Saturday, 4 August 2018

Bumper Summer Fun Edition #2

In a second bumper summer fun edition, your sun soaked and rain drenched blogger offers more scintillating on and enjoy!

First things first - what an amazing opportunity to work with 
Venture Arts and learning-disabled artists in collaboration with the Whitworth and Castlefield Gallery. This has to be the best commission I've seen in ages.

Venture Arts is calling for expressions of interest from visual artists to take part in their new project based in Manchester, Conversations Series II. 
Deadline for applications:
By 5pm on Wednesday 5 September 2018  

Interview dates:
Monday 17 and Tuesday 18 September 2018

Anticipated residency start date:
Week commencing 1 October 2018

Conversations Series II, led by Venture Arts and in partnership with Castlefield Gallery and the Whitworth, will support a collaborative residency that will bring together three learning-disabled artists who are part of the Venture Arts supported studios, to work alongside the three visual artists to be appointed. The group will develop shared ideas, create new work, and reflect on the labels placed upon us by society. This residency builds on the success of OutsiderXchanges from 2015-16. 

The selected artists will spend time with the Whitworth team and the Musgrave Kinley Outsider Art Collection, having time and access to explore the collection, its ethics and its display. This collection can be used as a starting point to see what ideas and visual responses develop during the collaborative residency. Castlefield Gallery will provide the artists taking part with mentoring and crit support at key stages over the course of the residency period. Disabled artist Tanya Raabe-Webber will work with the group to ground the work within the disability arts movement.

Contact Jennifer Gilbert for any further inquiries you have regarding the project or the application process.  

E-mail: Tel: 0161 232 1223 And get all the detail by clicking HERE. 

In the autumn there are two Live Well Make Art events. Here are some details

Live Well Make Art (LWMA)... an informal network of arts professionals and activists, health professionals and activists, academics and people who care passionately about the health of Greater Manchester. We have been working together for two years as a social movement. We want a healthier Greater Manchester, where all its people can share the benefits of engaging in and enjoying the arts and creative activities with each other and we want to make our streets, neighbourhoods and communities better places to live.

Event #1: Arts and Healthier Working
Thursday 20th September 2018, 10am - 3pm

Cobden Works, 37 – 41 Cobden Street, Salford M6 6WF
(home of Walk the Plank)

''The economic costs of ill health and its impact on work are measurable… but the human costs are often hidden and privately borne… The importance of the physical and mental health of working age people in relation to personal, family and social attainment is insufficiently recognised in our society’ 'Working for A Healthier Tomorrow’, Dame Carol Black’s Review of the health of Britain’s working age population, March 2008
On Thursday 20th September, at Walk the Plank’s new building, Cobden Works, in Salford we will be holding the second Live Well Make Art event to happen as part of a programme funded through Greater Manchester Combined Authority’s Great Places initiative (you can read all about our first event at the Turnpike Gallery in Leigh here). The day will explore ways in which the arts can help support the health of working age people and those who have not yet found work. The event will be introduced by Michael Eeckelaers, NHS Central Manchester Clinical Commissioning Group and Esme Ward (Director, Manchester Museum). Tickets and info HERE.

Friday 19th October 2018, 10am - 3pm

Oldham Library and Lifelong Learning Centre will be hosting the third Live Well Make Art event to happen as part of a programme funded through Greater Manchester Combined Authority’s Great Places initiative. It will explore ways in which the arts can help mothers, early years children and families. The event will be introduced by Dr. Carolyn Wilkins (Chief Executive, Oldham Council) and Clive Parkinson . Click HERE for details. 


Calling artists working in social art, socially-engaged art, community arts, collaborative arts and social practice at all stages of your careers to come together and share work at the: SOCIAL ART SUMMIT: An Artist-Led Review of Socially Engaged Arts Practice in the UK on 1st & 2nd November 2018 in Sheffield and convened by Social Art Network.Over two-days artists from around the country will come together to share practice, showcase work and explore what it means to be making art through social engagement right now. The Summit will showcase the work of artists from around the UK and beyond testing the ground for a Social Art Biennale in 2020. Artists, activists, community groups, curators, students, academics, funders and sectors working in the arts and social realm are invited to join the conversation through a series of events at Site Gallery and other venues around the city. all the details and call out for participant/contributors HERE.

The 2018 Engage Conference...
...will explore the intersection between arts, health, wellbeing and education. Hosted by the Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester, a centre for excellence in arts and health, we invite educators, curators, researchers, artists and policymakers to discuss the immense diversity of approaches to arts and health in current practice.

