Friday, 12 October 2012

Sztuka + kultura = potęga

I am excited to be traveling to Fremantle in Western Australia this November, for the fourth Art of Good Health and Wellbeing, International Arts and Health Conference. When I talk about the value of getting together with strangers and sharing ideas only happening at events like this, it sounds rather cliched, doesn’t it: but the fact is, its true. These events are one-off opportunities to mingle with incredibly diverse groups of people - people with experience and skills way beyond those of mine. I’m naturally quite reserved, and although I do the public speaking bit and thrive on sharing ideas, I sometimes feel that at events like this, I’m an ant in comparison to the doctors who have saved countless lives; the nurses with compassion beyond my capability and the artists - those artists who thrill and impress beyond words. People whose take on life is sometimes forensic, sometimes revolutionary. So yes, in the shadows of some of these amazing individuals, I often go to these events thinking, who am I, some kind of fraud? 

But that’s just it - like those sometimes large, (often small) networking events that I convene in the North West, these conferences offer us all the opportunity to experience the other, the unique and the profound. Rather than feeling like a fish out of water, I reckon those of us going should just embrace the fact that we’re all part of that mix - we all have a part to play in this arts/health field: a field that we’re forming each time we meet. At last years conference in Canberra, my paper exploring attitudes to wellbeing, and the potential of the arts at the end of life, was almost scuppered by my last minute exposure to the Pukamani burial poles that are part of the collection of the National Gallery of Australia. This new and provocative experience for me was in fact, a deep cultural tradition of Aboriginal communities and it was usefully tempered by meeting people involved in the contemporary care of people receiving arts based support as part of their palliative care. Talk about being in at the deep end!  

Preparing for this years conference and my speaking part, I’ve been rifling through all sorts of papers, exploring some ideas behind what drives us to get involved in this sort of work; and judging by the economic climate; what restrains us? The things you stumble upon asking questions, frequently alter the course of your thinking. Last year, working towards a manifesto for arts and health, reading Jonathan Swift exposed me to vicious satire, in the guise of economic solutions to inequalities - then there was the fortuitous stumbling upon the poetry of Julia Darling, reimagining her home town; and the blistering “It is What it Is” curated by Jeremy Deller, redefining my understanding of socially-engaged art. As I type, I’m reading the the most evocative story of early electricity, of small electrified children suspended from 18th Century exhibition hall ceilings; of electric kisses; of mavericks and luminaries (literally)! Science, Art, Culture, Politics and Human Wellbeing - our field of enquiry and practice is emergent and exciting. I’m thrilled to have a part to play in this conversation - around our contribution to 21st Century enlightenment.

I will want your contributions to this years paper too! Although I am preparing to give a presentation, I’ll be asking things of you. Not things to shout out as you throw your rotten fruit at me - I wouldn’t be so foolish - but over the conference I’d like you be thinking about:
  • Where we diverge...where we converge 
  • What are the obstacles tearing us apart 
  • How can we overcome them 
  • What are our untapped assets 
...think of this as a big fat global SWAT chart....our strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats laid bare. So please come prepared to share your observations, your experience and your experiments! 

With some of these thoughts in mind, I’ll be working with esteemed colleagues after the event, to magically transform my scribble into something worthy of a journal article. 

So, to conclude these brief thoughts on why I think gatherings of this sort are important, I’d like to share in some small way, just how encountering those Burial Poles and meeting with people far more experienced in the field of end of life care than me, has impacted on me this last year. The first thing is, I’ve revisited the whole area of dementia care, with people in the later stages of the disease. I’ve done that alongside Darren Browett, the designer whose exquisite work I shared at last years conference. Together, we’ve been exploring both the legacy of the earlier work he developed and critically, how it moves forward and gets refined. Working within the NHS and with exemplary Occupational Therapists has enabled us to work closely and in a more embedded way. What we’ve experienced has been small scale and revelatory. I’ll publish a pamphlet on this early in 2013. Parallel to this, I’ve had the opportunity to develop some of those ideas that I set out in last years paper, Towards Sentience and whilst that paper is published as a book chapter early next year, I will be co-curating an exhibition which will be shown in Lithuania and Columbia as well as in Manchester during the period of the Manchester International Festival in July, and which will include some important and iconic contemporary art and will facilitate public debate around attitudes to death, ranging from art as a tool for mitigating difficult conversation - and inevitably the role of artists and designers in discussions around advanced directives and assisted dying. MORTALITY: death and the imagination will run from 8th July to 16th August 2013. Details of the works and speakers will be announced shortly.

