Sunday, 26 October 2014

…all hail - people of the abyss

"The unfit and the unneeded! The miserable and despised and forgotten, dying in the social shambles. The progeny of prostitution - of the prostitution of men and women and children, of flesh and blood, and sparkle and spirit; in brief, the prostitution of labour. If this is the best that civilisation can do for the human, then give us howling and naked savagery. Far better to be a people of the wilderness and desert, of the cave and the squatting-place, than to be a people of the machine and the Abyss."  
Jack London in The People of the Abyss

Possibly the most interesting job out there at the moment...
DIRECTOR - Art for Amnesty 
(click on the Bob and Roberta Smith image for details) 

The Design Council has launched its Design for Care programme, aiming to help transform care for the 21st century. But why does care need transforming, and how can design help? I think this may be a strong theme for the free symposium that I mentioned in last weeks blog-posting on 12 February next year, here at the Manchester School of Art.  I’m thinking a day that in the morning explores arts and health research and in the afternoon, the issues raised here by the Design Council. I very much hope that alongside post-graduates in design here at MMU, we will be joined by people from the industry and care profession. Let me know your thoughts on this.

‘Design Council is launching a major design programme to improve the quality of care. Over the next three to five years Design for Care will apply world-renowned design talent in a drive to invent and develop new systems, processes, products and services to increase wellbeing, to help reduce unnecessary hospital admissions and to help people stay in their own homes. We wish to create a care system that is more personalised, more connected and more preventative.’

‘To meet this demand we will need to broaden the notion of care from eligibility measured services to the responsibility of the community. It's a challenge of wider collaboration between individuals and carers, family and friends, neighbours and volunteers and professionals.’

Click on the logo below to read the vision statement.

‘This more radical approach requires real imagination. We invite you to be a partner in this important mission.’

They have chosen four themes that they believe will make a difference and together with care professionals, technology companies and others, they will start to put shared thoughts into action.

1. Growing informal care
How do we increase the care contribution of family, friends and the wider community?
2. Transforming our homes
How do we make homes that better support wellbeing?
3. Enabling better choices
How can we support people to make effective choices for their own care needs or those of a loved one?
4. Places and spaces for care
What are the best environments in which to deliver collaborative care?

Funding for Links with Japan
The Daiwa Foundation which support closer links between Britain and Japan is seeking applications under its small grants programme. Grants of £3,000-£7,000 are available to individuals, societies, associations or other bodies in the UK or Japan to promote and support interaction between the two countries. Daiwa Foundation Small Grants can cover all fields of activity, including educational and grassroots exchanges, research travel, the organisation of conferences, exhibitions, and other projects and events that fulfil this broad objective. New initiatives are especially encouraged.
The next applications deadline is the 31st March 2015. Read more at by clicking on the sleepy train journey above.

BBC Children in Need Main Grant Programme 
BBC Children in Need has announced that the next applications deadline for its Main Grants Programme is the 15th January 2015. Funding is available to organisations that work with young people who are suffering from:
Abuse or neglect
Are disabled
Have behavioural or psychological difficulties
Or are living in poverty or situations of deprivation.
The Main grants programme is open to applications for grants of over £10,000. 


Sunday, 19 October 2014


A date for your diaries #1
The People’s Republic of Arts and Health* offers a free event, on Thursday 12th February 2015 at MMU. Call it what you will - a symposium - a conference - a networking event?  It will be a free, full day event that shares research, that encourages debate and that showcases practice in our fair Northern lands. More details will follow in December, but the date is confirmed.
*Also known as the North West Arts and Health Network

The stock price of EBOLA 
A couple of thoughts since I last mentioned ebola here on the blog. First, Giles Fraser has some interesting reflections, of which these are disturbing (but not scare mongering) little nuggets, and I quote:

“...the patent for the Ebola virus is owned by the US government”

“Isn’t it interesting that there is money about to ask scientists to turn a virus into a weapon, but not the money about to ask scientists to find a vaccine? And by the time there’s a market for a vaccine, it’s too late.”

“ healthcare is incentivised to keep us sick. For what profit is there in a healthy population? If everyone were healthy, it would be the job of the pharmaceutical companies to persuade us that we were not well, that certain things about us needed fixing, putting right (even if they didn’t).”

My second thoughts are that here, in our arguably gated-community of arts/health, we often pontificate about our synergies with public health - how creativity, culture and the arts might promote, protect and prevent. Well - in the face of an evolving public health crisis like ebola - what on earth is the place/role of our agenda? A quick google search brings videos of dancers, music and a plea to create a public recovery exhibition from Shabuta Cultural Arts in Liberia. Obviously, a serious issue demands a serious and coordinated technical response, but if it is a response that comes late and is insensitive to cultural traditions, it’s one that inevitably hits obstacles. Here’s a paragraph and rallying cry from an article in the Liberian Observer from Shabuta Cultural Arts.