It is widely recognised that engagement with the arts not only has a positive impact on wellbeing, but can support recovery, improve healthcare, staff wellbeing, and help reduce NHS spending. Interdisciplinary work in arts and health is plentiful in gallery education - learning and engagement teams have forged partnerships with health and social care services, charities, artists, technologists and, researchers Higher Education and clinicians across the UK and globally. From maternity and neonatal care through to older age, creative activity is being embraced as an element in tackling some of the health inequalities that face society today. 

A Social Prescription will give an insight into the myriad ways in which practitioners are embracing the arts and health agenda, from rethinking urban planning and embracing Virtual Reality, to changing the ways in which clinicians are trained and how we measure wellbeing. Get all the details and more HERE.

Talking of Social Prescribing...Interesting to see Aesop commissioning the pollsters ComRes, (who specialise in corporate reputation, public policy and communications) to undertake a short and sharp agree/disagree tick-box online survey of GP's perceptions on arts/healthcare. Of the 33,423 full-time equivalent GPs (excluding locums) working for the NHS, between 13th and 24th February this year, ComRes got boxes ticked by 1,002 GP's. In what Aesop describe as 'dramatic results' its positive headlines suggest: 66% agreed that public engagement with the arts can make a significant contribution towards preventing ill health among the public; 44% agreed that arts-based interventions can be a cost-effective way to deliver primary care to the public, through social prescribing, and improve health outcomes and 62% agreed that art-based interventions can make a significant contribution to improving the health and wellbeing of NHS staff. Read the ComRes survey HERE.

It's good to see that just under 3% of GP's see the value of the arts - now we might focus on our citizens before they even present to their GP.

World Healthcare Congress 2019

Call for Papers

Some of you may know that Director of Manchester Museum, Esme Ward and I are co-curating an Arts, Health & Social Change strand of the 

World Healthcare Congress 2019 and 2020 which will take place in Manchester. It is quite a thing to get the arts embedded inside such a large and predominantly scientific global conference. The first call out for papers has been issued and you can find more details beolw. Read on and hit the link.

The possibilities of the arts in all their forms impacting on health and social change, is of growing interest to communities and policy makers alike. In the UK the All Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health & Wellbeing published the groundbreaking report, Creative Health illuminating new possibilities in how we understand and address contemporary health challenges.

This conference theme will focus down on the possibilities of culture, heritage and the arts in the context of issues ranging from how we might address the social determinants of health – to research and practice around the life course, our mental health and how we age well. This conference theme gives delegates the opportunity to experience and interrogate the ways in which we understand the lived experience of communities and the factors that influence public health, address inequalities and influence health outcomes. We propose that participation in culture and the arts has the potential to radically shape the future of the health and social care landscape and give voice to the most marginalised members of our society.


This intercultural, intergenerational gathering will bring people from across the country for skill-building, relationship-building, and engaged learning, deepening a movement for cultural democracy.

CULTURE/SHIFT 2018 is hosted in partnership with the City of Albuquerque Department of Cultural Services and New Mexico-based arts and social justice organizations. Together, we will create, explore, and amplify strategies for cultural healing, resilience, and resistance.

What are the leverage points for shifting from a consumer culture rooted in isolation and inequality to a creator culture rooted in community and equity? How can Citizen Artists sustain presence, well-being, and hope in challenging times? How can we organize in our own communities and across the country to bolster support for cultural activity that cultivates empathy, equity, and social imagination? Through participatory workshops, performances, talks, and interactive art-making, we’ll explore themes such as migration, indigenous cultural rights, climate justice, public memory and commemorative justice, ethics of community-based arts, community development/displacement, and more. Click HERE for more details. 


Friday, 27 July 2018

Bumper Summer Fun Edition #1

Manchester Institute for Arts, Health & Social Change 
A month ago today, I launched the Manchester Institute for Arts, Health & Social Change (MIAHSC) and began to explore how small and large organisations across Greater Manchester might work together to redefine this arts and health agenda, building on research,  policy and practice.  I’ll be facilitating  the second event on 6th September at the Manchester School of Art, where for a couple of hours we’ll start to develop our own statement of intent, or concordat under the banner of  The Manchester Declaration. For those of you who have been involved in arts and health activity for some time, I’ll be creating something using a similar methodology to when we compiled the Manifesto for Arts & Health back in 2011.