So, if you’re coming along to the conference, it will be great to see you and know more about your work and find out how we all connect as part of this ‘small scale global phenomenon’, and perhaps I'll get the chance to share the story of these electrified children too! SHOCKING!

For those of you who have been part of our manifesto work over the last year, part two of this blasting and bombardiering will be wending its way onto the blog over the next few weeks. Here to whet your appetite and to sit alongside the Charter for Arts, Health and Wellbeing (see below), is one of the giant colour posters, courtesy of graphic designer Kamila Kasperowicz. And before you ask: yes it will be available in glorious black and white too - and in a variety of languages! This is just your blurry teaser! ENJOY.

The National Alliance for Arts, Health 
and Wellbeing
I’d also like to let you know about the launch of the new National Alliance for Arts Health and Wellbeing (England). This new body is designed to raise awareness of the impact the arts can have on health and wellbeing, to bring together the work that is happening across the country and to act as a resource for the whole sector.

The Alliance is made up of partners from across the country (a list of these is below), these partners will act as contacts for their region and will also liaise with national organisations working in this area along with government departments, the media and the public. 

The founding principles of the Alliance form a new Charter for Arts Health and Wellbeing. Over the past twelve months, more than 1000 organisations and individuals have collaborated to create this Charter, which has been influenced by the manifesto process, and which summarises why we think the arts have a role to play in health and how we hope the arts will come to be seen as an integral part of the health of individuals, communities and society as a whole. The Charter is available on the website along with a range of links to research, a directory of organisations and resources for the media. This website will form the central resource for the Alliance and will be gradually developed over the year ahead. Do share the Charter and the website with friends and colleagues. 

The Alliance has been developed with funding from Arts Council England and the energy and input of a huge number of people from across the country. It will be Chaired in turn by different regional partners, rotating every six months. The current Chair is Alex Coulter, Director of Arts and Health South West. London Arts in Health Forum is acting as Secretariat to the National Alliance so if you have any queries about the work of the Alliance or about the website, do please contact

In the coming months, we will be running a media campaign to promote the role of the arts in health, supporting the development of Arts and Health South West’s international conference in June next year and working on a range of activity to support those working in this field. In the meantime, we’d like to thank everyone who has helped make the launch possible.

The National Alliance is made up of the following regional partners, each representing a region of England: 

North West, Clive Parkinson, Arts for Health at Manchester Metropolitan University
North East, Mike White, Centre for Medical Humanities, Durham
Yorkshire and the Humber, Deborah Munt, Open Art,Yorkshire
East Midlands, tbc
West Midlands, Kate Gant, Creative Health
East Anglia, Kirsten Heydinrych, Open Arts/Essex & Gavin Clayton, Arts & Minds, Cambridgeshire
South West, Alex Coulter, Arts and Health South West
South East Guy Eades, South East Arts and Health Partnership
London Victoria Hume, London Arts in Health Forum 

The Reader Organisation is proud to announce that it has been commissioned to deliver its unique shared reading model, Get Into Reading, in every Mental Health Trust in the North West of England. 
A commission from the North West Strategic Health Authority will develop partnerships with Cheshire and Wirral NHS Trust, Calderstones Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, Cumbria Partnership Trust, Manchester Mental Health and Social Care Trust, Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust, and Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust. The project will be led by The Reader Organisation, NHS Cheshire, and Warrington and Wigan PCT Cluster. Readers-in-Residence are already established in Mersey Care NHS Trust, Greater Manchester West NHS Trust, and 5 Boroughs Partnership Trust. 