“Our artists can remind us of the comfort of unity when isolation fills us with loneliness. Liberian musicians have written songs and more songs about the dangers of ebola. We needed that. Now we need to hear songs of how we are defeating ebola; of how we are empowered with our new knowledge about ebola; our victories over ebola and how we will continue fighting until it is no longer a threat. As we listen to this unifying music, we will connect with it, join in the song and even dance to the rhythm.” 

There is an example of poetic writing from small business owner Patrice Juah, from Monrovia, that you can read by clicking on the title to the taster below.

On the Ebola ride,
paranoia is the driver.
It takes you on a high
leaving your senses hanging in the wild

Finally, here’s a short educational film made by Firdaus Kharas and Brent Quinn that ‘reflects the co-creators approach of creating non-coercive media for social change, in this case using animation to create a message of love to the living through an African spiritual voice’. 

An idea for a potential date for your diaries #2
Are you a virologist, a graphic designer, a philosopher, a nurse - are you an arts/health free thinker who’d like to mull over some ideas around pandemics - viral mutation - scenario planning and public health promotion, protection and prevention? If you are and you’d like to take part in an informal ‘cultural think tank’ in early December, email and if there’s sufficient interest, I’ll facilitate a group session to explore our thinking and maybe our future planning.

Look200 Artist's Day
22nd October 
10am-3pm Manchester Museum
Artists/creative practitioners are invited to join artist Lucy Burscough, as she nears the end of her Look200 arts for health/science engagement residency at Manchester Royal Eye Hospital, to spend a day exploring the ideas, process and practicalities involved in delivering Look200, a project that looks at 200 years of research into vision in Manchester. The day will act as a networking event with practical elements and lots of opportunities to learn more about innovative approaches to Arts for Health provision in Manchester. A free Arts Council England funded event with limited places. Please be aware that there will be some walking between venues involved. If you have mobility problems please let Lucy know beforehand. Contact to sign up.

…and finally, a ridiculous security guard at a Sainsbury's store told two women who were having a kiss, that they were 'disgusting' and asked them to leave. You know what happened? A Big Consensual Kiss-In. HA! Of course it was Brighton, and good on them.

*From Robert Greene's, A Notable Discovery of Coosnage (a.k.a. The Art of Conny-catching), 1592: "forewarned, forearmed: burnt children dread the fire."

Monday, 13 October 2014

…hey ho

1000 Shadows
Following on from my brief World Mental Health Day posting (below), I caught a glimpse of Brazilian street artist, Herbert Baglione, who has been busy adding shadows to a long-abandoned psychiatric institution in Parma, Italy  The project is called 1000 Shadows. Find out more by clicking on the image above.

The Stirling Prize 2014
Arts for Health is part of the research institute MIRIAD in the Manchester School of Art at MMU, which this year is an outsider in the annual architectural awards, Stirling Prize 2014. OK, so whilst we are outsiders on this esteemed short list, this doesn’t prevent us being very proud of our building, which you can see a short film of, by clicking on the image above. 

The Best Possible Day
A friend has sent me a link to the New York Times and a moving account of terminal illness and the arts, by Atul Gawande. Beautiful. Click above for the full article. Thank you.

The Cosmos
I am a great one for avoiding those Internet links to silly, sensational stories, but this week I did look at these remarkable images of the earth in relation to other planets in and beyond our galaxy. quite, quite profound. Click above.

The Big Love Little Sista Arts Festival - 28th October 2014 
Celebrating creative work with vulnerable women and young girls across the region (funded by Public Health) with a fabulous day of magic, lunch in the party goddess garden, juicy creative healing workshops run by the young women, free gifts and resources made by young women.  This work will be rolled out across the UK in the coming year so if you would like to partner with us this would be a great opportunity to see how we roll! Click below, to buck the trend in clicking.

Creative England and Microsoft Funding for Game Developers 
Creative England and Microsoft have announced that round 2 of their Greenshoots programme is open for applications. Through the programme, 10 grants of £25,000 are available to independent studios to develop games for Xbox one, tablet and mobile devises. The games from Greenshoots Round 1 ranged from underwater shoot ‘em ups and robot-infested puzzle games, to futuristic galaxy battles and crazy golf. All of the games, now released, were showcased back in July to a crowd of industry experts and investors. In addition to the grants, successful applicants will also receive support, mentorship and expertise from Microsoft and industry partners.
Applications close 9am on the 20th October 2014. Read more by clicking on the Spomenik below.

