Wednesday, 29 April 2020

Improvisation for Sonic Cure (坂本 龍一)

Ryuichi Sakamoto (坂本 龍一)
The Japanese composer, singer, songwriter, record producer, activist, and actor has created a body of work that mixes the sublime with the political and his own recovery from cancer. This latest improvised offering stretches to around 30 minutes and is the kind of thing you can just leave playing. I top and tale the blog this week with this and his commercially successful piece from Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence. Though I still like the David Sylvian version, Forbidden Colours HERE which brings a tear to my eye even after almost 40 years.

UbuWeb: All avant-garde. All the time.
A few weeks ago I posted details of the extraordinary online sonic resource Cities and Memory and this week (big thanks DP) I have been enraptured (yes enraptured - it's the steroids) by the utterly wonderful Ubu.Web. It's self explanatory and has loads of free resources that can keep you occupied, amused and sane until we tumble headlong into the crack in the earth. Click HERE or on poor Ling-Ling below (with apologies to those of you with a delicate disposition)

Americans with guns
(no offence to my dear friends over there who aren't gun-toting, anti-lock-down, flag-waving, disinfectant-injecting, self-serving myopics)  

After all his continual and dangerous gibberish, isn't it time that the Republican party stripped and paraded its leader through the streets of the capital? When you see the sterling job our own leader has been doing to coordinate and deliver such a well resourced and consistent approach - wait on - I was thinking of Jacinda Ardern! How could I have mistaken her for that great ape. Ohh for the women leaders. Will the ape take his paternity leave I wonder. So, here's an extract from a report on a country where almost 1.2m total gun background checks were conducted in a single week, beginning 16 March, which according to the FBI, broke all records going back to 1998. 

Americans have responded to the coronavirus epidemic with a record-breaking number of gun purchases, according to new government data on the number of background checks conducted in March.

More than 3.7m total firearm background checks were conducted through the FBI’s background check system in March, the highest number on record in more than 20 years. An estimated 2.4m of those background checks were conducted for gun sales, according to adjusted statistics from a leading firearms industry trade group. That’s an 80% increase compared with the same month last year, the trade group said.

Read it and weep HERE.

The Culture Health & Wellbeing Alliance...
...continue to provide all manner of useful resources over this period, and this week they are putting out a short survey to help get a picture of the balance of provision and funding around the country, and it will help advocating for your needs in the context of covid-19.

The Survey
The Culture, Health and Wellbeing Alliance (CHWA) is partnering with Arts Culture Health and Wellbeing Scotland (ACHWS) and the Wales Arts, Health & Wellbeing Network (WAHWN) - as well as ArtsCare in Northern Ireland, to conduct a UK-wide survey with the support of Nesta. The deadline is Monday 11 May 9am. You can go straight to it and find more details HERE.

Creativity & Wellbeing Week
As many of you will have seen, the CHWA have now announced the reimagined Creativity & Wellbeing Week. We want the week to be as inclusive as possible, so please do stage digital events if you are able, or otherwise please just tell us about your work in culture, health and wellbeing. We will be hosting events during the week. More information on those soon HERE. 

Guide to working online
Thanks to a partnership with Arts Marketing Association, 64m Artists and Real Ideas, we have developed new guidance for working online and online safeguarding, available HERE. 

Coping with PPE
Performing Medicine have just launched a new digital resource for healthcare professionals designed for those coping with wearing PPE for long periods of time.  We invited performers, designers, puppeteers and makers from the theatre and film industry to share their insights on coping with restrictive, claustrophobic clothing & equipment. The result is a sharable digital resource which we hope will be of help to healthcare professionals across the country - filled with top tips and great pictures of the performers in their outfits. There is a blog piece on the project HERE and you can download the free resource HERE.

Steve McQueen: live in conversation
Join Steve McQueen live in conversation with Artangel Co-Director James Lingwood, Monday 4 May, 19:00 BST (London time). The conversation will centre on McQueen’s collaborations with Artangel over the past two decades: Caribs’ Leap /Western Deep filmed in Grenada and South Africa and premiered in 2002, Weight, a work made for Artangel’s exhibition Inside at Reading Prison in 2016, and Year 3, an epic portrait of London’s 7- and 8-year-olds presented across the city last year. The live discussion will incorporate questions from those shared on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook using the hashtag #ArtangelIsOpen. To register for the conversation and find out more click HERE.

Re:Creating Europe
Featuring Adjoa Andoh, Christopher Eccleston, Lemn Sissay, Juliet Stevenson and Michael Morpurgo, Ivo van Hove’s Re:Creating Europe explored our continent through the words that have shaped, traced and defined its history. We’re streaming this brilliant MIF19 show on Friday, complete with an introduction especially recorded for this online presentation by Michael Morpurgo. Join us to journey through Europe from your sofa – no passport required. ► Watch live: Friday 1 May, 7.30pm Click HERE.

