Sunday, 24 April 2016

‘The only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable.’

Thanks to the economist JK Galbraith for that pithy observation.

Your blogger is quite a keen European and whilst not wanting to knock those in favour of staying in Europe, HM Treasury has left me unimpressed by reducing the argument to stay, to the ‘dismal science!’ Again, biased assumptions and dummy variables illustrated through the most impenetrable pseudo-scientific equations and designed to blind the pubic with maths. These equations are intended to stump you, by quantifying how we’ll all be poorer if we leave.

Just give us a good argument you gibbering fools, give us reasons, provocations and narrative to inform our decision making, not your ridiculous manufactured 'objectivity'.

Applications for tickets now available
Last week I mentioned our free event with colleagues from Arts Promotion Centre Finland on Tuesday 17th May between 10:00 and 15:00. You can now apply for a ticket by clicking on the image of Alpo Aaltokoski below. Tickets are very limited, so please only book if you intend to come.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport have published:
The Culture White Paper
If you’ve not already seen it, ‘this is the first white paper for culture in more than 50 years and only the second ever published. It is the latest contribution to our approach to public support for art and culture.”

There’s a lot in it and I’m pleased that they acknowledge the ongoing work of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Arts and Health, specifically:

‘We will work with Arts Council England, the Heritage Lottery Fund and Public Health England to build on the findings of this programme; to ensure that publicly-funded cultural events and programmes have a cumulative positive effect on health; and to respond to the recommendations of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts and Health when it reports on arts and health policy next year.’

They also acknowledge that, ‘more work is required to understand the impact of culture on some of the high level outcomes, in particular subjective wellbeing’

You can read the full report HERE.

The Royal Society for Public Health... 
...are awarding the latest round of gongs to those who put themselves forward for an arts and health award. If you fancy a bash, the details are on the flyer above. It has to be noted that whilst it's a public health award, the criteria seem less focused on communities and the social determinants of health and more on arts and music in hospitals and hospices!  
For more information and details of how to nominate yourself, click HERE.

Grants to Help New, Innovative Visual Arts Projects
The Elephant Trust has announced that the next deadline for applications is the 27th June 2016. 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 now being 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 by clicking on the Lee Miller photograph above.

Saturday, 16 April 2016

...Arts Promotion Centre Finland at Manchester School of Art

After a short break, this blog comes bouncing back with a spring in its step - a little older, and yet - optimistic at the potential of all our futures. First thing to report is that in collaboration with the Manchester School of Art, Arts and Health Research Network, there’ll be a North West Arts and Health Network event here at MMU on 17th May between 10:00 and 15:00. More details will emerge over the next couple of weeks, but get the date in your diary. In short, we’ll have seven guests from Arts Promotion Centre Finland whose work is all focused on health and wellbeing and encompasses producers, dancers and theatre practitioners and more. We want to hear about their work in research, development and practice and share some of ours with them. So a day of sharing and exploration and - who knows - maybe future collaborative work.

Did you know that the Finnish Government aims to anchor arts and cultural services as a part of the social and health care system? As part of this three-year endeavour, Arts Promotion Centre Finland is funding arts and cultural projects, which advance wellbeing and are organised alongside the social and health care sector, with two million euros. The idea is to increase the use of art and culture services in social and health care sector - especially across preventive work. Building on the principle of a percent for art (which has predominantly been focused on the visual arts in health care buildings) the government is hoping to apply to this to the performing arts!

Want to know more? Keep the date and check this blog for an update next week. For now, An Elephant Never Forgets.

Funding to Support Disadvantaged Young People
The Weavers' Company, a textile-related, charitable and sociable organisation, has announced that the next closing date for its grants programme is the 1st August 2016. The Weaver's Company Benevolent Fund supports projects working with disadvantaged young people (aged 5 to 30 years) to ensure that they are given every possible chance to meet their full potential and to participate fully in society. The Fund also aims to help young people at risk of criminal involvement to stay out of trouble and assist in the rehabilitation of offenders, particularly young offenders both in prison and after release. Grants are usually no more than £15,000 per annum, and to make sure grants of this size have an impact, we will not fund large organisations. To be eligible for funding, local organisations such as those working in a village, estate or small town should normally have an income of less than £100,000. Those working across the UK should normally have an income of not more than £250,000.
Click hither.