Friday, 10 October 2014

Manifestas už meną ir psichikos sveikatą!

To mark World Mental Health Day I commend the brilliant ongoing work of my friends and colleagues at Socialiniai Meno Projektai in Lithuania who since their Arts and Mental Health Conference in the spring, have been working to produce an Arts and Mental Health Manifesto which they release today. Click on the MANIFESTAS image above for more detail. 

OK - I know this is in Brighton, but it looks brilliant and its tonight...

Schizophrenia & Us: What can we do better? What can we do differently? 
Friday 10th October
7.30pm- 9.00pm
The Basement, 24 Kensington Street, Brighton, BN1 4AJ
Visit our web page:

One in every hundred people live with schizophrenia and social factors are increasingly being recognised as causes. We ask if we could be tackling the condition better or differently as a society and what role should medication play in the process.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

...feeling detached from oneself

News coming well as taking statins ad infinitum and perhaps something to calm your nerves - or pep you up, or help with your weight gain, now there’s a new lifestyle pill to stop you craving that unnecessary glass of wine in the evening. Yes, ‘drinkers who have half a bottle of wine or three pints a night are to be offered a life-saving pill which helps reduce their alcohol consumption. Nearly 600,000 people will be eligible to receive the nalmefene* tablet to keep their cravings at bay.’ Read more by clicking on the bottle of plonk. Great to see Big-Pharma showing us the way again and designers of this ‘brain disease’ drug, Lundbeck have shrewdly had their eyes on the cash cow. Who gives a damn about the social and cultural causes of addiction when there’s money to be made? *rhymes with Soylent Green

Of course, the issue of substance addiction is serious and needs a multi-faceted approach, but still, you have to smile - the side effects of this miracle pill, as registered on Medicines UK offer a better night out than a bottle of Blue Nun! Here they are for your delectation.

Possible side effects 
Like all medicines, this medicine can cause side effects, although not everybody gets them. Few cases of side effects of seeing, hearing or sensing things that are not there or feeling detached from oneself have been reported. However, the frequency of these side effects cannot be estimated from the available data. {…}

In some cases, it may be difficult for you to distinguish side effects from the symptoms you may feel when you reduce your alcohol consumption. 

The following side effects have been reported with Selincro: 
Very common, which may affect more than 1 in 10 people: 
feeling sick, dizziness, inability to sleep, headache 

Common, which may affect up to 1 in 10 people: 
loss of appetite, difficulty sleeping, confusion, feeling restless, reduced sex drive, drowsiness, body twitches, feeling less alert, peculiar sensation in the skin like pins and needles, reduced sense of touch, racing heart, a sensation of a rapid, forceful, or irregular beating of the heart, vomiting, dry mouth, excessive sweating, muscle spasms, feeling of exhaustion, weakness, discomfort or uneasiness, feeling strange, weight loss 

Other side effects: 
seeing, hearing or sensing things that are not there 
feeling detached from oneself 
At this time, the frequency of these side effects cannot be estimated from the available data. 

So, with our wellbeing in mind, it's the time of year when the Office for National Statistics churn out the latest data on National Wellbeing - well, their ‘measured’ version of it. Here are their handy 8 new insights into UK personal well-being for 2013/14:
  1. 27% of UK adults rated their life satisfaction at a very high level in 2013/14, an increase on the previous year.
  2. Unchanged on the previous year, 6% of UK adults rated their life satisfaction at a low level in 2013/14.
  3. 33% of UK adults rated their happiness at a very high level in 2013/14, an increase on the previous year.
  4. 10% of UK adults rated their happiness at a low level in 2013/14, a fall on the previous year.
  5. 33% of UK adults gave very high ratings in 2013/14 when asked if they feel the things they do in life are worthwhile, a rise on the previous year.
  6. A small but steady minority of around 4% of UK adults gave very low ratings when asked if they feel the things they do in life are worthwhile.
  7. 39% of UK adults rated their anxiety levels as very low in 2013/14 with more people reporting low anxiety this year than last.
  8. 20% of UK adults rated their anxiety at a high level in 2013/14, a fall on the previous year
You can chew over this to your hearts content, by clicking on the genuinely scientific photograph of levitation above, for their full report, but I still retain an uneasiness about this economic obsession with happiness and increasingly mindfulness, which once the policy makers commandeer them as hard objectives, we enter the land of the deluded. Mind you, there are plenty of pharmacological options to up your happiness quota! The All Party Parliamentary Group on Wellbeing Economics make a case for both mindfulness and arts/health, but without sounding like a stuck-record - what about pessimism, anger and discontent. I still rather hope that arts and culture might not leave us sedated and smiling in our individualistic corners, but provoke us into a little discontent to. Click on the extraordinary factual flying chair photograph below for their report.