A Little BLISS
Here are the opening paragraphs of a lovely short story by Katherine Mansfield written in 1920 and called Bliss. The full story is available HERE. Enjoy.

. . . 

Although Bertha Young was thirty she still had moments like this when she wanted to run instead of walk, to take dancing steps on and off the pavement, to bowl a hoop, to throw something up in the air and catch it again, or to stand still and laugh at—nothing—at nothing, simply.

What can you do if you are thirty and, turning the corner of your own street, you are overcome, suddenly, by a feeling of bliss—absolute bliss!—as though you’d suddenly swallowed a bright piece of that late afternoon sun and it burned in your bosom, sending out a little shower of sparks into every particle, into every finger and toe?

. . . 

(footnote #10) Well, there isn't the moment, but maybe it might creep in later in the week. So here's a sweet little blackbird.

Thursday, 23 April 2020

Love & Anarchy and Staying Angry...

While I want to write copious notes on the state of things right now, there are others far more eloquent than me doing just that, with only a few providing anything vaguely different to the regurgitated media histrionics. Here are some that piqued my interest this last week.

Rebecca Solnit writes ‘Coronavirus does discriminate, because that’s what humans do.’ She begins: “In theory, all of us are vulnerable to coronavirus, but in practice how well we fare has to do with what you could call pre-existing conditions that are not only medical but economic, social, political and racial – and the pandemic, which is also an economic catastrophe, has made these differences glaringly clear.” Read in full
HERE. Picking up on inequalities (and reminding me of The Mass Trespass) Always with a succinct and global perspective, George Monbiot suggests that: “When the coronavirus crisis ends, let’s demand a right to roam in cities, the countryside and on golf courses.” Read Monbiot HERE. 

But of all these opinion pieces, there’s a very raw and direct human story by Steven Methven called, Staying Angry in London Review of Books in which he asserts that: “we owe our future selves, not to mention our current selves, and those already gone, the focused light of fury.” Read it in full HERE. It’s very easy to deny or suppress feelings anger while the virus is still at strength and it’s natural to focus on the positive - not least to stay psychologically strong - but let’s not lose sight of the very clear factors that underpin some of the avoidable chaos surrounding us - and the ‘decision makers’ who have presided over it. 

For my part and regardless of my current plight, my anger is welling and while we all try and find collective moments to make sense of what's happening and stay sane, I fear the changes that are coming might not be the cultural and environmental utopia we dream of. Let's keep our eyes now more than ever on inequalities and injustices which this virus is illuminating painfully clearly. If change is coming - it is the people who should be driving it by the appropriate means - not the insidious forces of the market, whose invisible players are already positioning themselves to control all our futures. So finally - and to lift your spirits - Mark Steel as articulate and funny as ever, perhaps encourages us to be just a little angry. Read HERE. I'd argue that Steel is possibly one of the most relevant social commentators of our times - poisonous and funny. Thanks to NS and JA for sharing some of these links.

Closer to the arts, health and social change agenda come three blog postings. Victoria Hume eloquently marries care and slowing down with a reimagining of what might life might look like post-covid HERE. Julie McCarthy discusses how the Greater Manchester Combined Authority is bringing people together through creativity, pointing out that, “the most vulnerable people get left behind when you’re locked down,” HERE. Finally, Kat Taylor provides a wealth of connections to all manner of cultural opportunities in her posting: “Culture at a Distance: Arts for Health in Isolation.” HERE. Each of these blogs deserve a good read.

The artist Lucy Burscough is embarking on a two-year public-facing residency at Manchester University’s Manchester Museum. 'Dab Hands' will explore hands, art practice & dexterity. Portraits will be made of people’s hands whose dexterity is affected by disease & trauma, by cancer treatment and arthritis. The production of these paintings will develop on from Lucy’s earlier work, in particular, the Facing Out project. There, it was found that involvement in sensitively designed 'arts & health' projects, which offer patients a chance to celebrate their identity by telling their stories on their own terms, can be beneficial to well-being and help participants re-frame their medical experience into a wider sense of self. If you want to find out more click HERE or on the image above.

During this uncertain time the Jennifer Lauren Gallery is seeking submissions from national and international artists that self-define as disabled and/or Deaf. The Gallery will be hosting an online exhibition on its website, with a downloadable zine of the works too. The exhibition will support and showcase the work of 25 artists selected through a call-out with the help of artist and adult survivor with mental health issues Terence Wilde, whom Jennifer already supports and Lisa Slominski of Slominski Projects. The Gallery hopes that this exhibition will expose these artist’s works to wider audiences, to bring a sense of achievement during this difficult and isolating time and who knows, may result in new opportunities for the artists, and studios that support them.  

