Sunday, 10 February 2013

新 年 快 樂

I wish a happy and peaceful year to anyone celebrating Chinese New Year and welcome in Year of the Snake.

What a week! Thank you to everyone who came and shared their ideas and stories at the first Arts, Health and Recovery networking event here at MMU on Thursday evening - what, you didn’t know this is a regular event? Well, following the passion and drive of those in this packed event, there’s clearly a space for it. So - lets do it, lets think of this as a space that we can get together - share ways forward and perhaps develop new projects that relate to recovery, wellbeing and the arts.

SO - a little about the event and the preceding days. Arts for Health is working with artists and people in recovery from substance misuse, in Pescara and Pistoia in Italy; Kütahya in Turkey and here in the UK in Manchester and Liverpool.

Partners from all the countries gathered here in Manchester to plan a series of events and the artists residences and exchanges. We’re recruiting a lead artist from the UK to oversee the project and the artists in Italy and Turkey who will develop work in substance recovery communities. Alongside the lead artist, all three will be involved in cultural exchange with recovery communities in each country, working with people affected by alcohol or drug addiction and around a theme of self-portraiture. Shortly we’ll have a dedicated blog page for this emerging work. 

So, the networking evening was a way of bringing people together from the recovery community alongside artists and health professionals and what a great event it was to be part of, with a high number of people in recovery in attendance and one or two very personal and inspiring stories shared. I was particularly thrilled to hear people saying that it was their first time in a university - and on my word - it won’t be the last. For the first time in my ‘professional’ career, I was inspired to share a little chaos from my own early family life.

We also shared the Finnish film that I posted on the blog last week, Fragile Childhood -Monsters. I was cautious showing it, but relieved I did, as it opened up some difficult, but cathartic and grounded conversations.

For those of us who compared notes on the night, the overriding feeling was that this work was about making substance addiction and recovery visible.

Thank you for all of you who came and shared your thoughts, stories and ideas.

With the annual pressure to send or receive commercial tokens of affection on Valentines day, its been with a wry smile that I notice many of the newspapers are citing the University of Oxford researchers, Savulescu & Sandberg and their Neuroenhancement of Love and Marriage: The Chemicals Between Us, which discusses the possibility of chemically enhancing flagging romance in long-term relationships! A pill not only to make you happy in your long years of monotony, but to synthesize that feeling of amor. Alongside our deluded belief in some over-the-counter prescribed answer to all of life's grief.

Leon Jakeman
Following on from last weeks fleeting comments on the 50th anniversary of Sylvia Plath and The Bell Jar, the writer Jeanette Winterson wrote a lovely succinct reflection of what Plath means to her. Here it is in full.

"The early 60s was a terrible time for women. Worse for clever ambitious women. Valium had been on the market for two years in 1963 and by this time was being advertised aggressively at healthy women who felt trapped and desperate and whose distress had to be medicated away. This is the world of The Bell Jar.

The Bell Jar was published at the same time as Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer was reissued after its long ban in the USA. The misogynist masterpiss billets half the population to the whorehouse. All women are for sex. Rich women are for cash. Poor women are for housework. Why wouldn't a woman go mad in a world like this? Why wouldn't a woman as gifted as Plath become terminally depressed and end in suicide? Pills don't change the world. Feminism did.

The Bell Jar was a call to action because it is a diary of despair. Plath was gifted. She could have been great. Wrong generation. Wrong medication."

Arts and Health Research (part 1)
I want to give a very warm welcome to the newest member of the Arts for Health team, Rebecca Gordon-Nesbitt who will be joining us for 3 months to research arts and health archives both in the UK and internationally, making where possible strategic links and connections. This work is being undertaken with the generous support of the AHRC and in collaboration with LIME Arts. If you want to meet Rebecca and here more about her background, she’s giving one of the Tuesday Talks at The Whitworth Art Gallery this Tuesday. here are some details.

The Tuesday Talks series invites leading artists, thinkers and curators to explore the driving forces, influences and sources of inspiration within contemporary art. The series is programmed by Professor Pavel Büchler and is a collaboration with Manchester Metropolitan University.

