Sunday, 12 May 2019

It's all getting a bit Soylent Green

First things first - robotic cats, dogs and seals in care homes? With fur or without? Be prepared, because 'research tells us' that the robots are coming! What's more, I bet they'll be cost-effective too. No need to pay pesky humans to interact with people, or worse still, bring real flesh and blood animals into care homes. Researchers from the University of Exeter assessed 900 care home residents  observing how the robopets increased social interaction between residents, family members and staff. Though, as the the researchers note: 'Not all residents liked the robots, and staff may require specialist training on how to help them get the most out of their robopet.' I used to love taking flowers into hospital. Big, bold and beautiful - and my mum loved them. Only they present a 'health & safety risk' so inevitably were banned. Although there are different dynamics at play, this short film from Equal Arts and their HenPower project is a lovely alternative to Stepford Pets.

Arts Catalyst 
Artistic Director/Joint CEO  
Arts Catalyst is looking to appoint a new Artistic Director/Joint CEO, to develop its programme and establish the organisation in Sheffield, where it will be relocating from its current home in London over the next two years. This is an exciting opportunity for an ambitious, imaginative individual to take one of the UK’s leading art and research organisations forward into the next phase of its development and to take an active role in shaping its artistic future. Over 25 years, Arts Catalyst has established a reputation for commissioning bold and experimental art that expands art practice into domains commonly associated with science and specialist research, and for its unique curatorial model of transdisciplinary co-inquiry that brings together artists, scientists, communities and interest groups for long-term, thematic programmes. Arts Catalyst supports artists at pivotal stages in their careers, providing opportunities to develop projects and create ambitious new artworks. Full details of this amazing opportunity HERE.

So - out of the blue I stumble on this extraordinary and timely song and film. Sublime and troubling...

Birth Rites Collection Summer School 15-19th July 2019
Birth Rites Collection Summer School is a unique 5-day programme of lectures, workshops and exchange. It is generated through engaging directly with the artworks in the collection which are installed across the historic Guy’s campus, King’s College London, and hosted by the Faculty of Midwifery .

If you are a midwife, academic, artist, medic, health professional, art historian or policy advisor, you will arrive on the course with your skill set and leave with a bespoke multi-media pack of visual, textual, auditory and filmic material of your own responses to art on birth, to be used thereafter in your own future work. Birth Rites Collection Summer School will introduce you to the art collection and facilitate a dialogue between you, your practice and the artworks. The course will be led by Helen Knowles, BRC Curator and New Media artist and Hermione Wiltshire, artist and lecturer in photography at the Royal College of Art. We will encourage you to curate your own responses to the artworks in the collection, through a variety of media, exploring the themes addressed by them, introduce different perspectives from special guest speakers and chair in-depth discussions that address aesthetics, ethics and practices of the visual discourse of birth. 

Workshops will include the chance to shoot short films on everyday devices, create a podcast/ sound work and reflect on the themes through visual and written responses which will then be edited into an imaginative PowerPoint. There are 20 full-price places on this course and 5 concession rate places. We are also offering one bursary place on the course. For more information please click HERE.

Thank you for the intrigued, bemused and terrified comments about Cold Dark Matter, posted last week. For those of you who asked or have an inclination to delve into the text and footnotes, you can find them HERE or by clicking on the beautiful image above from the 1922 Swedish film HÄXAN which featured in this work.

Monday, 6 May 2019

Surrounded in Nothing but Love

'X was sleeping rough last night, came in here soaking and shivering. You can’t solve all of people’s life problems but you can give them a chance for just being. Just sitting and being. That’s what I saw him do today in the workshop, he was writing a poem, but also sitting quietly with his thoughts. Looking around a little, listening. Being a person*.'

I could write reams about the constantly evolving work of
arthur+martha but the words of the people they collaborate with are far more revealing. Click HERE for their latest blog posting. *Karen, project worker at The Booth Centre

Artists Practising Well... a new research report by Nicola Naismith, which focuses on the topic of affective support for creative practitioners working in participatory arts in health and wellbeing. The report has been prepared with a wide readership in mind: creative practitioners, arts commissioners, organisational leaders, funders and policy makers. The research is informed by the experiences of creative practitioners working in arts for health and wellbeing, collected via an online survey. Want to know more? Click HERE.