The call-out: Artists who self-define as disabled and/or Deaf can submit a photograph of one work (or send one digital piece of work) via email with its title, size (wxh in cm) and medium. (BSL version at the bottom of the page.) Please also submit your name and a short description about the work of up to 30 words should you wish to. (A BSL video can be submitted in replacement of this text, which will be interpreted into text). The photograph/digital file needs to be 5mb or less in size. Studios can submit work on behalf of artists if they have the artist’s permission. 

●      The work needs to have been made since 1 January 2020
●      No theme to follow
●      In any medium and of any size since this is an online exhibition
●      Please mention your postcode if Greater Manchester based
●      Email work to:
●      If you need help photographing your work or need extra information, please email Jennifer or send a message over the Gallery’s social media 

Call-out dates: Friday 17 April – Sunday 3 May 2020 by 5pm
You will be contacted by Friday 8 May 2020 to let you know if you’ve been successful or not. Should you not be selected please do still take a look at the online gallery. Please note that emails sometimes go into junk mail boxes. 
Full details are HERE.

Olafur Eliasson wants the public to be the artist for his latest work, rethinking how we see the planet Earth. To mark Earth Day 2020 yesterday, Eliasson began to releasing Instagram, images of nine orange and pink coloured images of the Earth with a dot in the middle. People should stare at the dot for 10 seconds and then focus on a blank surface where an afterimage will appear in different colours. 'That in effect is our work of art – a new view of the world.' He says:  “The wonderful idea of Earth Day allows one to take a step back, look at the planet from the outside and recognise that it is an object that is so hard and impossible to comprehend. It sort of escapes us. Click HERE to find out more.

Yes - you really did read that! Now a little treat from the antipodes. This is to all those of you in Australia who follow this blog - but it's online - so anyone - anywhere! During my time over these years in Australia I have had the pleasure to meet all sorts of people; some who I've worked with and others who have gone on to be friends. One of these is the extraordinary Jaimie Leonarder who with his partner Aspasia have been delivering a mix of heady underground culture in Sydney while working as a social worker for many years. It's in that work that he has done some quite profound work with people living on the fringes of society. There was a great documentary made by SBS about him, but alas, I can't find it online, so here's a trailer. If you are more Schubert than Stockhausen it may jar on you - but persist! He is an excellent human and while I've not met Aspasia, you can damn well bet she is too.

Naked World
In this crazy locked-down world here are a new live series of shows coming to a living room near you and for a ridiculously minuscule subscription. You'll get full access to the extraordinary Mu Meson Archive and:

See Naked World, in complete streaming video, twice a week, eight times a month

Every Monday and Saturday, Jay Katz and Miss Death will be across your airwaves with interviews and conversations delving into the downright bizarre

Watch Cult Sinema Obscura and delve into the Mu Meson Archives' extensive collection of films from the fringes, commentated live every Tuesday night from the archives by Jay Katz and Miss Death

And Jay Katz will be spinning vinyl Live From Mu Mesons every Friday night until this pandemic lifts

The original Sounds Of Seduction (1995) album upon signing up (digital download)

Join the Mu Meson Archives Mailing List and receive a monthly newsletter of curiosities

Find our more and sign up HERE. Now - here is the sublime trailer.

Friday, 10 April 2020

Who Cares Wins...


What’s strange for me, is that a sometimes-cavalier attitude to my own health has mutated into something else. A hardy perennial, happily ploughing through the vicissitudes of existence - a cancer diagnosis brought me up short and inevitably initiated some reappraisal of life - but still, through the realisation of my own and others mortality and the sometimes gruelling treatment, I still keep a hybrid optimistic/cynical eye on the things around the edges of our lives. All the while the world turns and Venus shines oh so brightly.

I’m awash with a billion useful online interventions and everyone’s artistry, but as people seemingly try and cheer each other up, it often feels like all those attempts at doing a Marie Kondo or collective online sing-a-long-a-thons are well-meaning, but there is an over saturation and sometimes I’m just left with a niggling cloying feeling: either that or all the doom and gloom of the virus itself. Though I’m sure that when all this thing begins to fade, there will be new creative uses of technology and apps that haven’t yet been imagined. Then there are those great poems and performances that will be born of this period. Suzanne Moore wrote a brief article whose title alone piqued my interest: How can you feel safe amid coronavirus? Swap mindfulness for mindlessness. Bravo - have a quick read HERE. And for those of you wanting up to date information on wider arts/health/covid things, I always recommend the Culture Health & Wellbeing Alliance resources page HERE.

So here are one or two things that may be of interest.

Come Up With Your Own Ideas
I’m never quite sure what’s ‘safe’ to recommend to the diverse of this blog, and as the online world is overflowing with peoples own offers arts interventions, I’ll leave all of that for you to filter and plough through. After all, I am guilty of a little self-indulgence, as I share a little of my current plight here, but then the opportunities I normally post are increasingly thin on the ground right now. I did see a great big gurning mug shot of Tracey Emin ‘CBE’ looking grumpy, nay - angry - and who is ‘commissioned’ by White Cube to keep an online diary. You can read, see and hear her contribution by clicking HERE or on her mugshot. There is a much more charming and I’m sure un-commissioned on-line contribution from Bob & Roberta Smith which you can find HERE, Including - Come Up With Your Own Ideas.

