Sunday, 28 June 2015

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The Connected Communities, Dementia & Imagination event was great - my big thanks to all of you who came and contributed and in particular - Kat, Sam, Chris, Teri and Penny. More about that soon. Read reflections on creativity based interventions by occupational therapist, Alison Stefan, here. 

Last week I shared the most excellent job opportunity at the Dukes in Lancaster. I thought that was the bees knees, but good grief! Here's one of the best jobs in the UK at the moment at the superb LEVEL. Following the death of the wonderful Peter Shelton last September, this is one of those rare opportunities to be part of something significant. 



Director at LEVEL (Derbyshire)
Salary £35-42K depending on skills and experience. For 25 years LEVEL (formerly known as First Movement) has pioneered in the power of arts and creativity to change the lives of people with learning disabilities. Based in Derbyshire, the charity’s work has a growing national and international impact. In 2008 we opened the doors of the stunning £1.8million purpose-built LEVEL Centre at Rowsley, where we attract over 5000 attendances per year from people with a learning disability.

A successful NPO bid has secured funding for the 2015-18 period and confirmed the Arts Council’s continued confidence in LEVEL’s past achievements and future aspirations. At this exciting time, we seek an inspirational Director to lead LEVEL’s development as an innovative provider of high quality arts experiences with and for the learning disabled community. Further information and application details can be found at http://levelcentre.com/about/opportunities/ 
or alternatively contact Alison Foote to find out more alison@levelcentre.com or call on 01629 734848 or 07702829985. Closing date for applications is 3pm on 13th July 2015. Interviews are on 24th July 2015.



Singing the Blues Project Officer
The Royal College of Music provides specialised musical education and professional training at the highest international level for performers and composers. The post-holder will be responsible for coordinating the running of the ‘Singing the Blues’ research project, which will investigate the impact of music on postnatal depression. Key tasks will include setting up and managing research interventions for new mothers and their babies, developing marketing strategies to recruit new mothers, supporting the team in collecting and managing research data, and liaising with key project partners.For details, click on the photo below.



There's a new Chair for the Culture, Media & Sport Select Committee at Westminster, so let's keep a watchful eye on Jesse Norman, MP, who has been elected Chairman of this Committee, a post previously held by current Culture Minister John Whittingdale. He is a Trustee of the Roundhouse, a director of the Hay Festival and a Patron of the Music Pool, and has called for a redistribution of arts funding away from London and to the regions, recognising that “two-thirds of the country lives outside the readily affordable range of ‘national’ cultural organisations”. Norman said that he was “absolutely delighted” to have been elected, and was looking forward to fulfilling his new role by “holding government departments and other public bodies to account”. The election of the other members of the Committee is to follow in due course, with a seat allocation per party. Read more by clicking on the chair below!



Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship
Every year I encourage people to apply for this wonderful opportunity. Do you practice or support those working in Heritage Crafts? Would you benefit from travelling overseas to meet other people with the same specialism as you, in order to share ideas, innovation and skills, and to reinvigorate your work? Click on the Boeing 314 for more details.



Feminist Review Trust Grants (UK/International)
The Feminist Review Trust has announced that the next round of its 2015 grants programme is now open for applications. The Feminist Review Trust gives grants of up to £15,000 to projects in the UK and internationally that support women. The Trust will prioritise applications for:

  • Hard to fund projects that have no other obvious sources of funding
  • Pump priming activities to help start a project in the hope that it will then be able attract sufficient funding to continue
  • Interventionist projects that support feminist values
  • Training and development projects
  • One off events
  • Dissemination of relevant material
  • Core funding for groups that struggle to raise it elsewhere.

Other projects outside of these above categories may be funded but potential applicants should contact the Trust to discuss eligibility before submitting an application. The deadline for applications is 30th September 2015. Read more by clicking on the classic Spare Rib.


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Sunday, 21 June 2015

Corporate wellness is making me sick...