So it will explore our aspirations and how we’re going to get there! This session is focused on those living or working in Greater Manchester and is already filling up. Of course it’s a free event, which means often people book a place then don’t turn up - so please, try to be certain about committing to it and being part of this ground-swell of activity - after all - we’re more than the sum of our parts.

Book a place HERE of by clicking on the banner above.

For those of you with eager eyes, you may have noticed that I’m constructing a new website for the Manchester Institute, which you can access HERE. But please be gentle with your critique - I’m no web designer - and am slowly building this thing, and that’s the key: it’s a slow burn - not rushed - not a quick hit - but growing incrementally and informed by what we all contribute.


….was a profound and moving performance at the Royal Exchange Theatre last week which explored the experiences of people living in tower blocks in Manchester and has been a 3-year partnership with One Manchester housing and community services - a canny collaboration. This new work was created and performed by the tower-block residents and took take place in The Studio at the Royal Exchange. In a completely packed-out theatre, audience members were exposed to the raw reality of contemporary life for people who in there own words feel demonised and bogged down by others assumptions.

 At times confrontational, at other times uplifting and poetic, this work produced by Tracie Daly took me on an emotive rollercoaster ride and twenty first century reality-check. None of the cast were actors - as far as I’m aware - and the mix of vulnerability and strength that they exuded gave the perfect balance of a work that was neither preachy - or worse still - Leg’s Akimbo. You can read a review HERE.

 The leap from the studio to the main theatre space, would be one I’m sure, that would intimidate (or inhibit) the cast of this performance, but my one frustration with the work is that even more people don’t get to experience the visceral potentiality of relevant and powerful theatre. It provides us with troubling evidence of inequalities and whilst it doesn’t attempt to offer solutions - it articulates a deeper understanding of the social poison that is endemic in our communities - if we only bother to listen.

So - you wait all day for a good job to come along - then two come along at once!
London Arts in Health Forum are seeking a new director
Deadline: 10 September 2018 10:00 am

Interviews: 24th September 2018

London Arts in Health Forum is recruiting a new Director. After 15 years establishing the organisation as a leading voice for the role of creativity in wellbeing, LAHF’s founder Director is moving on and the organisation is seeking an inspiring leader to develop and deliver its future. In order to apply for this exciting opportunity, please submit a CV, two references and an expression of interest (maximum 800 words) to Full details HERE.

Salary £35,000 pa + (depending on experience)
Application deadline: noon, Tuesday 28 August 2018

Abandon Normal Devices (AND) is seeking an exceptional individual to lead our award-winning arts and digital culture agency.  This is an extraordinary opportunity for the right candidate to take forward our innovative, ambitious and influential organisation as we approach our 10th anniversary.
Full details on AND’s background, the role of the Director and their responsibilities, the Person Specification and details about how to apply can be found in the application information pack HERE.

Atlantic Fellows for Equity in Brain Health
The Atlantic Fellows program at GBHI provides innovative training in brain health, leadership, and dementia prevention to a broad array of promising leaders from various professions, including medicine, science, business, law, journalism, social science, and the arts. Through their work, Fellows are expected to emphasize local and global health inequities that need to be addressed by practitioners and policymakers, with the goal of transforming local communities around the world. Atlantic Fellows will join the program for 12 months* and have a base at the University of California, San Francisco or Trinity College Dublin. A core curriculum of weekly courses in economics, epidemiology, law and ethics, leadership, neuroscience, public policy, and statistics constitutes part of the experience. Fellows also engage in projects aimed at advancing brain health and have opportunities to work with individuals with cognitive disorders. Through intensive mentoring, Fellows are guided in the development of their projects, careers, leadership, policy change, and impact on brain health. find out more and apply HERE.

Friday, 13 July 2018

Look to the skies

Thanks to Jamie Reid for his rendition of the Good Old Stars & Stripes. No more comment from me needed...

Fundación Casa Wabi x ArtReview Residency Award 2019...
...are pleased to announce an open-call residency prize for artists wishing to stay in Oaxaca for the month of July 2019. Applications must detail a project that engages with or benefits the local community in Puerto Escondido, Mexico.
Fundación Casa Wabi is an interdisciplinary project whose mission is to promote the exchange of ideas, fostering an open and constructive dialogue between national and international artists in a variety of practices and disciplines. The foundation is based in Puerto Escondido, on the Pacific coast of Oaxaca, 800km south of Mexico City. Set between the mountains and the sea, the foundation and its grounds were designed by Japanese architect Tadao Ando. Founded in 2014 by Mexican artist Bosco Sodi, its facilities include a multipurpose room, six studio-dorms and a 50-acre sculpture garden, as well as two recently opened pavilions: the Clay Pavilion by Alvaro Siza (Pritzker, 1995) and the Guayacan Pavilion by Mexican studio Ambrosi-Etchegaray. Click on the sky below for details.