Lloyds Bank Foundation announces next funding round (England & Wales)
The Lloyds Bank Foundation for England & Wales, which provides funding to charities for projects to help people break their cycle of disadvantage, has announced that its grants programmes will re-open for applications on the 25th April 2016. The Foundations operates two funding programmes. These are: "Invest" which is a flexible, long term core funding programme for charities helping disadvantaged people. Grants are up to £25,000 per year for between 2 and 6 years, with the opportunity for continuation funding for up to six years in total; and "Enable" which is a smaller and shorter grants programme for charities that have identified clear development needs. This funding aims to help the organisations deliver their mission more effectively. These grants are up to a total £15,000 for up to two years. The funding is available to registered charities and charitable incorporated organisations (CIOs) with an income of between £25,000 and £1 million. To be eligible, organisations are expected to be working with people 17 years or older, experiencing multiple disadvantage at one of the critical points in their life. The only exceptions are young people who are under 17 years of age and young parents or looked after children and disabled young people moving into independent living. Click wither.

Who is this young girl?

Additional £1.5m for the Near Neighbours Fund (England)
The Near Neighbours small grants programme will reopen to applications in spring/early summer 2016 following an additional £1.5m investment from the UK Government. Using the infrastructure of the Church of England, the Near Neighbours funding programme provides small grants and support to grassroots groups to help them run projects that bring about lasting benefits to neighbourhoods with significant religious diversity. The idea is to bring people together that are religiously and ethnically diverse, so that they can get to know each other better, build relationships of trust and collaborate together on initiatives that improve the local community they live in. The funding covers a broad range of activities across the arts, the environment and sport.
Click thither.

The Discovery Foundation
The Santander Foundation has changed its name to the Discovery Foundation. This is to reflect the importance of its new flagship community programme - the Discovery Project - within Santander UK. The Discovery Foundation will provide grants for local projects that give disadvantaged people the confidence to discover and create new opportunities. The Foundation's previous three grants schemes have been combined into a single new scheme called Discovery Grants making it simpler to apply for funding. Discovery Grants of up to £5,000 are available to UK Registered Charities, Community Interest Companies and Credit Unions to fund local projects helping disadvantaged people. Funding is available to cover part time salaries, equipment or materials but is for one year and must deliver a local project, not a national initiative. Applicants need to complete a Discovery Grant nomination form which is available in all Santander branches. 
There are no closing dates and grants are made every month. Oh, just click here. 

Homotopia Festival Project Manager 
£20k - £22k pro rata depending on experience (£8840.00 based on £22,100 pro rata)
Hours: 30 hrs. p/w, usually over 4 days; May – November 2016
Homotopia champions, develops and invests in artistic and cultural experiences that enrich people's lives. The organisation produces year round engagement programmes and an internationally renowned arts festival every November. We are looking for an exceptional & proactive individual for a new position of ‘Festival Project Manager’.  This is an exciting opportunity to join a unique cultural organisation with an international profile. The role will provide organisational, curatorial and administrative support, coordinating the preparation & supporting the delivery of the Homotopia Festival in Liverpool November 2016. Click on the elephant above.


Saturday, 26 March 2016

...a love filled slap

This weekend marks the start of the 100 years commemoration of the Easter Rising in Ireland, where on the streets of Dublin, free thinkers, poets and activists rose up against the English, ultimately resulting in the execution of many of those involved and putting a marker down in Irish history. 

In January this year, I was invited by the always imaginative and ground breaking, Arts + Health Ireland, to take part in one of their events to mark the Easter Rising, and share the Manifesto for Arts & Health that so many of you took part in developing, here in the North West of England. Exploring its development and it’s relevance in the here and now - and with something of the spirit of this poets who drafted the Proclamation of the Republic in 1916 - we shared and explored our manifesto a bit more - and who knows - something very exciting might emerge from the streets of Ireland in the name of arts and health.