Circle of Care
Putting Tracey's angry head aside for a second, here's a very timely share from Performing Medicine.
Circle of Care is a relational framework for care, created by Performing Medicine in collaboration with healthcare professionals at Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust. We hope it may be useful to everyone right now, not just those who are not healthcare professionals, as we try to collectively look after ourselves & each other. In the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, the multi-directionality of care feels important between housemates, neighbours, healthcare professionals and communities. It's not enough to ‘feel’ caring – care needs to be demonstrated and embodied through actions and behaviours. Circle of Care identifies a set of skills that can help to support the flow of care and remove any obstacles in its way. See our blog Circle of Care in Communities by clicking HERE.

Frustratingly, this interesting, very creative set of small commissions has come very late in the day, with a Monday deadline - but if you’re kicking your heels over the weekend, what better way to get your creative juices flowing.

HOME WORK - the opportunity- 10 x micro commission opportunities (£300 each) on the theme of ‘care’
- For artists, freelancers, and collaborators
- St Helens, Merseyside and beyond.
- Deadline: 12 April

Theme What does care look like? How do we recognise it, how do we value it? Care is a central element of our programme here at HoG. Our programme only happens because we work with a whole ecology of people who care - artists, community workers, facilitators, activists, hosts, producers. Format What could this look like? We’re open to any form that your work might take - for example a performance, a sound piece, an online conversation or masterclass, a zine, a blogpost, an image - anything which considers, embodies, speaks to the theme of care.

Thinking about ‘care’ We’re not interested in the making of stuff for the sake of making more stuff, so be honest with us, if you’d like to use this fee to spend some time thinking about how to support your community, share that with us This is only a little support (equivalent to an average artist day fee). Please only spend up to 8 hours on this. We know that our circumstances are all different. Whatever way you’d like to structure your work on this is the right way! We are prioritising applications from communities who are at the heart of our programme, if you identify as disabled, working class, LGBTQ+ or if you have refugee status, let us know. For more info/to apply click HERE.   

(footnote #9 - a rather disjointed but extend one!)
As our elected leader is being treated for the virus right now, I’ll lay off anything too harsh other than my ruminations on the inevitable state surveillance that are being born of this time - and what of all those other deals, policies, strategies that will be quietly being manipulated behind the scenes right now: quietly, invisibly perhaps. I understand that mobile phones in Turkey are being monitored, and judging by the amount of government and NHS messages I get to my phone, I’ve signed up for a very British kind of surveillance myself. While the ‘celebs’ are being accused of spreading fake news around 5-G and the virus, it really is interesting how these things take hold. Amir Khan seems to have led the pack with conspiracy theory, but while it would be easy to dismiss anything off-kilter, it’s worth noting the big business of 5-G is rocketing right now, and of course time will see the damage to mental and physical health that this ubiquitous connectivity has on us all. No, not novel corona viruses, but boy doesn’t the gibberish around this seemingly impossible link between biology and technology give those with vested financial interests in 5G a superb smoke-screen for the real health impacts it may contribute to?

We should digest too, that for many years we relished good old Porton Down where in fact, we cultivated all manner of hazardous biological and chemical weapons. I’m sure governments around the world have cachets of quite terrifying man-made things that we really, really would/wouldn’t want to know about. It doesn’t take a great leap of the imagination to see just where conspiracy theory and its cousin, fake news, spring from. And isn’t it the nature of Instagram to show the world our contrived aesthetic selves, but what of images of perfection in an age when social media’s flip-side offers the unattainable? What about all those people aiming for the ‘perfect’ Kardashian body, locked away at home trying their unachievable best - what will we make of all this - how will we emerge - body beautiful - or frustrated and full of self-hatred? It’s already begining to be reported that an increase in suicide is likely and given that key support services have been hit by the virus, people who are vulnerable run the risk of slipping under the radar. Please remember in the UK that the Samaritans are open 24 hours a day, every day of the year on 116 123 and by email at


It feels like the supermarkets and banks and telecom companies are all doing their best, what with all those big adverts from CEO’s - in fact, my bank emailed to say they’d scrap any interest they would charge on a £5k overdraft facility if I wanted it until July. Then of course - they’d charge interest. There’s all the well-deserved applause NHS workers are hearing each Thursday at 8:00pm, to which our premier joined in prior to his admission to hospital. But all those frontline workers from care and clinical settings needed this acknowledgment a long time ago, particularly where cost-efficiencies and privatisation have been the way of the government. Will a post-pandemic period see a renaissance in our understanding of the ways health and social care are understood, funded and delivered? I’d like to think so, but will our premier (whose approval ratings have rocketed) be recorded in history as the victorious Churchill figure or a dithering Chamberlin. Then of course there’s that appalling propagator of fake news, histrionics and temper tantrums: up in the White House the leader of the Free World continues to defy belief. Still, he provides us with the blackest of comedy in the bleakest of times, but he also models his behaviour and when fake news and lies are spread, celeb’s are the least of our worries when you have this great ape on Capitol Hill.