Sylvia Pankhurst Public Art Commission 
Bruntwood has opened calls for entries for a UK-wide street art competition transform the landmark Trafford House building in Greater Manchester with a 38 metre high mural - in memory of Sylvia Pankhurst. More details HERE.

Could prisons unlock the creative industries talent pipeline problem?
Here’s an extract from an interesting blog by Sally Taylor and Jessica Plant on the Creative Industries Federation website.

'It goes without saying that the UK’s creative industries make a huge contribution to the UK’s economy. But is all the potential talent which could be working this booming sector being encouraged to do so, or is it just the usual suspects which make up the bulk of the new creative generation? Of course students graduating from our prestigious and well respected higher education institutions are much sought after, but how about trying something new – institutions which might attract a different world view, but whose ‘graduates’ might offer something a little different – like our prisons.' Read more HERE.

More news coming in from Texas!

A week in Vilnius and lots of photographs - but what to post? Simply the final image from my last day there. I met and had profound & liberating first conversations with people affected by suicide in Lithuania. Biggest thanks to Jurgita Jurkutė for her deep & poetic insight & Artūras Vasiliauskas from the British Council for his knowledge & companionship during the England defeat! (No I'm not the greatest footy fan, but context is everything). As always, warmest and deepest thanks to IP and SK for conversations and friendship.


Sunday, 1 July 2018

#NHS70 & more

The Manchester Institute for Arts, Health & Social Change
Just what is the Manchester Institute for Arts, Health & Social Change? Well for those of you with a keen eye, you may have picked up on an event I facilitated at the Manchester School of Art last week, with guest speaker and Chief Officer of Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership, Jon Rouse. This marks the start of Arts for Health’s evolution into the Manchester Institute for Arts, Health & Social Change, which over the next six months will emerge as a new collective of people and organisations driven by a motivation to understand and address the factors that underpin inequalities. More than that - it’s about doing things differently. These are exciting times and a full picture of our aspirations and direction will be published on a new stand-alone website over the next two months. Thank you to everyone who came, for your commitment and vision.

So - it’s the NHS 70th anniversary - and here are a few delicious treats for you.

A Fortunate Man
Next Monday 2nd and Tuesday 3rd July, New Perspectives theatre company will be performing a new work based on the sublime and important book, A Fortunate Man by John Berger and Jean Mohr. I used this work as a stimulus to my exploration of the artist Vic McEwan’s residency at Alder Hey, to which there will be a brand new online resource later this month. To me, Berger’s work articulates some of the thoughts I attempt to corral in Critical Care, not least that we mustn't privilege understanding of the potency of the arts through the narrow and often pseudo-scientific lens of bio-medical science, particularly when work isn’t focused on clinical outcomes, but on the rather more richly textured and subtle languages of lived experience - and the arts themselves.

I’ve not seen this New Perspectives adaptation of the work yet, but I’m going along on Tuesday afternoon and can’t wait. The performances will be taking place at the Main Lecture Theatre in the Postgrad Centre at Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, down Oxford Road. Thanks to LIME Arts for enabling this to happen. Full details right below.



by John Berger and Jean Mohr
a stage exploration by Michael Pinchbeck

Fifty years ago, writer John Berger and photographer Jean Mohr followed the working life of a country doctor, for what went on to become one of the most important books about medical practice. Today, New Perspectives collaborates with theatre-maker Michael Pinchbeck to explore and expand on this fascinating work, setting it against verbatim interviews with doctors today. This striking mixed media performance takes the pulse of GP practice then and now, continuing the conversation in the 70th year of the NHS.

  Main Lecture Theatre
  Postgrad Centre
  Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
  Oxford Road, Manchester, M13 9WL

One final thing - this is a PAY WHAT YOU DECIDE performance and attenders are encouraged to make a donation as they leave. There are numerous performances of this one hour work over the two days. Book online HERE. 

'It's nothing like a broken leg':
why I'm done with the mental health conversation

For a really personal and timely exploration of the lived experience of mental distress that doesn’t mess around with euphemism and platitudes, I recommend this article by my namesake, Hannah Jane Parkinson. Superb and perfectly written. Here’s a small extract.