The Age of Creativity Festival... 
...celebrates the extraordinary range of Age Friendly creative and cultural work taking place across England and reaches out into our community to help more people get involved. On May 2nd the Festival held an opening event at The Whitworth and across May there are lots of events happening across the UK. You can check out their website HERE.

I was really pleased to be involved in the event last Thursday and deeply impressed by the broad range of thinking - particularly by the lovely group of people I spent much of the day with as we explored how attitudes to ageing might evolve and how culture and the arts might play a critical part in that evolution. I’d been asked by the festival organiser Farrell Curran, to be one of three people providing ‘provocations’ on the day - so not providing simple answers to complex problems - but getting people thinking. I’ve been asked to share the provocation I made, and it’s got a voice-over on this online version. I can publish the text too, but perhaps not on this blog. It’s short, sweet and just a tad bleak - but hey - what the hell.

For my part I get a little tired of dimming down, so I wanted to explore some of those broader political and environmental factors, while at the same time thinking a bit more abstractly and not avoiding the darker issues we try not to engage with (and are right in front of us, in plain sight). Wonderful to see the skills of different artists capturing the day and particularly Leslie Thompson who with a clear eye and deft hand rendered something of the humour, edge and diversity of thinking. One of his images is above this text and you can find out more about his stunning work HERE. More compelling than any work be an artist rapporteur
 that I've seen. Below is my very short provocation: Cold Dark Matter.

Artist Training around Young People and Mental Health
42nd Street are delighted to be offering a one day training course for artists working with young people experiencing mental health issues.
Training content
- Understanding common mental health issues experienced by young people

- Risk assessment & management when working with young people
- Barriers to engagement for young people and how to address them
- An exploration of the relationship between the facilitator/ artist and the mental health professional /organisation during project delivery
This free event will sell out, so hurry. Click HERE.

Can We All Keep Ourselves From Being Crazy?
'Because so much in our society shares with Trump an appetite for hyperreality rather than reality and is so deeply entrenched in spectacle, spin and celebrity and armored within the illusions of personal autonomy, we are now incapable of pulling back the curtain and exposing the Wizard as a sham.'

Here's an extract for a cracking piece of writing by Joseph Natoli at counterpunch. Superb and succinct. Read it HERE. 

Selfie #1 (institutional malaise)


Sunday, 28 April 2019


What a treat to spend time with a contingent from Aalborg, who - led by Mads Duedahl and with colleagues from Aarhus - are exploring synergies in culture and health between their cities and Manchester. A double treat to to spend time with Councillor Luthfur Rahman the Executive Member for Schools, Culture and Leisure at Manchester City Council and share the Manchester Declaration.

Over the coming few few weeks I’ll be speaking at a few events and if you’re around and/or tickets are available, come along and say hello. First up is one of the launch events for the Age of Creativity at the Whitworth on Thursday 2nd May. It’s an event pulled together by Age UK Oxfordshire, Age UK and Voluntary Arts. I’ve been asked to deliver a ‘provocation’ around artists/activism and have pulled together a short son et lumière called Cold Dark Matter. Let’s see how it goes eh? Details of the event are HERE. Another one on 20th May is part of the work Pint of Science are delivering in Greater Manchester under the banner of, Our Communities, Our Health and I’ll be giving some performative pieces from Dementia & Imagination at The Klondyke between 7:00pm and 9:30 pm full details are HERE and you can read about other presenters including: Thinking about Thinking; a new approach to cardiac rehab, facilitated by Dr Lora Capobianco and Lyndsey Brown. I have to say, I’m a tad apprehensive to be delivering something at a science event! 

Those of you who read this blog (thank you for your dedication) will know that the Manchester Institute for Arts, Health & Social Change is a major piece of work that Arts for Health is leading on. This week we recruited a research associate to work with me on a significant project across Greater Manchester. Once we’ve dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s I’ll introduce them and the work. I need to say that the people we interviewed are extraordinarily talented and would have been a real treat to work with. Superb humans. We will make things happen, I’m sure of it.


Arts Council England recently announced another round of Elevate funding. The aim of this fund is to develop and strengthen the resilience of diverse led organisations that are not funded through the National Portfolio 2018-22.  It supports Arts Council's aim of continuing to increase the diversity of its National Portfolio in future through building the capacity of diverse led organisations to deliver their mission, develop new partnerships, and increase resilience.