Confined to barracks as one of the ‘extremely vulnerable’ and advised against leaving the house for my own good - though my best medicine is possibly wandering by sea and hills - I find myself having to drive up to Cumbria. What - flout the ban? Never! This anomaly in the interpretation of self-confinement can be cast aside for treatment and as my own local hospital has been repurposed as the go-to place for Covid-19, those of us having regular chemo attend a smaller hospital which aims to be virus free. 

I can’t deny being a little apprehensive as all things viral escalate and having got my home into a relatively safe space, with new routines to sensibly safeguard everyone’s health as best we can, walking into a hospital feels something akin to entering the lion’s den. But it’s a sunny day, the hospital is quiet and the people working there beaver away with that professional warmth I’m appreciating all the more, given the context that they’re working through. Waiting for another needle to be pushed into my flesh, through the window I watch a pair of buzzards slowly circling in the cool blue sky.

Back at home I read about the normal people wanting to do something pro-active in the here and now, like (ok, maybe not so normal) Bafta-winning Syrian photographer and filmmaker Hassan Akkad who has temporarily changed careers to spend his time disinfecting Covid-19 wards at his local hospital. He moved to London four years ago and wanted to give back to the NHS during the pandemic, and so has taken the minimum-wage job as a way of contributing. He is also is raising much needed awareness about the role of immigrants in the health ecology. Check out his twitter @hassan_akkad  Superb - and then there’s the army of new volunteers. Wonderful. Let's hope for more long-term future investment in care services and the NHS post pestilence.

Cities and Memory
There’s been much coverage of the increase of bird song in the UK and I’m sure the phenomenon is global. The calls and songs are amazingly loud and beautiful, and as a result of some rather beefy steroids I’m taking, I wake up well before dawn and wait with real excitement to hear the slowly building dawn chorus from my room. My avian friends have accompanied me through my treatment like nothing else. I live in a terrace house on a city street and have a small back yard - but boy, am I lucky to sit in this small square and feel the sun and hear and see those birds. 

If any of you are interested in sound, field recordings and connecting/hearing other people’s collected sounds around the world, I can recommend nothing as highly as Cities and Memory.

This is a global collaborative sound project encompassing field recording, sound art and sound mapping – remixing the world, one sound at a time. Every location on the Cities and Memory sound map features two sounds: the original field recording of that place, and a reimagined sound that presents that place and time as somewhere else, somewhere new. They have a wonderful Covid-19 resource page with some superb links HERE. 

Before the virus took hold so miserably, dealing with my hitcher was something I was focused deeply on, and with some recent degree of success - imagine a successful restraining order - and you’re not far-off. So the virus gives me a bleaker situation to consider and I’m doing my bit. But frustration - you bet. This spring I was determined, in between treatments, to drive down to the Forest of Dean and pay some kind of homage at the blossom tree outside Dennis Potter’s house. I imagine it must be gloriously frothy right now, and with my heightened awareness of being in the present, it would have been a treat to commune in some way with Potter. Alas, not this year. But...

Here’s what I do. In the wee early hours at first light, alone, in my exercise slot, I break away onto silent back streets and alleyways and wend my way from home making no contact with other humans. In the distance I see the occasional runner, but at this time, only the hardcore are out. I find my way to that lovely space between the edge of town and all that’s urban, and the last vestiges of farmland that kiss the motorway, where lorries and the odd car still hurtle past delivering some sense of normality. Sandwiched like this next to a reservoir and housing estate and with a lame threat of a bull’s presence, this narrow band of unassuming offers some rural sanctuary - an edge-land. Inside there is a dip and a small stream, and a hedgerow coppiced many years ago, with ancient hawthorn, oak and holly and old lichen covered gateposts long out of use, are reassuring and cold to the touch.

Here’s what I plan. I’ll gather the soft new leaves of young nettles and dandelions, as like everyone else, I hope for small miracles out of things beyond the evidence base. I understand that nettle soup, along with my daily consumption of fresh turmeric might have some health-giving properties, both to subdue the malevolent hitcher, and specifically the nettles on respiratory conditions (there are in fact interesting small-scale research findings on this). My personal armoury is indeed like nothing I could have imagined a year ago.