12 February
11.00am – 12.30pm, free, no booking necessary 
Rebecca Gordon-Nesbitt 
Having worked as a curator of international contemporary art for more than a decade, Rebecca Gordon-Nesbitt receded from direct participation to embark upon an extensive interrogation of the European cultural field. Increasingly deploying an investigative methodology, she has exposed the endemic corruption in commercially derived approaches to culture, most recently as Researcher-in-Residence at the Centre for Contemporary Art, Derry, in relation to UK City of Culture 2013. Seeking alternatives to the prevailing model of cultural organisation, Rebecca spent five months in the libraries and archives of Havana, tracing the socially inflected approaches to culture that emerged in the wake of the 1959 Cuban Revolution. It is this research she will present at this talk, in the context of broader trends in cultural policy and their effect on the production of art.

Arts and Health Research (part 2)
Did you know that there is an emerging arts and health research network being developed? You can find details at

School Residencies: Call for Artists (Round 1), Blackburn and Darwen
10 x artist school residency fees worth up to £10,000 each
Blackburn and Darwen's Building Schools for the Future (BSF) continues with the latest phase of an extensive school building programme. Linked to this, Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council’s Arts Service are launching the first round of an ongoing Artist Call targeting artists from all creative disciplines with an interest in educational and community engagement, and further developing their collaborative practice.
At this initial stage, they are asking for artists to consider the brief on their website: and if interested to log your Expression of Interest by registering online and uploading some examples of your work to the private ‘intranet’ section. As well as your basic registration, they encourage you to also upload some practice information as well.
The deadline for your received registrations for this first round is 1st March 2013, but other Artist Calls will continue straight afterwards too.

Wellcome Trust Small Arts Awards (UK)
The Wellcome Trust has announced that the next application deadline under its Small Arts Awards is the 28th June 2013.  The Small Arts Awards provides grants of up to £30,000 to projects that engage the public with biomedical science through the arts. The aim of the awards is to support arts projects that reach new audiences which may not traditionally be interested in science. 

Funding for Creative Young People (UK)
IdeasTap, a non-for-profit initiative supports young creative people between 16 and 25 years of age, has announced that its Ideas Fund Innovators is open to applications. During this funding round the Ideas Fund Innovators aims to offer ten projects £1,000 each to help get them off the ground. In the past, Ideas Tap has funded everything from dance and film projects to music videos and photography collectives.  Applications from any creative field will be considered. Ideas Tap are looking for projects that are inspiring, original, innovative and that Ideas Tap think you can deliver. This brief closes on Thursday 4 April 2013 at 5pm and is open to IdeasTap members aged 16 to 25 on the closing date. Read more at: 

Nominet Trust: Digital Edge Programme (UK)
The Nominet Trust has announced that the 2nd call for applications under its £2 million Digital Edge Programme is now open for applications.  The programme aims to support projects that use new technology to engage young people in new, more meaningful and relevant ways and enable their participation in building a more resilient society. There is no upper or lower funding limit as the Trust like to encourage applicants to be realistic about what they need to achieve their project objectives.  The closing date for applications is the 1st May 2013. Read more at:

Europe for Citizens Programme: 
Citizens Projects (UK)
The European Commission has announced a new call for proposals under its Europe for Citizens Programme – Action 1 – Measure 2.1 Citizens' projects.  The measure “Citizen’s projects” aims at exploring innovative methodologies and approaches to encourage citizens’ active participation at European level and to stimulate the dialogue between European citizens and European institutions. Under this measure a variety of projects of a transnational and cross-sectoral dimension, directly involving citizens will be supported.  Priority is given to projects aimed at encouraging local level participation.  Eligible organisations that can apply include civil society organisations and local authorities.   A project must involve organisations/institutions from at least 5 participating countries of which at least one is an EU Member State.

The Grants available range from €100,000 - €250,000 and the closing date for applications is the 1st June 2013.Read more at:

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