“In the last few years I have observed a transformation in the way we talk about mental health, watched as depression and anxiety went from unspoken things to ubiquitous hashtags. It seems as though every week is now some kind of Mental Health Awareness Week, in which we should wear a specific colour (although this year no one could agree on which: half wore green, half yellow). In the last few years I have lost count of the times mental illness has been compared to a broken leg. Mental illness is nothing like a broken leg.” Read more by Hannah Jane Parkinson by clicking on the rather fetching image below.

Section 136 – partners and places needed

“What constitutes public display of mental illness which can harm people or those around them? Consumerism? No. Sexist ads making you feel inadequate? No. Compassion fatigue? No. Casual racism? No. Discrimination towards disabled people? No.” 
Find out more about what Dolly Sen* is attempting to explore by clicking HERE, or on the image below, or by emailing Dolly HERE.

*As a child, Dolly Sen was an alien in Empire Strikes Back. She knew then she would never know normal life. Her journey as an artist has taken her up a tree in Regents Park, to California’s Death Row, to the Barbican, Tower Bridge and the Royal Academy, Trafalgar Square, and up a ladder to screw a lightbulb into the sky, using words, art, film and performance. She is interested in non-consensual reality, outsidership, empathy, authenticity and absurdity. She has been labeled ‘mad’ by society. Her work aims to show she makes perfect sense. Basically, reality is a cheeky bastard, and she is putting him over her lap and slapping his naughty arse.”

Singing in the City is back. We are celebrating the NHS 70, join us!

Sunday 8 July 2018, 11am-4.30pm. Free, drop in, no need to book
the Whitworth Gallery will be filled with choirs and a free singing extravaganza to celebrate the NHS's 70th anniversary, in the city where the first National Health Service (NHS) hospital opened its doors. Want to know more? Click on the image below.

The Culture Capital Exchange
 (TCCE)... delighted to announce its summer symposium: Refresh, Reboot, Retool: new imaginaries for challenging times. Bringing together academics, artists, creatives, policy-makers and people from other sectors, Refresh Reboot, Retool: new imaginaries for challenging times sets out to create a space in which to encourage, debate, conversation, play, knowledge exchange and co-creation about some of our most important contemporary challenges including: politics, diversity, identity, place and environment.

 Click HERE.

Two new positions at ARC ARC are are seeking team members!
Arc is a creative arts organisation based in Stockport, UK, specialising in workshops, wellbeing and community development. We work in and around Stockport and the North West from our base at Arc Centre and Gallery. They are looking to recruit an Engagement Officer and a Finance Officer. Closing date is 15th July. Details are HERE.

42nd Street - job opportunities

New Opportunities to Join the 42nd Street Team

42nd Street’s Mission is:

To support young people aged 11-25 years with their emotional well-being and mental health, promoting choice and creativity. We champion young person centred approaches that demonstrate local impact and have national significance.
Counselling & Therapy – 1 full time role available
Community Mental Health – 2 full time roles available

Deadline is Monday 16th July at 10am, full details HERE.

NHS70 event - The Changing Face of Mental Health
This year the NHS celebrates its 70th birthday, and the Faculty of Health, Psychology and Social Care at Manchester Met will be commemorating this important milestone with a special one-off panel event on Wednesday 4th July, 4pm-6pm.

‘Celebrating 70 years of the NHS: The Changing Face of Mental Health’ will be hosted by our new Mental Health Professor, Joy Duxbury and will discuss the changing face of mental health, exploring revolution over the past 70 years and our panel's predictions for the future.

Panel members include:
Professor Joy Duxbury – Professor of Mental Health Nursing 
Dr Prathiba Chitsabesan – Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust
Malcom Rae – Sate of Mind
Rita Long – a Service User
Dr Alina Haines – Digital Apps

“The importance of finding new ways of working in these areas and the field of mental health more broadly, are required, particularly given hard to reach groups such as those in the criminal justice system for example.  Innovation including technology, participatory approaches and interdisciplinary working are integral to making a difference to people’s lives.” More details and booking HERE. 

A couple of conferences
Exciting to see that Dr Daisy Fancourt is keynote speaker at the almost Old Testament sounding NOAH conference in Texas, where she'll be in good company amongst some long-standing arts and health folk, ’reimagining the future of arts & health.’ Check the conference details HERE. 
Over in Australia, great to see regulars Gary Glazner and The Hon Dame Marie Bashir back again at the 10th Art of Good Health and Wellbeing International Arts and Health Conference, and its all taking place in the Sails Hotel up in Port Macquarie. Singer-songwriter and campaigner for Indigenous people Archie Roach AM will be at the Conference Dinner, (separate ticketed event). Click on the image below for full details.