Here’s what I see. Walking home I swatch healthy black beaked crows perch on top of the pad-locked children’s play area; guardians perhaps. The play area is a health & safety eco attempt at one of those Notting Hill or Tottenham adventure playgrounds of the 1950’s where kids could play with rusty metal, splintering lumps of wood and stoke fires. A mad and wild and wonderful post-war liberation of the cities land enabled by visionary artists and activists and a product of a progressive time. Risk and chance and wild experimentation. What might emerge over these next years?

I see bags of dog filth thrown into bushes and on to pavements.
I see the skies empty of planes.
I see and hear the empty roads - in the future will we share cars - or will we be terrified of sharing?  
But strangers smile and wave.

Here’s what I feel. A neighbour who lives down the road, who I’ve said hello to for 30 years, but never really known, brings me a newspaper each morning. I now know that Bernard has lived here since he was a child and now a good few years older than me, he is a new kind of friend. It’s unexpected and liberating. At 8:00pm last night, I stood and clapped my hardest in gratitude to those working at the coal-face of this thing. As cynical as I am to tokenism instead of resources, it’s all I can do to hold back the tears in my eyes, as a recipient of this care we have so long taken for granted.

. . .

Here's a little whimsy.

Carelessly drinking wine
Walking through fields and streams
Licking salt-sticky fingers
Fresh cut grass and creosote
Tarry oozing telegraph poles
Tramping moorland through woods to shore
Sun on skin and harsh winter winds
Hugging you so fucking tightly

Thursday, 26 March 2020

An Almost Virus-Free Zone

How about this little French film from 1958 for some pleasant distraction - no dialogue and no unpleasant bugs, but just music and movement and a shy young man looking for a dance.
. . . 

CHWA annual conference It was a disappointment to us all that the Culture Health & Wellbeing Alliance annual conference was postponed, but given the circumstances, it was a very rational thing to do. I'll look forward to seeing those of you who can make it to the rearranged event in the fullness of time. You can keep abreast of the national arts and health scene by checking into the CHWA website HERE.

The Virtual Social Centre
Social Solidarity in the time of Social Distancing

A big thanks to Dr Frances Williams, (and huge congratulations to you on your PhD) for sending me this link to the extraordinary useful online resource: The Virtual Social Centre which there's a link to HERE and where which you'll find some wonderful free and imaginative resources. Superb and necessary work. 

. . . 

Here are some events and opportunities, but with a caveat that not all things will necessarily happen in a time of flux...

Arts Council Funding 
Emergency funding packageACE will offer individuals and organisations working in the cultural sector new financial support during this crisis, totalling £160 million. We’ve re-purposed all our investment strands to be able to offer this support. These emergency funding streams will be open to applications very soon. More details HERE. 

Moving With... 
...are events that promote health and wellbeing through movement. This particular event is aimed directly at arts and health practitioners, a time for us to move and explore our creativity, and take time away from our busy working lives. On April 29th, we will be exploring our voice in relation to our movement, and we will be outside at a forest school site, having time to connect with the earth, the trees, and to leave feeling rejuvenated and refreshed. In this workshop we will sink into the sounds of the landscape, discovering subtle relations between movement and voice. We will explore how the voice guides our path and connects us with our ancestors. Through this meditative and mindful journey, we will tune to nature's pulse, transforming sounds of songs and longing into a burst of spring joy. We will be moving outdoors at the Horsefield in Slaithwaite, a forest school site nestled in the Calder Valley in West Yorkshire at the edge of the Pennines. Full details are HERE.

The BBC is looking for scripts about self-isolation to be made into short films DEADLINE 30th MARCH
An exciting opportunity has come about to see your writing adapted into a short film for the BBC.

BBC Writersroom has announced Interconnected, a competition asking for original scripts about two to four characters in self-isolation, who connect via online video conferencing.

They can be related in any way the writer chooses—friends, lovers, colleagues, family or perhaps not at all—but they each find themselves self-isolating in this unique time in human history (or the near future). Full details HERE.

New NHS-funded intervention using mental health recovery storiesThe NEON intervention involves online access to recovery stories, and we are now starting trials for people with experience of psychosis, other kinds of mental health problems, and informal carers. People can find out more and sign up HERE.

OK - I've posted this twice before - but what the hell...

Mind over Matter
Discussing Mental Health Through Spoken Word, Hip-Hop & Song

A Recreational Space With Therapeutic Value

Mind Over Matter is an independent project which breaks down stigma and widens the conversation around mental health by discussing it through Spoken Word Poetry, Hip Hop, and Song. The heart and soul of Mind Over Matter is to provide people with a platform to express themselves in a safe environment. Our goal is to change the way Mental Health is understood and spoken about, while supporting the Poetry and live music scenes. Find out more HERE.

SICK Festival... 
...are offering some really very interesting new opportunities
Click HERE for details, but deadlines are tight.

Job Opportunity: Deputy Director (Maternity Cover)
Monday, February 24, 2020 - 16:45
Arts Catalyst is pleased to announce a new job opportunity of Deputy Director (Maternity Cover) which will be based in the city centre of Sheffield.
Application Deadline: 6pm, 6th April 2020
Full details HERE.  