24 sustainable new Get Into Reading groups will be established by 5 new Reader Organisation Project Workers, who will also provide in-house training to allow NHS staff, including psychologists and occupational therapists, to take over group facilitation. The groups take place in community, in-patient and secure settings. 

Poor mental health is especially prevalent in deprived areas, an estimated 40% of which are situated in North West England. According to the North West Equality and Diversity Strategy, 14 of the area’s PCTs are in the 50 worst nationally for health inequality. 1 in 4 people will experience mental health problems during their lifetime, and Get Into Reading provides an non-medical intervention accessible to all. The impacts of Get Into Reading groups include increased personal confidence and reduced social isolation, as well as a sense of stability and support, key factors in preventing mental health problems. Participants also record improved mental, emotional and psychological wellbeing. 

Dr David Fearnley, Medical Director, Mersey Care NHS Trust (RCPsych ‘Psychiatrist of the Year 2009’), says: 

“Get Into Reading is one of the most significant developments to have taken place in mental health practice in the last ten years.”

Sky Arts: Futures Fund 
Deadline: 14 December 2012
Sky Arts’ Futures Fund has now reopened for applications, offering five young artists £30,000 each to fund their work for a full year. The fund is designed to help bridge the gap between formal education and becoming a working artist. The Futures Fund is open to individual artists working in the fields of the performing arts, dance, music and the visual arts. To apply, applicants must be an IdeasTap member aged 18-30 and be based in either the UK or Ireland. It’s free to become an IdeasTap member and just takes a few minutes to sign up. For more information go to the

Wallace & Gromit’s Children’s Foundation (UK)
  • The Wallace & Gromit’s Children’s Foundation has announced that its grants making programme is open for applications. The Foundation supports projects in children’s hospitals and hospices throughout the UK to enrich and enhance the lives of patients. Projects that could be considered by the Foundation include amongst others:
  • Arts, music, play and leisure programmes 
  • Facilities to support families of children treated in hospitals or hospices 
  • Care and facilities in hospices 
  • Supporting children with physical and emotional difficulties 
  • Medical equipment (when it can be shown that funding is not available from statutory sources). 
The closing date for applications is the 7th December 2012. Read more at: 

Coalfields Regeneration Trust's Level 2 Grants (England) 
The Coalfields Regeneration Trust has announced that its Level 2 grant scheme is open to applications. Funding is available to voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations for projects that address key funding themes that respond to the needs of coalfield communities. These are:
  • Access to Employment 
  • Education and Skills 
  • Health and Well Being 
Access to Opportunities which aims to improve access to services in coalfield communities recognising that limited community infrastructure and geographical isolation can prevent people from taking up opportunities. Eligible projects must address one or more of these themes. Grants will be of between £10,000 and £100,000 and can be used towards capital and revenue costs. To access the Coalfields Community Grants Level 2 Application Form applicants will need to initially discuss their project in detail with one of the Trust’s Programme managers. Applications can be made at any time. Read more at:

We’ve had a bit of a week in politics. Our PM gave his rousing closing speech to a packed conference, full of aspiration, enterprise and possibility, and in which he stressed the importance of a rounded education, and his commitment to an emotionally intelligent society (not). I quote:

“...the genuine revolution is underway. The transformation has been astonishing – and the methods have been Conservative. Smart uniforms, teachers in suits. Children taught physics, chemistry and biology not soft options.” 

You can enjoy the full aspirational text by clicking on the homeless man above, who despite his best attempts, has not yet absorbed the privalages available to him. .

Big thanks to Nerissa for her support and John at with advice on the blog.

...and a big thank you for coming here... C.P.

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