'...there’s always the fear of tokenism'
The Native American novelist Tommy Orange teaches creative writing at the Institute of American Indian Arts and his debut novel is There There. In an interview with the Observer he shares his thinking behind this new and important work. 


Saturday, 16 June 2018

That was then...

...and this is now!

To celebrate Learning Disability Week 2018, the always superb Venture Arts 'are sharing artist Amy's colouring book illustration ‘Colour in Corrie’ a layered composition of characters, past and present, from Coronation Street, the famous ITV soap that inspires many of our artists and their creative practice everyday.’ To help raise awareness of Learning Disability Week 2018 and to tie in with Mencap’s theme ‘Health’, we are inviting you to join us to take a few mindful minutes of your day to relax and refocus and colour in Corrie.'  Amy Ellison comments: "I am so happy to be sharing my artwork with you for Learning Disability Week. Make sure you colour it in neatly! First I drew Coronation Street characters on paper then I traced it. I traced it on paper in different ways. I made patterns, heart shapes, triangles and waves to go inside." Print off your own colouring sheet by clicking on the image below.

Venture Arts support and nurture some prodigious talent, and amongst some of the artists they work with  Barry Finan and Rosanne Robertson are exhibiting their collaborative installation YES LAD YES LASS in a group exhibition curated by gallery director Zavier Ellis and artist Hugh Mendes at Charlie Smith London. The exhibition - Transcript - runs until 23 June and includes Mark Wallinger, Fiona Banner amongst a wealth of contemporary artists. The image below is courtesy of the artists.

For those of you who are interested in rich contemporary art that embraces diversity, LAND Gallery in Brooklyn offers some of the most exciting established and emerging artists, space to create and showcase their work. I've had the great opportunity of spending time with some of the artists there and hear something of the ethos of the non-profit organisations curator, Matthew Bede Murphy. For more information about LAND click on the portrait of Frank Sinatra by Carlo Daleo.

In their dance project, 'Šokio laboratorija' the Lithuanian NPO Socialiniai meno projektai worked with over 300 people in Kaunas and Klaipėda exploring dance with wide ranging groups and artists and you can watch some of their filmed pieces HERE.  Then there's DaDAA over in Western Australia who have been ploughing the furrow for years, and the superb LEVEL Centre over in Derbyshire who have been developing profound work with people with learning disabilities for over 25 years
 - I can't recommend these organisations enough. I know there are lots of projects out there, but I share these as part of Learning Disability Week, because they are all in some way, organisations I've been lucky enough to connect with, and that have stood the test of time - and who work in transformative, strident and beautiful ways. Superb.

For many years I worked as what I suppose you’d describe as a Hospital Arts Co-ordinator, but this was a long time ago, and in reality I’d gone through all manner of pay-scales and job titles ranging from a nursing assistant to a technical training instructor, but my forward thinking line manager (Bill Hockey) let me define my own position, and by and large, I have him to thank for the direction I’ve gone in over the years. Even before I was taken under his wing, I’d been involved in one of those Community Enterprise Programmes that saw me working with the psychology team undertaking adult education assessments on all the people who lived in the hospital - adults with learning disabilities. 

This was the Royal Albert Hospital in Lancaster, and at the time when I began working there in the 1980’s, there were around 800 men and women living there. It closed down in 1996 and I had the odd privilege of being there when the keys were handed over to its new owners - its residents ‘resettled’ and ‘normalised’ in line with government policy of the time. (what horrific terms - what connotations!)

So now as Learning Disability Week kicks off, I am reminded of all those people I met, and the stories I was privy too - and part of. I co-curated a number of public exhibitions in and around Lancaster when I worked at the Royal Albert Hospital and struck up collaborations with TATE Liverpool in its early days, through its Mobile Arts Programme - with Naomi H and Vinnie. With the Dukes Theatre and the amazing Theatre in Education team, we co-created a public performance with residents who were coming to terms with being ‘resettled’ - it was a wonderful collaboration with Lancaster Lit Fest.

Now I’m getting whimsical - but collaborating with these inspiring and diverse people certainly made me who I am today. 

So it was, that last week I scrabbled about in the loft and pulled out a fat portfolio of paintings and drawings from the Royal Albert Hospital, created by people all long dead, but whose names I remembered instantly when I see the work. Outsiders? Well I don’t think so - the people I knew were rightly proud of their work. Raw? Well certainly free of over-cooked art school pretensions, that’s for sure. You can see a few images from this portfolio scattered across the blog today, with a 1981 portrait of a certain doomed royal couple below!