What is even more interesting to read, is the report of Professor, Dame Sally Davies, the Governments Chief Medical Officer and her timely rebuttal of all things wellbeing too, particularly the cult of wellbeing’s ‘hypothesis’ set out in the 2008 Foresight Report, that:

‘Achieving a small change in the average level of wellbeing across the population would produce a large decrease in the percentage with mental disorder, and also in the percentage who have sub-clinical disorder.’ 

Davies suggests that ‘this hypothesis was accepted as proven without question’ and that ‘there is still a lack of consensus over fundamental questions such as: what mental well-being is, how it relates to public mental health and illness and what value is placed on it across society.’ 

I applaud her view that, ‘It is entirely possible to have a mental illness, and simultaneously to enjoy high levels of subjective well-being – and vice versa.’ She suggests that we build on the robust tradition within ‘quality of life’ research, furthermore, ‘strong correlations between these quality of life and life satisfaction measures have been reported. It makes sense to build on this research rather than reinventing the wheel by starting again with a new concept of mental well-being in mental health outcomes.’

Ultimately she suggests keeping the WHO Mental Health Action Plan 2013–2020 in focus, which incorporate the following key concepts: 
  • mental health promotion, (i.e: the determinants of mental health) 
  • mental illness prevention, (which is concerned with the causes of disease) 
  • treatment and rehabilitation. 
Concluding that we ‘should invest in these opportunities rather than being side-tracked by ill-defined approaches to ‘well‑being’ which currently go well beyond existing evidence’, Davies provides us with a serious critique to the wellbeing agenda and calls for robust evidence.    The challenge is there if you want it. 
Click on the image of Dame Sally (in the handsome black hat) consulting with the WHO below, to read her summary report. 

On the 14th November, director of Arts and Health Australia Margret Meagher will be speaking at the Luminate Festival in Scotland. I’m thrilled to be attending the 6th Annual International Arts and Health Conference in Melbourne where I will be giving a keynote on the I AM: Art as an Agent for Change work on addiction recovery. I’ll be giving the first public outing of the Recoverist Manifesto and working with people in recovery in Australia to contribute to Recoverism.

Community Arts as Social and Psychological Medicine? 
2.00-5.00pm, Saturday 8th November, 2014, Birley Fields Campus, MMU
This event explores the potential benefits of arts participation in relation to health, wellbeing and social inclusion. Attendees will have the chance to find out about arts for health projects led by Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) from the perspective of social science researchers and artists, and to try out various arts activities for themselves. Creative music, dance and Javanese gamelan (percussion orchestra) taster workshops will be on offer, with additional opportunities for those taking part to feedback their own experiences and contribute to a wider discussion. The event is open to anyone with an interest in the topic, no previous experience is required

Useful work versus useless toil
Please join us for the launch of a new site specific installation on Great Ancoats Street, Manchester by artist Lucy Harvey on Thursday 9th October, from 6-8pm.

Useful work versus useless toil reinterprets the collection of Thomas Horsfall's Ancoats Art Museum through artefacts and vitrines made in co-production with young people from mental health charity 42nd Street.

The processes and forms of the arts and crafts movement, industrial production and plant taxonomy have been appropriated to create a collection of objects of ambiguous function. Taking its title from the William Morris lecture of the same name, useful work versus useless toil considers the contemporary function of the decorative arts and museum collections in interpreting the natural world and our industrial heritage.

Useful work versus useless toil is installed across the facade of 42nd Street, located at 87 Great Ancoats Street, Manchester, M4 5AG. The work can be viewed from the street and is lit between the hours of 9.30am - 7pm, Monday – Thursday (5pm on Fridays) until December 2014. 

ArtWorks: Developing Practice in Participatory Settings
Reaping the benefits of helping artists learn
Shared investment in the learning and CPD needs of artists working in participatory settings will reap benefits for everyone, from commissioners and training providers to employers and funders, new ArtWorks research shows. The latest ArtWorks paper, ‘What do you need?’ Learning approaches for artists in participatory settings, sets out the key features of learning opportunities which artists say work best for them. Read more at: 

Monday, 29 September 2014

What will survive of us...

I went along to the opening of the Asia Triennial on Friday night curated by friend and colleague, Alnoor Mitha. The event took place in the bowels of the Imperial War Museum North and alongside the relics of war and violence, the triennial with its subtitle of ‘conflict and compassion’ was entirely suited to such an forbidding space. 

Not being the most eloquent art critics, and having not yet seen the galleries all around Greater Manchester where much of the work is happening, I can only report being inspired by the great effort led by Alnoor and his always friendly team. Brilliant people.

My one disappointment is that the real gem of the show didn’t materialise. That was the physical presence of Iranian born, Afghan street artist and friend of Arts for Health, Shamsia Hassani who I had the pleasure of introducing to Alnoor last year. Her projected images in the space and large welcoming banners outside the museum only served to frustrate and amplify her absence.

Why was Shamsia not with us? Bureaucracy and maybe just a touch of hysteria on the part of the British High Commission, who oh so helpfully insist that for local Afghani's to travel to the UK they need to first travel to either Pakistan or India to obtain a visa! For someone teaching full time and being an artist of significance in Afghanistan, you’d think that some effort might have been made to make this happen more easily for her. An opportunity for British diplomacy to shine - lost! Shamsia, you were missed!

Separate to the curated works and sat amongst the weapons of war, was a dark and truly grizzly object - deformed steel girders from the ‘twin towers’ - like some exhausted brutalist giant in the corner. Compelling, and for my part, something that called out for me to touch it. I didn’t, because all the signs said not to. Would it have been disrespectful?  

Like some medieval tomb of long-dead lovers, rubbed smooth by a thousand patinating hands, to me, this monolith demands some physical connection. More than that, it uncomfortably conjoins the triennial with the bleakest aspects of humanity. What, I wondered, would sound-artists make of this, the most potent of objects? I imagined it ‘amped up’ with pickups and played to a silent auditorium, its various struts and disjointed spurs of metal caressed, stroked and plucked, raising up some deeper melancholic symphony. 

ASDA Foundation Community Grants Programme
Grants of between £5,000 and £20,000 are available for not-for-profit organisations to develop stronger better connected communities across the UK by targeting the key social issues that are affecting local communities. Grants are available for not-for-profit organisations to develop stronger better connected communities across the UK by targeting the key social issues that are affecting local communities. Funding is available for initiatives that will support local communities and meet the following criteria:

  • Will make a significant difference benefitting the wide local community.
  • Addresses the needs of the local community.
  • Tackles the underlying issues in the local community.
  • Has used evidence of community needs and aspirations to develop an existing model.
  • Will transform the community, improving the lives of those who live there.

Read more at:

Saturday, 20 September 2014

...the void


Scotland - what can I add to this debate? Nothing - other than 84.5% of elegible voters cast their votes! Amazing. Isn’t there something of a philosophical and moral debate to be had about why so many people don’t vote in general elections? Disconnected - lost - uninspired? Public art and Amy Winehouse - what can I add to the debate? Nothing - other than disconnected and uninspired?

Make of it what you will...

Wellbeing analysis makes stronger case for the arts
Following a year-long inquiry, a cross-party group of MPs has concluded that investment in arts and culture, mindfulness in health and education, a focus on stable jobs rather than growth and more green spaces in our cities are all key to improving wellbeing. Wellbeing in four policy areas, a report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Wellbeing Economics, concludes that the DCMS and the arts sector more generally should use ‘wellbeing analysis’ to make a better case for public spending on the arts and culture, as this approach is better able to “value nonmarket goods, and goods which we value for reasons that have little to do with the market”. Read more at: 

Funding for Projects that Address Urban & Rural Deprivation 
The Trusthouse Charitable Foundation has announced that capital and revenue funding is available to support the work of local and national charities and not-for-profit organisations that address rural and urban deprivation. Within these two main headings, the Trust is interested in helping established projects which work in the fields of:
  • Community Support
  • Arts, Education & Heritage
  • Disability & Health Care.
The type of projects the Trust are interested in funding include projects providing transport for the elderly, disabled or disadvantaged; contact networks for the young disabled; projects which encourage a sense of community such as community centres and village halls; employment training schemes especially those promoting local, traditional crafts; projects addressing issues such as drug/alcohol misuse or homelessness.
There are three grants schemes. These are:
  • The Large Grant Scheme, with grants of between £10,000 and £30,000 to cover capital costs
  • The Small Grant Scheme, grants of between £5,001 and £9,999 to cover capital and revenue costs;
  • The Fast Track Scheme with grants of up to £5,000 to cover capital and revenue costs.
In addition, the Foundation also provides funding to support capital projects at hospices throughout the UK; and on local projects providing support for mothers and babies in the first two years of life. The Grants Committee meets quarterly to consider applications at the beginning of February, May, September and November. The deadlines for submitting applications are generally 2 months before the date of a meeting. Read more at