I took part in an excellent and interesting event at the beautiful V&A on Friday. The Sackler Conference 2015: Art, Design and New Technology for Health, was great and it was good to hear people from different sectors getting together, instead of the usual suspects. Chairing a session on interactive and digital art in healthcare environments, was - to a degree - outside my comfort zone. But it was great to share the stage with people from design, curation and the health sector and in fact, it got me thinking again (sorry to drone on) about our work, language and the cult of individual 'wellness'. 

Looking at the wretched Hedonometer Project website today, I notice from their 'research' that people were pretty happy around christmas and valentines day, but (strange, this one) were less happy after the terrorist attack at Charlie Hebdo in Paris and even more unhappy after the arrest of Justin Bieber! Oh yes, and this reliable data was gathered from twitter. That’s accurate then.


So in a fit of pique and primed to write just a few slanderous lines on our burgeoning obsession with quantifying the self through every App (and orifice) conceivable, it is with some relief that I read in one of today's papers, Wellcome Trust Research Fellow at Queen Mary University of London, Mark Honigsbaum has similar concerns, describing far more eloquently than I could, that: ‘In this brave new world of human-technological assemblages, the “digitally engaged patient”, or epatient, becomes the new ideal and a marketer’s wet dream.”

Whilst Honigsbaum focuses on the data, eluding to its storage and usage in a post-Snowden world, for my part I still see a narcissistic consumerism that’s well marketed and which taps into the age-old delusion of defeating death.

Of course, technological advances in health improvement are to be encouraged, it’s just, as Honigsbaum comments, this new technology, ‘...is the thin end of a very long wedge, one that may see us sprinting towards a post-human future in which some people enjoy markedly better health styles and promotion prospects than others.’


A DATE FOR YOUR DIARY
The 7th of October 2015 
The Republic of Arts & Health offers up a free international one-day event at The Manchester School of Art. 

We are Local- We are International 
  LIFE IS MESSY 
    LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL 
        LET US SHARE OUR FAILURES  
            & OUR GLORIOUS SUCCESSES
(More details soon, but the date is fixed) 


…now here's a lovely job!
Inclusive Film and Theatre Officer 
Lancaster theatre and Cinema, the Dukes, works with many marginalised and excluded communities. They are now expanding their film and arts programme for people living with dementia – A Life More Ordinary – both in Lancaster and to other partner venues. They wish to appoint an Inclusive Film and Theatre Officer on a salary scale: £20,000-£23,000 depending on experience.The closing date for completed applications: 5pm Tues 7th July.

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Saturday, 13 June 2015

For the love of - well - for the love of love, actually...


The sun has scorched the earth this week - well, on my own patch of land at least. I’m reminded of some Flaming Lips lyrics: ‘...the sun doesn’t go down, it’s just an illusion caused by the world spinning round.’ A lovely song and apologies for the always-dubious Lips video below. Lovely messages came in about Mike White this week and it was heartening to hear from so many people who had been in some small way, affected by him and his vision of equal, healthy and flourishing communities. A mutual friend of ours had a baby this week and there’s something so bloody good and right and natural about this, it just reminds me - everything continues.



I’ve mentioned it before, but I do like the word amateur. It’s so easy to fall into jargon around ‘professionalism’ when we talk about the arts. Refreshing then, to read about the actor Jim Broadbent and his carvings of wooden people, on which he comments: “This is a hobby, I’m sure it’s therapeutic. It stimulates me, gets me up in the morning so it’s a passion as well,” he said. “I’m keen to get back to it, quite keen to see which way he/she is going to develop. I love getting better at it.”

“They are people, and people depend on love and give love and need love and maybe these people love each other.” His People are on display at the Southbank Centre’s, Festival of Love.



I was asked by Arts + Health over in Ireland to write a short perspective on the creation of the Manifesto for Arts & Health and if you have the inclination to read my thoughts on this process, click on the photograph below. It’s called A Love-Filled Slap, and I’ve been told if you google it, you’re more likely to end up in the the world of S&M - you have been warned!



There are just 10 free tickets left for the Dementia & Imagination event on the 25th June. Click on Bette or Joan to find out more.



I'll be at the Art, Design and New Technology for Health: Sackler Conference at the V&A this Friday 19 June. If you are coming to the event, do say hello. The 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. Programme available by clicking HERE. 



The always compelling NOUS magazine is out. The PANIC edition is to be found in all good Manchester outlets, including my all-time favourite The Koffee Pot. Well done Lisa Lorenz and all the contributors! Great to see the cover by Lithuanian artist, Eglė Gudonytė and new poetic work by Viltautė Krupickaitė.


Whilst our dear old Chancellor has announced his £4.5billion cost-cutting measures within a month of the general election, we should keep a wary eye on the £30m cut to the DCMS’s annual budget of £1.2bn. At the moment, the Arts Council has been asked to cut just 0.3% from its budget as its new Chief Executive calls on the government to back culture while promising a funding shift outside of London. Let’s keep our eyes on all this eh? ACE have announced a number of new funding streams, including investing £35.2 million in helping organisations produce high quality and spectacular events and works of art, particularly outside London. The fund will develop talent and leadership in organisations as well as supporting individual creative projects. There’s now an opportunity for existing Creative people and places consortia to apply for funds to help more people experience and be inspired by the arts. £5 million is available in this round, with a further £5 million in April 2017. Read more by clicking on the £4million Notting Hill home of the chancellor, that according to The Mirror is rented out for around £2,640 per week, as he sleeps in his rent free Downing Street abode. 



An International Conference on Music in Healthcare Settings, hosted by OPUS Music CIC in partnership with air Arts for Health and Royal Derby Hospital and supported using public funding by Arts Council England. This will be taking placed from 9.30am to 4.30pm on Thursday 16th July in the Education Centre at the Royal Derby Hospital, Derby, UK.
Anyone with an interest in music-making within healthcare settings is invited to join us for a stimulating, discussion-filled day on this ever-growing practice. Click HERE.


A short and cracking film of No More Heroes that The Stanglers are taking oh, so seriously

IMPACT: Generate and Demonstrate
16th July 2015, 9.30-4pm
Cartwheel Arts are organising a conference exploring arts and impact. This event is part of their project Art for Wellbeing, which focuses on creative projects to support positive mental wellbeing. Health professionals and Third Sector organisations will share creative solutions to generate positive mental wellbeing. Through creative tools and methodologies, a newly commissioned exhibition and film showcase, they will explore how to capture evidence to effectively communicate impact. Manchester Metropolitan University, Birley Buildings, Hulme, M15 6GX
Please click HERE to purchase tickets. Please note that this event is not organised by Arts for Health, but by Cartwheel Arts.

Idlewild Trust 
The Idlewild Trust has announced that the next closing date for applications to its grant making programme is the 23rd September 2015. The Idlewild Trust is a grant making trust that supports registered charities concerned with the encouragement of the performing and fine arts and crafts, the advancement of education within the arts and the preservation for the benefit of the public of lands, buildings and other objects of beauty or historic interest in the United Kingdom. The Trust awards around £120,000 each year in grants and makes grants of up to £5,000. 
http://www.idlewildtrust.org.uk
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Friday, 5 June 2015

Mike White

Mike White died yesterday. 

Mike had cancer and talked very openly about his experiences and treatment over this last year, and until the last few weeks, had kept a blog which shared some of his reflections and the gritty realities of living with cancer. If you haven’t read it, it’s compelling stuff and can be found by clicking on the lantern procession below.



I first met Mike when I worked for the NHS in Public Mental Health and was looking for ways to strategically embed the arts in my work across North Lancashire and Cumbria. I’d heard about him on the grapevine and was thrilled when he agreed to be part of a steering group up that I sat on, that was planning an arts and health conference in Carlise in 2001. It seemed we were very different creatures, me all nervy and on the brink of histrionics and Mike - well - consistently calm, considered and so, so gentle. The conference was sold out and he was a great hit. Having been closely involved in the recent planning and completion of the Angel of the North in Gateshead, Mike had a certain mainstream arts cachet too!

Our second meeting was over in Dublin in 2004 shortly after I’d left the South West, where I’d been developing Arts for Health Cornwall, and was about to take up my position at MMU. This time, we met quietly and had time to discuss the growing international movement that we were part of and the characters that peppered it - some born of vision and committed to social change - and those shadowy figures, pursuing the market-driven dark-arts! He was candid and we enjoyed long conversations - his vast experience helping me navigate the fraught new arena that I was entering.


We met regularly and informally many times over the intervening years, but rather bizarrely, it was our time spent in Australia as the guest of Margret Meagher, that cemented our friendship. In 2009 her first International Arts and Health Conference, some 10,500 miles away from the northern climbs of England, brought Mike and I together in a way that we’d repeat almost annually up until last November. I have so many grand memories of his complete professionalism (what an ambassador for this field!) and his mischievousness - and his wonderful and always appropriate use of expletives! Walking back to hotels from conference venues in the heat of day and the dead of night, became a regular thing for us.



As members of the National Alliance for Arts and Health we did meet on UK soil, but it was the intimacy of time in Australia and his regular Critical Mass events that really got us thinking and acting as a wider community of interest. Mike regularly brought people together and effortlessly facilitated conversations on small and large scales and his Critical Mass events brought people around the globe together to actively peruse inquiries and develop practice. From these extended conversations sprang global friendships and some serious collaborative work.

Only last year and in the middle of his cancer treatment, did Mike come over to MMU to give us a suitably mischievous - but completely serious presentation - which he called - Randomised Thoughts, Controlled Ramblings and a few Trialised Thoughts! Exhausted from his cross-Pennine foray to the Manchester School of Art, Mike blew us away and opened his presentation with a booming youtube film of Psycho Killer by the Talking Heads, conjoining his early work by way of Welfare State International to the possibilities of generating new traditions - and sharing a wonderful anecdote about meeting the woman he would marry - and her slightly tipsy rendition of Psycho Killer to a nightclub full of people. Mike couldn’t half tell a quirky story.



Imploring us to share something of the spiritus mundi, Mike framed much of his presentation in David Byrne’s ‘slow dawning insight about creation,’ that 'context is everything.' Urging us to consider Bevan’s collective commitment to social habits and offering the best we can give to society, he subverted the context of health and safety from authoritative and risk-averse control, to caring for each other. His own work illustrated perfectly how investing in children and young people reaps dividends in generational change, not least in creating young researchers who inform new ways of thinking, being and doing.



Author of the seminal work in arts and community health “...A Social Tonic’, Mike remained committed to the principles of the Welfare State and a believer that creativity, culture and the arts were central to flourishing communities. His generosity imbued all he did with warmth, typified in those celebratory and conversational events he so often hosted.

Outside our community of arts/health, I often describe the positive working relationships that emerge from shared beliefs and vision, and how once a full moon, these spill over into real and deeper friendships. I’m proud to have had Mike’s friendship and wonder who I will look up to now? Always following in his footsteps, I will remember him as a man of superb intelligence - a knowledge born of experience - hysterically funny, warm and with the deepest integrity. A record-collector extraordinaire, a family man and a free-thinker. We will carry forward your ideas, but will miss your presence Mike White.





Post Script
We all have a gnawing anxiety about the eternity that stretches in front of us, and to a lesser extent, that which preceded our conception. I suppose that’s where religion offers some people comfort. For me it’s comforting to know that a billion, billion lives have lived and loved and thought and breathed-in all that is before (this here and now), and infinite moments will happen for unquantifiable lives to come. I wonder if we can take comfort in the earth and the sky and this simple privilege of our temporary existence? 

Monday, 1 June 2015

THAT WAS THE WEEK THAT WAS


Welcome to another week and all that it holds. Welcome too, to the month of June. Elizabeth Windsor paid a visit to my home town on Friday which saw the streets lined with the impoverished masses, all flag-waving and thrilled to catch a glimpse of their rather sour-faced monarch in the pouring rain. The £3mill+ visit saw the cleaner-than-I've-ever-seen streets, empty of traffic for the first time in years, the air full of helicopters and high-visibility coppers staked out on roundabouts and every street corner. This was the same week too, as the ermine and diamond-encrusted speech to parliament, in which we heard her government (and shadow parties) talking about inequalities. What we need now, are policies to back this talk up.

For those of you who don't know the ancient hamlet of Lancaster, here's a vile portrayal of my local chip-shop, by our latter-day fauvist and peddler of simplistic Utopian trash (well, the same image is available on the chip shop's very own plastic bag - so proud). How I hope the 'artist' in question, produces a rendition of HRH tucking into a bag of scraps and curry sauce. 


Now - here’s an important short Public Service Announcement from Peggy Shaw


A Dementia and Imagination free event in Manchester
Tickets are now available for the free Dementia & Imagination event that’s being held on the 25th June at MMU. There are very limited places and will be an active day that really needs input, commitment and expertise from artists, clinicians, researchers and planners. We want to share our practice and inform future research and direction. So, if you want to hear from our research team, from our intervention and research artists and share your own ideas and practice, we’d love to hear from you. Tickets are available now by clicking on either Bette or Joan below. 


Women Make Music Grant Scheme 
The next applications deadline for the Performing Right Society's (PRS) Women Make Music grant scheme is 6pm on the 28th September 2015. Through the grant scheme, financial support of up to £5000 is available to women musicians to create new music in any genre. This can range from classical, jazz and experimental, to urban, electronica and pop. Through the scheme, support is available to individuals and organisations @ 


Five Ways to Wellbeing Toolkit
Voluntary Arts explore the Five Ways to Wellbeing model in their Toolkit, as a method for setting up and developing voluntary arts groups, and for making the experience of being a member even more enjoyable and beneficial to health and wellbeing. It is mainly aimed at people who are in a position of setting up a new voluntary arts group, or who want to invigorate an existing group by increasing involvement and basing it on solid foundations for enhancing the experience of members. Find the toolkit @


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Sunday, 24 May 2015

❊ the living sea of waking dreams ❊


humane citizenship & societal empathy

WHAT IS IT?
Thanks so much for all the email about the future direction of our network, its fluid title, content and direction. For those of you who mentioned how much you love our get-togethers here in Manchester, I am planning a free evening networking event for June/July which I’ll confirm on the blog over the next couple of weeks. It’s working title is WHAT IS IT? Look out for more details next week.

I know, I know…but it's catchy

IT'S NOT ABOUT THE MONEY
Please don’t worry if it looks like the arts will be savaged by the government in the latest round of cuts, as the dear old Bank of England is asking you, the cash-strapped public, to have ‘a say’ in whose mug-shot next appears on a £20 note. They want suggestions of artists of import, so long as they are dead and aren’t fictional! Their Hollywood matinee inspired leader, Mark Carney will make the final decision and the cash goes into circulation in 2020. So who springs to mind? If Grayson Perry had popped of the mortal coil, he/she would have been a good one - can you imagine Claire staring out at you?


Those Chapman Brothers have given us food for thought with their disgracefully ‘doctored’ bank notes and more. I’d love to see a fascist-inspired Mickey Mouse on a £20 note - although he’s universal, I guess he’s just not British enough. The there’s all those poignant postage stamps designed by Steve McQueen for Queen & Country featuring the faces of UK service personnel killed in the Iraq, but deemed inappropriate to have on our letters. I wonder if any of those soldiers were amateur artists? (note - I love the word amateur - always seen as something lesser somehow than the ‘professional’, but derived from love).


No, I’d be interested in how we can get someone less obvious than Turner or Bronte and a socially engaged artist on this money. - perhaps someone who because or despite of health issues became something great. A nice ironic twist. Let’s give it some thought eh? Terry Pratchett = writing and dementia, Iris Murdoch too. Sylvia Plath (I know she wasn’t born here) and Spike Milligan = poetry and mental health. I have a soft spot for Virgina Woolf and William Blake who between them were poetic and visionary and who had a fare share of mental distress, but it would be good to think of someone from a less privileged background. John Clare perhaps? Ah no, I’ve got my early front runner - Sarah Kane - for poetically reimagining and confronting the fragile and volatile human psyche through drama.


DYING WITHOUT DIGNITY
I wonder if you caught sight of the report from the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman  this week - Dying without Dignity - it filled me with some small horror. It’s a short and upsetting report based around the complaints of people’s end of life experience in the UK. I do recommend it, as well as thinking about preparing an Advanced Directive with the people you care about. If anyone from any of the Palliative Care, Hospice or Dying with Dignity organisations would like to hold a more creative event here at MMU, I would be happy to host and co-facilitate it - get in touch. On another note, but not entirely disconnected, I’m writing a book chapter that in part, takes in these themes, and if you have been involved in performance-based practice/research with older people, maybe people facing their mortality, but where your work/research has provoked/revealed very unexpected moments - please get in touch.

A Dementia and Imagination Event at MMU
On the 25th June I’ll be holding a mid-point, day-long event at MMU to explore the ongoing Dementia & Imagination research project. It’s a free event and you get lunch thrown in too! BUT - and here’s the catch - there are very limited places, and because it’s about sharing the obstacles and opportunities of research within a clinical dementia setting, it will be an active day that really needs input, commitment and expertise from artists, clinicians, researchers and planners. We want to share our practice and inform future research and direction. So, if you want to hear from our research team, from our intervention and research artists and you work in a dementia context, we’d love to hear from you. Send a 200 word (maximum) expression of interest to artsforhealth@mmu.ac.uk before Wednesday 3rd June at 10:00am. Just explain who you are and why you’d like to come. Clearly, we are looking for a good mix of people to take part, so sorry in advance that we can’t invite everyone who applies. We will open it up to the wider network and limited places on Monday 8th June. Please note - only email the address above with expressions of interest and not my personal email - thanks.


Funding for the Rehabilitation of Offenders and Ex-Offenders 
The Triangle Trust has announced that the next closing date for applications to its grants programme is noon on the 5th November 2015. During this funding round, the Trust will provides grants to not for profit organisations and charities working for the rehabilitation of offenders and ex-offenders. The Trust would like to see applicants use these grants to develop sustainable income sources, so that when the grant comes to end the applicant organisation's income will not be reduced. Grants are available for up to £40,000 or 50% of the organisation's current annual income, whichever is lowest, per year for 3 years.

The Trust also holds a separate funding round for organisations working with carers. This is due to open for applications in spring 2016. http://www.triangletrust.org.uk/apply-funding

Comic Relief UK Grants Programme 
Through its new UK Main Fund, Comic Relief will provide funding for activities that create positive social change across the UK. To be eligible for funding projects must address at least of five themes. These are:
  • Supporting young people that face challenges and have limited opportunities
  • Support people who face violence, abuse and exploitation
  • Supports those in severe financial hardship
  • Supports disadvantaged communities
  • Aims to empower and give a voice to marginalised groups of people, so that they can challenge injustice and bring about positive changes for those who face discrimination and stigma.
The funding will be available to registered charities and other not for profit organisations that operate England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. For further information on the funding themes and how to apply please click on the link below. Although there is no upper limit to the level of funding available, Comic Relief expect most grants to fall between £10,000 and £40,000 (per year for up to three years). Applications can be submitted at any time. Read more at:http://www.comicrelief.com/our-grants/uk



and finally, as post-Soviet states continue their 'conservative turn', feminist artists stand up to address gender injustice in Belarus, Russia and Ukraine.Click on the Smart Mary poster above for more details

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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.                      .