So, this edition of the blog shares some of the thinking behind that event in Dublin, providing the presentation I gave of a reflective paper, A Love Filled Slap in either film, full colour glossy words, or plain black and white text. There’s footage from the chair of the day, Pat Cooke and much more if you want it, by clicking here.

Meanwhile back in the UK, and not entirely disconnected, I had the pleasure of accompanying Alan Higgins, Director of Public Health in Oldham, to speak at an All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) meeting exploring devolution across Greater Manchester and the potential synergies between the arts and health - which I’d argue is, in and of itself, a social movement. Those eagle-eyed blog watchers will know that I’ve been advertising a PhD opportunity to be central to this agenda, not least to offer a timely critical eye - albeit from an artists perspective. As soon as I have news to report on this, I will. For now though, I am convinced that if devolution is happening (and it is happening), we should be part of it - questioning, provoking, exciting and contributing to social change. 

Let’s keep our eye on the political ball too, as I for one am deeply concerned about the further £3.5b savings announced in the budget for government departmental cuts! The impact on local authorities and inevitable consequences for culture and the arts, are something we should be ready to counter. It was unsurprising that in the APPG on devolution that I spoke at, that research reared its head. We weren’t there to talk about research or evaluation, and yet the same old blinkered arguments will be peddled time and again. ‘Where’s the evidence?’ - and yes, its the same old RCT gibberish, obsessed with pathology and hard scientific fact and the Cochrane Library! But give us a break - we were discussing public health and the social determinants of health and inequalities - yes we need to talk about evidence (which there are bags of) but at the appropriate time and critically, in the language of cultural value, not just pseudo-scientific gibberish.

From an altogether different point of view, but arguably from a global health perspective, John Pilger throws down the gauntlet to us, that is entirely connected to both the Easter Rising and perhaps re-imagining what we might consider ‘evidence’ of impact:

‘What has happened to the great tradition of popular direct action, unfettered to parties? Where is the courage, imagination and commitment required to begin the long journey to a better, just and peaceful world? Where are the dissidents in art, film, the theatre, literature?’  

This blog will be silent for one week as your blogger escapes to the wilderness, so no April fool this year. That said, there's a new fool on the block in this arts health  field, who doesn't just talk rot one day a year, but 365 days a year (and in a leap year 366).


Sunday, 20 March 2016

In the news this week...

What a motley crew! Well, at least one of them has scuttled off under a rock for a while. Keep your eyes peeled though, because these things have a habit of either giving you a nip when you least expect it, or else stick to the soles of your feet. Urgh!

Building on the 70 original pieces of work funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and selectively drawing on other existing evidence, this new report from the Cultural Values Project provides an attempt to bring together what is know about the difference made by arts and culture and to consider what frameworks, approaches and methodologies are most suited to the task of capturing cultural value. (click on the Cultural Tape below for the full report) More specifically, the Report sheds new light on a number of areas where research shows arts and culture to make a difference. These include:
  • Personal reflectiveness and empathy, illustrated by case studies of the role of arts and culture in the criminal justice system and their place in supporting professional and informal carers;
  • The relationship between arts and culture in producing engaged citizens, more active in voting and volunteering, and more willing to articulate alternatives and fuel a broader political imagination;
  • A critical assessment of the widespread use of arts and cultural interventions to help peace-building and healing after armed conflict, including civil conflict such as that in Northern Ireland;
  • Whether the role of small-scale arts in generating healthy urban communities might be more important for the health of towns than large-scale culture-led regeneration projects;
  • The ways in which arts and culture feeds into the creative industries, supports the innovation system and attracts talent and investment to places;
  • The contribution of arts and culture to addressing key health challenges such as mental health, an ageing population and dementia.

You may remember that last year this blog put a call out for women who were pregnant to get in touch with the theatre company Quarantine to influence one of a quartet of works that they were developing. The work is being performed at the Old Granada Studios and is selling out VERY fast. Click on the Gavin Parry photograph below, to find out more.

Arts and Social Care Educators
You are being invited to participate in a questionnaire as part of a European wide project examining multi-professional work in Art and Social Work (MOMU). The project aims to define and develop new multi-professional working skills and environments for inclusion within educational/training programmes and curricula. 

The questionnaire will take you approximately 10 minutes to complete.  Your participation in this study is entirely voluntary and you can withdraw at any time without any penalties. You are free to omit any question without prejudice. Please chose the most relevant questionnaire for you:

Arts Educators:

Social Care Educators:

Sorting the Sock Drawer
An intriguing event at The George Ewart Evans Centre for Storytelling, University of South Wales which premieres the first public performance of a new piece by Eirwen Malin.
Eirwen has blended a traditional storytelling style with personal commentary to produce an entertaining perspective on a life changing health issue. More details by clicking on the green socks.

Lapidus Day 2016
Lapidus promotes the practice of writing for wellbeing and the benefits it brings. Lapidus supports its members, many of whom are writing for wellbeing practitioners working in education, health, community, voluntary, private and public sectors, by sharing information, holding events and creating networks through its country and regional groups.
The Lapidus Day 2016 is Saturday 14th May. The event is hosted by the University of Chester, in their newest riverside campus. For more details go to: 

Loss and Recovery: imagining new ways ahead...
Yet another arts and health project succumbs to the climate of austerity. Here is an account of Creative Alternatives in Sefton from Dr Jessica Bockler. Click on the image above to read Jessica's account.

Sunday, 13 March 2016

…the first signs of spring

The Vacuum Cleaner
…and voices more lucid and tempered than my own are blossoming! A new piece of writing by Fran├žois Matarasso as part of Arts + Health Ireland’s Perspectives series, questions pressures to prove the value of arts interventions in health care only according to narrow scientific assessment models. Writer and curator Frances Williams shares some of her well measured thoughts on arts and health frameworks on the Arts Professional website. Two pieces of work that are well worth reading. Thank you both. Here's a quote from Matarasso to whet your appetite.

The purpose and value of artistic creativity is exploration. Wanting to know in advance what it will discover is ridiculous.

Anyway, back to my less tempered reality. There’s a wonderful film online of Sir Peter Whatshisname - you know, the one who made Big Brother and whose granddad dug drains - and Health Secretary Hunt,(looking just a tad redundant) but I can’t bear to link it to this blog, it feels almost viral by association! I’m sure you can find it, but some of the throw away lines of these illustrious leaders are priceless, especially all those lists of the things they know and don’t know. I think there's even promise of a 'cure' thrown in too - and of course, the arts are cheaper than medicine! There's quality for you. All hail those inspiring leaders! Oh, and it’s a good publicity vehicle for the Daily Mail too. Need I say more? Here's that link to my gibberish on much the same vein as FM and FW above.

How to be a Craftivist
Want to know more about craftivism and the work of Sarah Corbett? She has a book coming out that I've signed up for one!'How To Be A Craftivist: the art of gentle protest' Click on the wonderful Hannah Henderson train ticket below, for all the details.

Director, Pioneer Projects
Salary: £24, 827 (based on £30,000 pro rata for 30 hrs p/week) 
Location: High Bentham, North Yorkshire
Pioneer Projects (Celebratory Arts) Ltd is an arts and health charity which uses creative activity to promote health and well-being for communities and the individuals. The organisation is at a key stage in its development, having secured new funding, and we are looking for a Director with a strong track record in:
Providing vision, leadership and managing change
Leading on income generation and service development
Influencing policy makers and key stakeholders

For further information and an application pack please call Lynda Graveson on 015242 62672 or email: Closing date for applications is 2pm on Wednesday the 23th March 2016. Interviews will take place on Wednesday the 6th April 2016 at Looking Well Studios, King Street, High Bentham, Lancaster, LA2 7HG.

Sunday, 6 March 2016

...the brutalist manchester edition

A chockablock blog this week with no room for me to get my two-penneth in! Thanks for all the email - great to hear from those of you in far-flung places - and those of you nearer to home. For those who might have missed it, (no, not Mussolini) there is a potential PhD opportunity to work with me on the arts, health and devolution agenda across Greater Manchester. If you’re interested, you don’t have long to apply, so follow the instructions and advice HERE. For those of you interested in the devolution agenda, but perhaps not a PhD, I’ll be hosting an event in May where we can explore the arts health terrain across Greater Manchester in terms of devolution. More details on this blog very, very soon.

Arts Council England opens conversation with arts & culture sector on investment from 2018
Arts Council England is asking the arts and culture sector to respond to proposals published today about its investment in arts and culture from 2018 onwards. The Arts Council’s current investment cycle ends in 2018.  In preparation, it is looking at its three main investment strands - strategic funds, grants for the arts and its national portfolio.  All three strands, and any changes to them from 2018, will continue to support the Arts Council’s 10 year strategy, Achieving Great Art and Culture for Everyone, which was developed in consultation with the public and the arts and culture sector.
Four-year funding contracts, a tiered framework for NPOs and a ring-fenced budget for individual artists, and integrating funding for arts, museums and libraries, and the focus of strategic funds are just some of the proposals being put forward for discussion as Arts Council England consults on its plans. The full proposals document can be found by clicking on Rowlandsway House above.

Our next national exhibition showcasing artists facing barriers to the art world opens at Pallant House Gallery in Chichester on 12 March. It is on for 3 months and is titled ‘Radical Craft: Altnerative Ways of Making.’ Further information on the exhibition can be found by clicking on the view of Clifford Court below.

A free Study Book from MAPSI
Managing art projects with societal impact is about creating and managing the power of art projects to change individuals and societies. This book offers insights, tools and case studies to explain how to influences and to raise your own reflections and new questions. Funded with the generous financial aid of the European Commission, this book is freely distributed in its online version (293 pages with conceptual discussions, methods and case studies). Click on the Swinton building below for details.

Call for Papers: Rediscovering the Radical 
1st – 3rd September 2016
March 3, 2016
Rediscovering the Radical
1 – 3rd September 2016, Liverpool
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 LIPA (Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts) in conjunction with Unity Theatre, Rediscovering the Radical will be an inspirational and agitational weekend of international performances, papers, workshops and discussion. It will be a unique opportunity for artists, activists, academics, participants, change-makers, researchers and arts managers to share their thinking and their practice, to learn from each other, and to develop new cross-cutting ideas around Theatre for Social Change (TFSC)> Click on M&S below for all the details.

Applied Drama Practitioner - Valley and Vale Community Arts ‘Bridging the Gap’ Project
Valley and Vale Community Arts is looking for a skilled and committed Applied Drama Practitioner with experience of working with children and young people with ASD. The project is based in Bridgend and surrounding areas, working in partnership with The Bridge Alternative Provision in Bridgend, and is funded by The Paul Hamlyn Foundation, with support from The Arts Council of Wales and Bridgend County Borough Council.For detailsCLICK HERE. 

Funding for Project that Support Children and Young People (UK)
Registered Charities that work with young people have the opportunity to apply for grants through the DM Thomas Foundation for Young People Central Grants Programme. Registered Charities can apply for grants ranging from a few hundred pounds up to £30,000 per year for up to 2 years that are working in the areas of education or health with one of the Foundation' four chosen focus groups. These are:

•Children and young people with disabilities
•Children and young people who are sick in hospital
•Employability and training programmes for disadvantaged young people
•Children and young people who are life limited (requiring palliative care).
The next closing date for applications is 5.30 pm on the 10th May 2016. Read more by clicking on the young tyke below by Shirley Baker in 1967.

Funding for Digital Projects with a Social Impact (UK)
The Nominet Trust which provides funding and support to technology with a social benefit, has announced that its Social Tech Seed Investment Programme will re-open for applications on the 14th March 2016. Social Tech Seed is an investment programme that offers early-stage investment of between £15,000 and £50,000 to social entrepreneurs and charitable organisations who are looking to develop new ideas to use digital technology for social benefits. This programme provides funding and support to help entrepreneurs nurture, develop and test their ideas. Applicants may also be able to apply to a discretionary fund of up to £5,000 should they need access to specific expertise to support their early-stage development.
The Trust is looking for applications that demonstrate the potential of technology to tackle some of the big social issues in sectors including:
•Environment and sustainability
•Wellbeing and healthcare.
Read more by clicking on the Hulme Crescents below...


Sunday, 28 February 2016

Arts and Health - in Fashion?

...if that’s the case - beware!

Working at Manchester School of Art, I am exposed weekly to some sublime and challenging work produced by students and staff alike.(not the ludicrous and non-MMU image above) With my colleague Helen Felcey, I run an optional Health & Wellbeing unit for masters students in the arts school that is in its third year now, and is explores a public health and inequalities agenda. 

Building on previous work with MA Design Lab students, the first year we ran it, the work was focused on substance misuse and resulted in many rich outcomes including the RECOVERIST MANIFESTO. The second wave of students all contributed to a rich showcase of activity at the CHAOS & COMFORT event and launch of an AHRC Cultural Value research synthesis. Now the third cohort of students have been working around a very explicit MENTAL HEALTH agenda and the work produced has been challenging, nuanced and quite wonderful. My genuine frustration is that the work isn’t more widely available and in reality, is exhibited for one day for the purposes of assessment! 

This optional unit is quite an interesting approach to exploring the arts and health agenda in higher education. For one thing, the students by and large are that bit older; have most certainly spent a few years refining their practice and have the key ingredient - a little more life experience - both positive and negative! So - for my part - this way of working with students with a bit of nous, but without restricting their practice to arts and health in its totality, is liberating for them - and illuminating for us.

There’s a temptation to think that we should be creating new undergraduate courses in arts and health, but for my money - letting younger students really flourish in their own creative practice and evolve in their thinking - is critical. But then Arts and Health is really flavour of the month and wellbeing is bursting out all over! It’s great that our agenda and the cultural value of the arts is at last being understood, but if it’s just a fashionable fad - we could quite possibly be doomed!

We’ll all have seen that beleaguered Health Secretary Hunt was recently held up as an arts and health champion of sorts! Well, we can see the sorts of decisions he is making, and in our austerity obsessed country, it all seems part of an inevitable chopping up the NHS into useful cost-efficient pieces. No, this arts and health agenda doesn’t need pint-sized venture philanthropists commodifying the field, but rather people with intelligence, nuance and values. Still, ‘now they know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall.’(or something of similar grand proportions)

Those students who through a considered and aggregated process, explored the very real texture of human experience and displayed work that isn’t the slightest bit ‘on trend’ -  remind me that those jumping on this agenda because it’s ‘fashionable’ will be exposed in the fullness of time for their opportunist vacuity. Let’s celebrate our emerging artists and free thinkers who offer our world extraordinary ways of thinking, seeing and just maybe - doing.

The Center for Arts in Medicine at the University of Florida has a new website which features a new research database over 1,000 articles specifically related to arts and health. This free open-access database is available to anyone. Great stuff from Jill Sonke and her colleagues and wonderful to see people in the field making this work freely available. CLICK HERE. 

Open Call for NOUS 7 - The Work Issue

For many of us being at work or working for a living takes up more than half of our time.

Probably also more than half of the time of our whole lives. In this issue we want to explore how our work can cause distress, make us unhappy but also show off alternatives that show how fulfilling a profession can be. Is there such a thing as good work and bad work? How do other cultures “work”, how did our grandparents “work”. What work has been done to make the world “better”. What is work, or labour, or profession, and what does it mean to us? Is working in our blood, is it good for our soul to do stuff? Many questions to explore, send us your proposals for essays, short stories, and poetry to