everyone our age heads for the brink
Where they are drawn into the unplumbed well,
Not to be seen again. How sad, to think
People we once loved will be with us there
And we not touch them, for it is nowhere.

Never to taste again her pretty mouth!
It’s been forever, though, since last we kissed.
Shadows evaporate as they go south,
Torn, by whatever longings still persist,
Into a tattered wisp, a streak of air,
And then not even that. They get nowhere.

But once inside, you will have no regrets.
You go where no one will remember you.
You go below the sun when the sun sets,
And there is nobody you ever knew
Still visible, nor even the most rare
Hint of a face to humanise nowhere.

Are you to welcome this? It welcomes you.
The only blessing of the void to come
Is that you can relax. Nothing to do,
No cruel dreams of subtracting from your sum
Of follies. About those, at last, you care:
But soon you need not, as you go nowhere.

Into the singularity we fly
After a stretch of time in which we leave
Our lives behind yet know that we will die
At any moment now. A pause to grieve,
Burned by the starlight of our lives laid bare,
And then no sound, no sight, no thought. Nowhere.

What is it worth, then, this insane last phase
When everything about you goes downhill?
This much: you get to see the cosmos blaze
And feel its grandeur, even against your will,
As it reminds you, just by being there,
That it is here we live or else nowhere.

Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs
Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs, the European exchange programme for entrepreneurs is open for applications. Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs is a cross-border exchange programme which gives new or aspiring entrepreneurs the chance to learn from experienced entrepreneurs running small businesses in other Participating Countries. The exchange of experience takes place during a stay with the experienced entrepreneur, which helps the new entrepreneur acquire the skills needed to run a small firm. The host benefits from fresh perspectives on his/her business and gets the opportunities to cooperate with foreign partners or learn about new markets. The stay is partially funded by the European Union. The programme is open to new entrepreneurs, firmly planning to set up their own business or have already started one within the last three years; and experienced entrepreneurs who own or manage a Small or Medium-Sized Enterprise in one of the Participating Countries who would be willing to host a new entrepreneur. Read more at:

The Day I Stood Up Alone
I'd like to share a Ted Talk (for first and last time maybe, as a lot of them seem like hot air and self aggrandisement). Here however, is Boniface Mwangi and his story about standing up to powerful forces and utilising the arts. Our arts/health field seems saturated with the genteel benevolence of affluent middle England - (thanks to MR for sharing this) - showing that beyond the gated community of Albion, there are people not just blowing their gilded trumpets, but attempting to address social and political change.