Until the TATE closed its doors to the gallery going public, Vic McEwan's ongoing exploration of facial nerve paralysis was reaching huge numbers of people. It's frustrating that so many things have inevitably been cancelled including Sarah McEwan and Layla Bacayo's residency at the BlueRoom at Bluecoat. There were many more events planned, so it's with sadness that Vic are heading back to  Australia for a period of inevitable quarantine. A real treat for me was spending time with Vic and Sarah in the first weeks of the exhibition (luridly alluded too in previous footnotes) and spending slow time on the Biomedical Composing Machine. Much, much more on that very soon.
Bon Voyage Vic, Sarah and Holly.

. . .

And if you need eight and a half hours of sheer bliss to lull you into a state of deep relaxation, I can think of nothing better than Max Richter's Sleep. Just press play and let it wash over you. Be safe out there...Clive

. . .

(footnote #8)
On Ottergear Bridge 

Standing in splendid isolation the bladder offers up its steady arc of méthode traditionnelle to the gods, aimed squarely at the brook eighty feet below, catching early solar light already amplifying this new golden surreality. 

Last night, a call from London - C saying he’s been let go, his voice caught in his throat and I want to hold him. J is forced to leave a far-off country while another J fends off drowning in urban off-kilter anxiety. A planetary shift - my eyes sting.

All the while lapwings call and swoop, electrical and throaty in the air around my head. A buzzard glides effortlessly, unperturbed by the harrying and mad black flapping of the crows.

Only moments ago, fire tore through houses and blue gum trees and rain flooded hot asphalt streets, yet here, only foot and mouth and red-faced tweeds on the glorious twelfth have prohibited my footfall. 

Today crags of limestone shelter me from the breeze and in the cloughs, fat bellied sheep and cattle drink amiably under skeletal first-bud trees. Midges gather in small dense groups, gossiping as distant cathedrals of blue ice dissolve. 

Creeping ivy locks the throats of lichen-dense trees in a 
half nelson and the flying, buzzing, crawling things amass. Fledgling birds fall from the sky - seemingly lazy bees lay on their backs. Leaves turn black. Ants halt their march.

Before this doubt-blown-in-on-a-breeze swamps me, I walk further into the thicket to the brutally pollarded tree with its bare outstretched limbs. Triceratops. I stand in the mud at its base and embrace it, looking up along the warm bark that scratches my skin and into the pale blue sky. 

But the birds are singing and the bees don't sting.

Solid while the earth shifts again, grounded and alive for now, 

feeling our uncertain evolution. 

Wednesday, 4 March 2020

Minister of Propaganda

You have to laugh at Priti Patel being outed as a bully, by the instantly forgettable senior civil servant who benignly presided over the Windrush inquiry without so much as a by your leave, but now demands our tears. She’s elected, so she’s accountable and should be dealt with accordingly. But bullying in the ranks of government? - never! At least she’s been elected and can be turfed out if found guilty - but what about the pernicious and sloppy ‘special adviser’ to the oaf? Unelected and by all reliable accounts modelling the accepted gold standard of bullish behaviour in Downing Street. Our very own Reich Minister of Propaganda of Brexit Britain. His diktat: Replicate the cabal’s rules and behaviour - just don’t get caught.

While everyone has been keen to bash Corbyn, at least he didn’t display the accepted behavioural norms of contemporary parliamentary debate, displaying instead, consideration, intelligence and principles. With the current incumbents, it seems if they dumb it down to ‘oven ready’ and ‘getting Brexit done’ they can feed their lowest common denominator scraps out to the masses, patronise them and display their total disregard for others to replicate. We’ve only just begun.

We’ve had a flurry of both arts and inequalities reports, and all sorts of public health activity over the last few weeks, not least the media bombardment of everything Covid-19. I don’t at all question the importance surrounding this little understood corona virus, but it would be good to keep the sensation down to news and fact - however scant. For three years I worked with the Asia Europe Foundation on pandemic planning and it seems both communication and public preparedness around unfolding international health scenarios, still has a long, long way to go. That all said, as someone who at this moment in time doesn’t have much of an immune system, I trundled along to Boots to buy a bottle of hand sanitiser for my back pocket (have you used public loo’s recently? - perhaps it’s just the gent’s - urgh) and was told it had all been sold out; not only there but in every chemist in the city. Good grief. Apparently, people have been bulk buying too, so I guess I’ll need to stick to hot water and soap; either that or get fitted for a hazmat suit!  

Anyway - back to basics - Arts Council England has published their much anticipated 2020 -2030 Strategy, Let’s Create which places a strong emphasis on diversity and health. In their strap-line, they boldly state their aspiration for England to be: A country Transformed by culture. Bringing Us Together, Happier, Healthier. To Excite, Inspire, Delight. To Enrich Our Lives.
If you’ve not read it yet, you can see the full report online HERE. 