The deadline for Expressions of Interest is 12pm on 23 May 2019 and organisations can apply for between 75 -100 K for activity between January 2020 and March 2022 which supports organisational development and resilience focussed work.

Elevate funds will be available to Disability led and Black and minority ethnic led organisations, as identified in those organisations’ Grantium applicant profiles (that is, by reference to the presence of one or more Black and minority ethnic persons or disabled persons in a key strategic decision-making role within the organisation). To be eligible, all applicants must be able to evidence that they are a properly constituted organisation, with a registered address in England, and have been constituted and delivering activity since at least 1 April 2018. Full information and criteria is HERE. Deadline for Expressions of Interest is 12pm on 23 May 2019.

60 Years, 60 Stories
Since the last blog posting about it, Paintings in Hospitals have published some more contributions to their 60 Years, 60 Stories guest postings. You can click on the personal reflections of the wonderful Griselda Goldsbrough, co-curator for Aesthetica Art Prize and Art and Design Development Manager at York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust. Her posting ‘A talking and turning point’ can be found HERE.

For artists in Australia interested in personal development: 

Contemporary arts practice, health and social change
15 and 16 June 2019, 10am - 6pm
Narrandera Arts and Community Centre, NSW

This unique opportunity will be co-presented between Clive Parkinson and the Cad Factory's Vic McEwan and allows for two days of intimate talks and exploratory sessions aimed specifically at artists wishing to work in the context of community, health and social change. This informative and practical two days will place ideas of social equality and wellbeing within an international context whilst offering practical advice to all attendees in terms of their own practice. You will be required to discuss your practice and future projects to the group.

This seminar will be delivered in a small group of up to 20 people, allowing the opportunity for deep and practical exploration of your practice. Twelve places will be prioritised for artists living in regional locations.

You will be required to submit an Expression of Interest form by Friday 3 May 2019. Details 
HERE. You will be notified on Friday 10 May if you have been selected. Up to ten selected NSW regional artists will receive $100 towards covering their accommodation and travel costs. For my part, I am thrilled to be embarking on this training and a new two year project with Vic building on our work on The Harmonic Oscillator. More soon.

A shout out to Emma Furneaux!

Regular readers of this blog will know about the book I wrote following Vic McEwan's time working as an artist at Alder Hey Children's Hospital. Over the time we were there we had the pleasure of meeting and collaborating with Elisha Carter and her mum, Emma Furneaux. As I type this blog out, I am thrilled to see that Emma has just completed the London Marathon. (I am also shattered just watching on TV!) She set out to raise £3000 for CLIC Sargent and as the tally stands at 19:11 today, she's raised £5854! Superb - and thank you to anyone who reads this blog, or who read Critical Care and who supported Emma. 


Friday, 5 April 2019


Your blogger has shut up shop for a couple of weeks, but will be back in fine fettle before the month is through. Here's a little light music to keep things moving - and not all it seems. Inspired by World Light and that quest for - and to make sense of - beauty.

Saturday, 23 March 2019

Get Happy...

...or the Pearly King & Queen edition
Here we are again - another day, another blog - and in a week when the Culture, Health & Wellbeing Alliance held its first conference, your blogger was chuffed to see such a range of people under one roof for this annual event. Huge thanks to Victoria, Hayley, Alex and Zoe for pulling it all together (and numerous others who I apologise not for naming). Highlights of such a full-on event are difficult to share. Of course meeting people I only really know through this blog, was such treat - you know who you are. The moon on Wednesday evening was just ridiculous and the biggest most wonderful thing. Thanks to the organisers for pulling that off!

It was great to hear Liz Ellis, who is Policy Advisor Communities and Diversity at the National Lottery Heritage Fund, speak so passionately and eloquently about our fundamental human right to the arts - and the ways in which all human rights are bound up in each other. Errol Francis set the scene with his pitch perfect observations around definitions of culture and cultures. The poems of Zodwa Nyoni were visceral and moving. From the floor, of all the questions and comments uttered and asked, it was Dr Dave Camlin asking something more sticky about the nature of us, (the delegates/speakers) in this unfolding landscape - my frustration was not being able to hear more of that, and have the space to dig deeper. 

Much was made of the social prescribing agenda and the place of artists (as I have already commented on) offering free social cures. I did hear some toe-curling justification around this, as yet unformed agenda, but by and large, people appreciated the growing political awareness, so long as it doesn’t undermine the progress that organisations and individuals have made over the last few decades. Let’s hope those cheap salesmen selling the ‘scaling-up’ agenda for all things, have the decency to take time to listen to and learn from some of the excellent practitioners who were there. Talk of a Social Prescribing Academy and a National Centre still rattles many of the people working on the ground, so these are very interesting times.

Lord Howarth gave a rousing speech to this agenda, full of nuance and informed by his rich political experience and personal drive. He took on the poisoned nature of our political times and spoke refreshingly in terms of the collective, as opposed to the individual. Words that tally with the Manchester Declaration. On that note, many apologies to those of you who wanted copies, but who might not have got one. I brought a couple of hundred and they vanished very quickly.

Great to hear the collaborative work of sound artist Jason Singh and visual artist Fabric Lenny (Paul Slater) from their work at Chester Zoo exploring the plant life there, recording live biometric data from a variety of orchids held in their extensive collection of Nepenthes, Orchids and Cacti. Find out more and listen to these soundscapes HERE. 

Only a few of days left to apply for the early career research post working with me over the next year at Arts for Health. Full details are HERE.

Our Deluded Little Island
I haven’t really commented much on the whole Brexit shenanigans on this blog, for fear of losing my sanity completely. This week I was sent a rather excellent and brief feature from the counterpunch website, via our Australasia Special Correspondent. The article by Kenneth Surin who teaches at Duke University in the USA, neatly unpicks the legacy of Margaret Thatcher’s policy of selling off publicly-owned services, so that British individuals and businesses could all be share-owners in Albion. Well, while we’re aware of the failings of privatisation across the NHS, rail services and much more, what I hadn’t understood was that many of the enterprises privatised by Thatcher have now returned to government ownership, but alas for Brits these are foreign governments! So to cheer you up and propel you into the final stages of our catastrophic European Union end-days, here’s a list complied by Surin and as ever, you can read the full article HERE. Read it and weep - then laugh hysterically at the irony of the who damn thing.

“…the town of Romford, in the London borough of Havering, had the distinction of being named as the most Eurosceptic place in the country in a 2016 YouGov survey.

The Brexit motto is “take back control”, but at Romford station there’s a choice of trains into London: you can travel on one run by the Dutch, or one run by the Chinese. Someone going to neighbouring Basildon has to change at Upminster and buy a ticket from the Italian firm that operates C2C. Here’s the fuller picture.

ScotRail is operated by Abellio, which is wholly owned by the Dutch national rail operator Nederlandse Spoorwegen.

Abellio also owns 60% of Greater Anglia trains (the remaining 40% is owned by the Japanese company Mitsui).

West Midlands trains is 70% owned by Abellio, the remaining 30% is shared between Mitsui and another Japanese company JR East.

Arriva Rail London is operated by Arriva, which is owned by the German national rail operator Deutsche Bahn.

Arriva also operates Chiltern Railways and CrossCountry, Grand Central, and Northern.
The already-mentioned C2C is owned by the Italian government’s Trenitalia.

Eurostar is operated by EIL, which is owned by the French government’s SNCF (55%), Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ) (30%), Hermes Infrastructure (10%) which is majority-owned by a US investment fund, and NMBS/SNCB (5%) which is the state railway company of Belgium.

The Chinese corporation MTR owns TfL rail and 30% of South Western Railway.

Transport for Wales is owned by Keolis, a Franco-Québécois private operator of public transport.

In fact, European state railways now own more than quarter of the UK’s passenger-train system.

The same situation exists with regard to the UK’s energy, water, and telephone companies.

London Electricity, SWEB, Seeboard and British Energy are owned by EDF Energy, a subsidiary of the French Government-owned energy company EDF (Électricité de France) Group.

Powergen is owned by the German group E.ON.

Calortex, Independent Energy and Midlands Electricity are owned by Npower, a subsidiary of German energy company RWE Group.

ScottishPower is a subsidiary of Spanish company Iberdrola, which also owns Manweb, the energy company supplying Merseyside and North Wales.

Anglian Water is owned by a consortium consisting of Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, Colonial First State Global Asset Management (owned by the Commonwealth Bank of Australia), IFM Investors (an Australian investment management firm), and 3i. The same consortium also owns Hartlepool Water.

Northumbrian Water is owned by Cheung Kong Infrastructure Holdings (Hong Kong). Cheung Kong Infrastructure Holdings also owns Essex and Suffolk Water.

Wessex Water is owned by YTL Corporation (Malaysia).

Affinity Water is part owned by Morgan Stanley (USA).

South East Water is owned by Hastings Diversified Utilities Fund/Utilities Trust of Australia.

Sutton and East Surrey Water is owned by Sumitomo Corporation (Japan).

Level 3 Communications (USA) owns a national optical fibre network.

O2 runs a GSM-900 network and is owned by Telefónica (Spain).

EE runs a GSM-1800 network and is a joint venture of Orange (France) and Deutsche Telecom (Germany).

The UK’s bus and airport companies are also largely foreign owned.

Arriva buses is owned by the German national rail operator Deutsche Bahn.

Bus and coach companies are also owned by ComfortDelGro (Singapore), RATP (France), and Transdev (France).

Heathrow, Glasgow, and Southampton airports are owned by the Spanish Ferrovial (25%), Qatar Holding (20%), and Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (12.62%).

Gatwick airport is owned by Global Infrastructure Partners (USA).

The Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan owns 48.25% of Birmingham airport.

IFM Investors (Australia), in addition to part-owning Anglian Water, also owns Manchester airport, the MM6 tollway, and the telecommunications company Arqiva.

All this has been the consequence of asset-stripping undertaken on a massive scale.”

“The British public, which owned these assets, got stiffed. All this has taken place in a context where the wealth-gap between the Have-Lots and the JAMs (Just About Managing) has grown to levels not seen since the 1930s.”

…oh - what’s the bloody point?*

*The final entry in Kenneth Williams diary on 14 April 1988.          

Sunday, 17 March 2019

A new post at Arts for Health...

First things first - I’m happy to be advertising a part-time 12 month early career researcher post with me at Arts for Health. We are looking for someone not only with the prerequisite skills and experience set out in the job description and person spec, but someone who really enjoys getting out and meeting people from all walks of life - and believes that culture and the arts in all their forms, can contribute to social change. All the details are HERE.

A short blog from me this week, and if you want a bit more of the personal filth and grit, I’ve contributed a small offer to Paintings in Hospital’s 60 Years, 60 Voices campaign. Find out more by clicking on the de Chirico image below.  

I have had the great pleasure of taking part in two very different and very exciting events this week: one in Rochdale Town Hall in an extraordinary event where I met some ace and really inspiring people. More on that soon. For anyone who asked to see my presentation online, you can find it HERE.

M6 Theatre Company blew me away with their short piece for one actor, 
written and directed by Rochdale artist Parvez Qadir and based on the urgent and critical theme of child criminal exploitation, which explores amongst other issues, gang culture and looks at what it means to feel trapped with no escape routes. The second event was in the Wallgate Chippy where I spent the day with people from Manchester and Wigan exploring a bold new collaboration called Home in Your Heart, facilitated by Tracie Daly. Great to take The Manchester Declaration on the road to both these two communities.

I have to say a big thank you to four of my MA Arts, Health & Wellbeing students who took a huge part in this event, and have been a treat to work with. Thank you. Big thanks too, to Dave and Pedro at ShortForm for going way beyond the call of duty.

If anyone around Greater Manchester wants me to come along and share The Manchester Declaration - just get in touch here.

I'm looking forward to meeting up with many of you over at the Culture, Health & Wellbeing Alliance conference next week. 

Here's a sweet song for the week ahead. Small - but perfectly formed.


Saturday, 9 March 2019

The Manchester Declaration

That was the week that was...

...rounded off with an excellent conversation between Mark Prest and Melanie Manchot as part of Whitworth Thursday lates, this conversation explored the relationship between Recoverism and Manchot’s work Twelve (2015) commissioned by Portraits of Recovery. It seem’s fitting to top this blog posting with this extraordinary piece of work that really put’s a line down in the sand blurring the boundaries between contemporary art and recoverism. It’s a seminal piece of work in the field and marks a ten year evolution in Prest’s cultural reimagining of the lived experience of recovery from substance misuse.

But this was Thursday night.

I’d just spent the previous hour in an exhibition of Lucy Burscough in the same gallery, and was still processing the jewel-like beauty of her work exploring the lives of people who have undergone treatment for facial cancers. Her small portraits of Graeme who has undergone numerous procedures are a thing of troubling beauty. This man exudes dignity and warmth and his, like may other stories in this exhibition, unfold for us all, to slowly take in. Questions of identity and sense of self and a real humanity fit this room, and alongside image of people who have undergone facial surgery, the story of the surgeon is there too. It’s an important exhibition of work and further cements Burscough’s place in this important field which bridges medical humanities with something altogether very, very human. The exhibition, Facing Out runs until 2nd June.

Lucy Burscough, Graeme, 2017

On Wednesday how I wished I could be in multiple places all at once, and I missed the showing of Amanda Ravetz’s My Recoverist Family and This is My Face: What lies inside a journey with HIV, a film by Angelica Cabezas. I’m lucky to have seen both pieces of work, but here’s a taster of what it is all about.

This is My Face: What lies inside a journey with HIV. In Chile, people living with HIV fear stigma, and often conceal their condition and remain silent about what they are going through. This is My Face explores what happens when a range of men living with the virus open up about the illness that changed their life trajectories. It follows a creative process whereby they produce photographic portraits that represent their (often painful) memories and feelings, a process which helps them challenge years of silence, shame, and misrepresentation. A lesson in the power of collaborative storytelling. Directed by Angelica Cabezas.

Image: Angelica Cabezas

My Recoverist Family
. An LGBT+ group from Greater Manchester are on a non-linear journey through recovery from substance use. Presided over by performance artist and high wire avant-gardist David Hoyle with supporting artist Jackie Haynes, their trips around the north west culminate in a once – and only once – live arts performance at Manchester’s international arts venue HOME. Cutting between final performance and nomadic workshops, the film bears witness to these recoverists’ unique perspectives on addiction, the vitalising power of art and friendship and on what it is that they – and we – need to recover from. Commissioned by Portraits of Recovery. Directed by Amanda Ravetz and Huw Wahl, featuring Justin Freeman, Greg Thorpe, Jackie Haynes, Mark Prest, David Hoyle and Adele Fowles.

If you get the opportunity - these are both beautiful and affecting pieces of work.

As this work shimmered and danced for those lucky enough to be in Islington Mill, I spent a little time with Darren Henley the CEO of Arts Council England, who not only had spent the day at the World Healthcare Congress (more of which in a minute) but was now spending time soaking up something of the rich cultural offer of Greater Manchester. We kick-started the evening with an event curated by Venture Arts at the Manchester Gallery and it’s guest speaker the artist Tony Heaton, initiator of the National Disability Arts Collection and Archive. This VA Collective event is part of a series of discussions and events organised by Venture Arts for people who have an interest in the work of learning disabled artists in context with contemporary art and society. Tony shared rich, poignant and deeply relevant images that resonate.

Great Britain from a Wheelchair: Tony Heaton
At the Museum of Science and Industry the whole place seemed fit to burst with a young and fully engaged crowd. The late-event called Culture Cures brought science and the arts together beautifully and in exceptionally powerful ways. Lots of participatory stalls, music, film and energy and at the centre of it all, performers taking to a small stage to bast us with dance and spoken word. Company Chameleon particularly drilled inside me. Kevin Edward Turner was emotive, refreshing and dynamic in his revelations around bi-polar. Utterly beautiful.

Then there was the World Healthcare Congress (Europe)
When I began to explore what an arts, health and social change element of the World Healthcare Congress might look like, two years ago with Esme Ward, I never imagined for a moment that Greater Manchester would be pulsating with all those cultural happenings in the days surrounding the congress. With the IMPACT conference still on the horizon in Rochdale this coming week, and the activist/artist Tracie Daly kicking off a new period of intensive work in Wigan on Wednesday - this fortnight is positively dizzying!

But how can I objectively unpick a conference in which I’ve been so deeply involved? Hmmm. That’s a tricky one. For me, the session entirely devoted to people who, for what ever reason, have been patients in the healthcare system - and who shared their experiences - was profound and crackled with electricity. What is it to be human? What is it to be at the mercy of the system, as opposed to being the centre of it, creating it, respected, heard and valued. I learnt many new things this week and was inspired by people I knew and those who have been off my radar. I’ll take some time to distil it all. I’ve been so worried about the uncertainty around all things European, I was completely thrilled that 24 countries were represented. Yet still it feels as though the disarray in politics is like some hell-fire brass band marching its way towards Beachy Head.*

The things that surrounded the conference and the people that attended and took part are what made it for me. Biggest thanks to all the presenters and keynotes. There’ll be much more thought on this over the next month. I'm thrilled that the British Council commissioned ShortForm to capture some of the conference to disseminate more widely. I'll look forward to sharing this in due course which will tell multiple stories of the conference, of Age Friendly Culture and of course our arts, health and social change direction.

The Manchester Declaration
For those of you who regularly come to this blog (or stumble inside its murky corners by mistake), you’ll know that whilst I try and cover North West Regional things, I am developing some really interesting work in Greater Manchester - but I do believe it’s all relevant to our national agenda, not just in terms of research and practice - but also strategy and policy and the values that should underpin them.

Last year I launched the Manchester Institute for Arts, Health & Social Change (MIAHSC) as a collective of people interested and committed to developing this agenda across Greater Manchester - while connecting with, responding to and influencing the national and international field. Between the launch of the institute and the World Healthcare Congress, I’ve facilitated some events, held some workshops and had some amazing conversations around shared aspirations. I’ve weaved these into a shared statement of values and am encouraging anyone around GM or further afield to sign up and put their name to it. It ties in a wider exploration of values being developed as part of the Culture, Health & Wellbeing Alliance and like the Manifesto that was collectively created here in the North West back in 2011, it’s all about galvanising and our collective strengths and leading this agenda through thinking and action. The time has never felt more right to advance this work.  

So, I launched it at the congress as it seemed a suitable event to air this thinking and direction. The Mayor of Manchester Andy Burnham was keen to support it - and yes, the photo of us together is cheesy! But it's more than just a photo, and this advocacy, alongside Lord Howarth of Newport, who was here to deliver a keynote and from the CEO Arts Council England, Darren Henley OBE, is critical when held up alongside the advocacy of the people who contributed to it - and who make up our community. Think activists and artists - strategists and citizens. It’s early days yet, but I’m really hoping that more and more of you who have been involved will embrace the declaration and sign up. Send a mug shot and a link - and I’ll look forward to those next steps. Things are evolving - so let's pursue a vision. You can get a taste of it all on the MIAHSC website by clicking HERE. At Manchester Met I am indebted to the very real help of Georgina Burns, Lucy Burke, Helen Felcey and more distantly, Wills.

Now I could be accused of being a tad premature, as they are not online yet - but I will be recruiting for two job opportunities shortly. One will be a post-doc to work with us on The Manchester Institute for Arts, Health & Social Change and undertake some very interesting research across Greater Manchester. We are still discussing the second role and you’ll see them both here first and via our twitter and facebook accounts. Keep your eyes peeled. Gale force imminent! 

Workshop - Health and Arts together
Exploring ideas for Wellbeing at Work....

by Nicky Duirs and Shanali Perera

Make space and Breathe. Arts and Health together - Wellbeing at work. What can we learn from each Other? A catalyst workshop for both Arts and Health sector professionals, to come together and explore way to "support ourselves to sustain our work with others." Full details of this event on the afternoon of April 17th HERE.
Part of the Live Well Make Art micro-grant scheme 

Manchester Centre for Youth Studies and Community Arts North West present:
The Politics of Provocation: A conversation about the ethics of community arts practice with refugee-background young people

Tuesday March 26th, 5-7pmDr Dave Kelman, Western Edge Youth Arts; Victoria University, Australia
Drawing on recent research that examined a community theatre project in an Australian regional city, this presentation interrogates the ethical dilemmas that confront an external arts practitioner when working with refugee-background communities. It considers ethno-theatre, pedagogy, questions of authorship and ventriloquism and the tension between art and authenticity. A practitioner working in such contexts faces a myriad of dilemmas about how far a theatre work should go in challenging mainstream narratives and what the consequences may be for the participants and the practitioner if the challenge goes too far (and whose decision is it to make?). Full details HERE.

*One delegate - (Geoff I think) left me ruminating on the behaviour of politicians and ministers who bray from the privileged pit of the House of Commons modelling behaviour that would be abhorrent in any other walk of life. Yet they carry on with their act, all shrouded in history and free speech. Bullies and self aggrandisement in the name of some pseudo-shakespearian amateur dramatics.