Sunday, 3 June 2018

Short, Sweet & Important New Publications in Arts, Health & Mental Wellbeing


I am very excited to recommend to you, the full report of Churchill Fellow, Dr Katherine Taylor. Thanks to the generous and insightful investment of the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust, Kat has spent time in Finland and the USA exploring the potential more of moving towards the creative devolution of mental health across Greater Manchester. Kat is a charismatic public speaker and an emerging leader in the filed of arts and mental health. With her knowledge as a clinical psychologist, her close connection to the cultural sector, and her lived experience she presents us with a rich and forensic work comprising a comparative study of practices in Finland and the USA, using a psychological perspective. Written in the context of the Devolution deal of 2014, she explores the myriad roles the arts could, and do, play in the service of mental health in Greater Manchester. Click on the report cover at the top of this page.


Art & Well-Being: Toward A Culture of Health
The second report this week comes is the U.S.Department of Arts and Culture’s latest publication: Art & Well-Being: Toward A Culture of Health. The U.S. Department of Arts and Culture is a people-powered department — a grassroots action network inciting creativity to shape a culture of empathy, equity, and belonging. It is a network of artists, activists, and allies inciting creativity and social imagination to shape a culture of equity, empathy, and belonging. The report offers a road-map and conjoins some important global ideas and practice:

'CLOSING THE GAP IN UNDERSTANDING between a “prevailing world view” that privileges what can be quantified and discounts or dismisses evidence conveyed in other ways.'

'ENLARGING UNDERSTANDING FROM ART AS AN EXTRA FLOURISH FOR INDIVIDUAL TREATMENT— an accompaniment to allopathic medicine—for those suffering from health challenges, instead encompassing art as a means of illuminating and engaging collective risks and opportunities, touching the larger community.' 

'BROADENING THE DEFINITION OF HEALTH CHALLENGES to include not only individual susceptibilities to infectious and autoimmune diseases, but also environmental hazards and the differential ways they affect people depending on economic status, race and ethnicity, gender and orientation, geographic location and other such factors. Simple, but not necessarily easy.'

Superb work from kindred spirits in the US.

To communicate directly with USDAC and the reports author Arlene Goldbard, or the wider team, email

Creativity & Wellbeing Week
2nd - 10th June

This week sees Creativity & Wellbeing Week burst out across London with some amazing opportunities for wider participation in arts and health and the opportunities for knowledge exchange. Good luck to all of those involved and particularly LAHF. To find out what's on this week. Click HERE.  


Sunday, 27 May 2018

Das Wesentliche

Following my mail out to people asking if they wanted to opt out or remain on the North West Arts & Health Network database, I can confirm only 4 fell by the wayside. Thank you remainers!!

I would like to quote my friend JC Ashton: "REPEAL THE 8TH securing the YES vote in Ireland is fu*k*ng HUGE for women's rights and women's campaigning in face of religious and cultural oppression. Let's keep going..." 

What a heady few weeks - Dementia & Imagination hit the road and the wonderful Chris Lewis-Jones has been sharing practical training stemming from the Yellow Book in Wales and in London. I’m pleased that he and Sian Hughes will be working with me again in mid July as part of Engage Cymru training events in South Wales. If you’re an artist who wants to explore working in contexts around dementia, and are based in or near Swansea or Carmarthen, check HERE. But a right old treat for me personally has been taking part in A Life More Ordinary Festival at the Dukes Theatre in Lancaster. As well as giving me the opportunity to reconnect with arts and health pioneer Alison Clough, I got to make a revolutionary racket with Leo Nolan them and their collaborators as part if Cognitive Shift. I met a local councillor who was sporting a God Speed You Black Emperor t-shirt - things were damn good! Superb people and well planned and nuanced events - thanks for asking me Gil and Alex and thanks for the company KMD. Very inspired particularly by a session led by the artist Dr. Louise Ann Wilson - more of which to follow.* 


#LiveWellMakeArt burst into life last week at Leigh’s Turnpike Gallery. Great to hear Dr Kat Taylor beginning to share her work from Finland as part of her time with a Churchill Fellowship. When she publishes her report in June, I’ll make sure to post it online. I have to say the Royal Exchange’s Tracie Daley completely blew me away with her collaboration with isolated people living in tower blocks in Manchester. Who needs Ted Talks when we have such brilliant, driven and compelling people right here - doing profound stuff. Thanks Gerri for making it happen.

One of the speakers at the LWMA event was Lois Blackburn and as half of arthur+martha (alongside Phillip Davenport) they will be sharing more of their work with people who for whatever reason, find themselves on the fringes of society. Click on the image below for more details of this work and launch.

The National Alliance for Musicians in Healthcare conference is taking place at Alder Hey Hospital on the 4th June. I’ll be sharing something personal, something political and something poetic. Want to know more? Well you’ll have to come along. Click HERE for those ever important details.

On Tuesday 5th June Professor Jill Bennett will be sharing all manner of things from the Big Anxiety festival in Sydney, and if you want to come along, pleased. All the details are HERE. Failing that and if you’re in London, I can heartily recommend my friends and colleagues from Lithuania who will be sharing some of their systemic work under the title: Accessible Museums: Research and Practice in Lithuania. This is all part of London Creativity and Wellbeing week, and you can find out much more about it by clicking HERE.

Today is the feast day of Saint Melangell, patron saint of hares and rabbits. Prince Brochwel Ysgithrog was hunting near Pennant in the year 604 when his hounds chased a hare into a thicket, where they found a beautiful maiden at prayer. The hare sheltered under the hem of her garment, and the dogs fled. The Prince, discovering that the lady was Melangell, a king’s daughter who had fled Ireland to escape a forced marriage, gave her the valley as a place of sanctuary. Artwork by Kay Leverton and more details on Melangell, here. 

Indigenous Men’s Conference and 2018 Indigenous Women’s Wellbeing Conference in Cairns QLD Australia.

I know it’s a bit late off the press, but here’s something of real interest in Australia. The stage is set to accommodate all delegations of the 2018 Indigenous Men’s Conference and 2018 Indigenous Women’s Wellbeing Conference scheduled on the 13th – 15th of June 2018 at the Pullman Cairns International Hotel. The convenor of the 2018 Indigenous Men’s and Indigenous Women’s Wellbeing Conferences has now finalised the conference proceedings with a kaleidoscope of First Nations speakers sharing stories and great opportunities for delegates to participate in events which are devoted to the sharing of Culture, Empowerment, Education & Networking. Details HERE.

After witnessing some astonishing levels of racism around First Nations people in Australia back in 2016 from someone who should know better, events like this seem more important than the usual insipid and self congratulatory guff. 

*A Morecambe Hauntology #1
I was part of a small group that explored maps of places special to us. I took it seriously, and in the limited time we had - went deep. Too deep perhaps. The scratchy little map I prepared by the end of the session was peppered with spectres from my childhood. I didn’t share with the group - well not in any depth - but left an out-of-scale map with Louise including the West End Pier, Stone Jetty zoo, two paddling/boating pools and some clues to some sticky jigsaw pieces. I suppose because I had written dis/ordered for the Big Anxiety last year, I’d already dipped my feet back into the muddy waters of Morecambe Bay, but Louise’s session left me wanting more.

So spending the bank holiday weekend alone, I took myself on two walks: one - from the front door of my childhood home, along the promenade of Morecambe to its centre, then back along the labyrinthine alleyways and side streets of the West End and walk two: - to the top of Clougha Pike and a rural landscape devoid of humans, my company for this second journey mainly curlews, disconcerted and warning me away from their grounds. So two very different, but emotionally connected walks. So taken was I, by the methodology of the session, that Louise Ann led that I’m going to write up the walk in full - both walks - connected. (not here you'll be relieved to know)

She’d introduced her work as therapeutic walking, and for my part I certainly delved deeply - but there’s something teetering on experiment for me here. Perhaps psycho-geography, though who am I to attach such a label. 

No, for me there was some kind of haunting - the death of people and the death of places. When people talk about the treacherous sands of Morecambe Bay, quite naturally minds go straight to the exploited Chinese cockle-pickers who died en-masse in 2004. Twenty four people. Horrible. But such a terrible thing blinds us to the small scale tragedies of the suicides and drownings that have happened in these waters over the last century. My mind goes back to three lads my age, school friends of sorts, who drown together in 1981: that, and the decline and change of all the things I knew and did - the shops - the cinemas and the lives, all mixed up - a daytime haunting. A Black Bear shot dead.

I stood on Sandylands prom and looked down at the outline of the saltwater paddling pool. Sand had encroached it, leaving just the faint outline of the place where every year, we competed to catch the biggest red-eaters in the deepest corner. I stood on West-end prom and looked down at the outline of the saltwater boating pool. No faint outline. No trace of those boats. Sandgrownuns and just a little despair.