For those of you who are slightly jaded with strategy and policy reports, it’s worth taking a look at ACE in a Hole? Which its authors describe as ‘an alternative to Shaping the Next Ten Years, or at least suggest a different starting point for a cultural strategy that might provide a more robust foundation at a time when our country is deeply divided and the arts, by any definition, are under pressure.’ You can find it HERE.

For my part, I like to read in the round, so if you are interested in the arts/health/social change agenda - particularly in an age of austerity - it’s worth reading the very recent report by Sir Michael Marmot published to mark progress in talking inequalities since his landmark report 10 years ago. In fact, while I don’t want to pre-empt either of these report’s and give you any spoilers, Marmot and his co-authors present us with very sobering reading. You can read a summary report HERE. I'll comment further later in the month.

For a grounded approach to the reality of unfolding arts and health (across Greater Manchester at least) I’m pleased that work undertaken with Dr Clare Devaney as part of the Manchester Institute for Arts, Health & Social Change is due to be published very shortly. More of that very, very soon. In the meantime I’ll be giving a ‘provocation’ to kick start the second day of the CHWA Conference. It will have a focus on inequalities and maybe, just maybe touch on some wilder and broader strands of influence. Full details HERE.

TATE Liverpool
Until 22 March 2020 between 11.00–16.00 
TATE Exchange (1st Floor Gallery)
If They Spend the Time to Get to Know Me is an interactive installation from artist Vic McEwan focusing on facial nerve paralysis. These conditions can affect facial expression, speech and vision and they can significantly change a person’s appearance. This means that people experiencing facial nerve paralysis often face stigma and discrimination. McEwan explores these experiences through an audio-visual installation and an interactive 3D workshop using a 3D scanner and 3D printer. Visitors will be able to contribute by having their face 3D scanned, 3D printed and added to the project. Full details HERE including his new interactive Bio-Medical Composing Machine.

“Children and young people in GM tell us that the greatest issue they face around mental health is stigma. Three Minute Heroes is an inclusive and positive way to give those children and young people a powerful way to communicate their thoughts and to tackle that stigma. Children and young people are invited to participate in up to six sessions of creative writing, to express what is bothering them and their feelings. The resulting lyrics are given to established and breakthrough artists and bands from the area, and an album with a mental health theme is then professionally produced in the studio.” Want to find out more? Head over to the always exciting blog by Kat Taylor by clicking HERE.

Save the Date - May 21-23!
Bring Me Laughter Festival 2020
In Lancaster, The Dukes are delighted to announce the Bring Me Laughter Festival - a celebration of dementia arts! Open to all - people living with dementia, carers, arts practitioners, theatre-goers & families - there will be a range of workshops, talks and live performances for all ages. Interested in finding out more? Please contact Gil Graystone at 

Collective Encounters
Talking Participation: Ethics and Participatory Arts
6PM, 20th March 2020, Liverpool
What ethics & values shape and underpin our practice in the arts?

What ethical challenges confront practitioners? Participatory artists often work with vulnerable people or with sensitive topics, whether they be political or personal. This can be fraught with challenges. In our day to day practice we rarely have time to reflect on the ethics of our work, yet it's fundamental to who we are and how we work.

In this Talking Participation, Abi Horsfield & Chrissie Tiller will offer provocations to start a round table debate about the ethical issues and challenges of participatory theatre practice. The run time of this event is 2 ½ hours, including dinner and networking. It is focused on engaging professionals working in participatory arts.

The evening will include a cooked vegetarian and vegan dinner.
Please let us know if you have any dietary requirements when booking.

Suggested donation £4. Full Details HERE.
. . . 

(footnote #7)
This is less than a footnote, given my rant towards the top of the page (albeit a self-censored one given that I’d rather dangerously begun to compare an illicit malingerer of Downing St, to Goebbels). Way, way back in footnote #4, I introduced my hitcher, who when moving in with me, became something of a sitting tenant, like a Cummings kind-of presence in my life - and while I have it skulking in a room in my house, I still have to feed it. So as best I can, I slip it things that will subdue it and its appalling designs on dominating my life.  

In last weeks footnote I described a trip down an MRI scanner and the failing headphones and intermittent moments of terror and bliss. I’m not sure I wrote it so well, because the food I give the lodger, inevitable affects me and writing can be very bad, or worse, and everything in between. So I shan’t go back to editing it, other than adding here that both this symbiosis with the sitting tenant, alongside the slow exposure of ‘undiscovered countries being disclosed’ 1 is giving me insights previously unimaginable. Difficult to describe, but emerging from that soporific magnetic reverie, to my surprise I left something quite mystical only to return to a place where ‘human voices wake us, and we drown.’2

1. Woolf - On Being Ill
2. Eliot - The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock