Sunday, 3 February 2013

MENAS ŽMOGAUS GEROVEI, Reading, Monsters and so much more...

STORIES - Consume, Create and Retell
This week the Reading Agency have launched a ‘Well Book on Prescription' scheme at the British Library. There website says:

“The scheme aims to bring reading's healing benefits to the 6 million people with anxiety and depression. There is growing evidence showing that self help reading can help people with certain mental health conditions get better. Reading Well Books on Prescription will enable GPs and mental health professionals to prescribe patients cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) through a visit to the library. Here they can get books to help them understand and manage conditions from depression to chronic pain. The scheme works within NICE guidelines, and uses 30 books endorsed by health partners as having evidenced CBT benefits.”

The idea of thinking through our life experiences through literature is nothing new, and certainly organisations like The Reader have been ploughing a furrow in this field. And, so long as this isn’t a convenient way of providing you with an alternative to a costly consultation with a counsellor or psychotherapist - just a pamphlet to have with your pills - it’s a promising development. It’s great that people are thinking about reading and exploring distress and ill health through literature, so long as we don’t just reduce our creativity to state-sanctioned prescriptions.

Of course, those of us with lower levels of literacy, perhaps through bad experiences of education, or English not being our first language, may benefit from something more akin to being read to...

I’m sure CBT in paperback form is just the trick for helping some people impose order back in their lives and god-knows, its great to think of any way we can get people involved in libraries and reading again, but if literature in relation to our mental wellbeing is reduced to step-by-step re-programming to passive citizenship - well, it makes me slightly shudder.

There are an infinite number of books that could be ‘used’ meaningfully in both recovery and by helping us just make sense of the world. Isn’t that what the arts do - help us escape, help us re-imagine, give us alternatives, enrich us, outrage us and elevate us to peaks of emotion? Yes, there are the giants of poetry and literature who have experienced extremes in their own mental health - you don’t need me to the list those luminaries - but if we have a diagnosis, does that mean we avoid reading work by those stellar individuals who may have even taken their own lives?

This week I see that Sylvia Plath’s, The Bell Jar has been reissued in a 50th anniversary edition by Faber and Faber, its cover rather bizarrely, depicting a woman putting on make-up! There’s a bit of an argument raging in the press about trivialisation of the work and reducing it to ‘chic-lit’. Well here’s the cover alongside the first edition using Plath’s real name and designed by Shirley Tucker. You decide which one fits the bill. Here’s what Tracie Egan Morissey commented on the blog Jezebel:

“For a book all about a woman's clinical depression that's exacerbated by the suffocating gender stereotypes of which she's expected to adhere and the limited life choices she has as a woman, it's pretty f*****g stupid to feature a low-rent retro wannabe pinup applying makeup.”

Could reading Plath be beneficial to someone experiencing mental distress as part of their recovery? Might Ken Kesey offer a variant? What about a poem by Anne Sexton or vivid portrayals of inequalities by Dickens or Victor Hugo? My education blocked me from ever thinking Shakespeare was for me, but blimey - there are one or two lyrical and pithy lines that sting my eyes and that I’ve only discovered much later in life.

Step forward with your fiction and non-fiction, with your poetry held high. Scream a line of Hamlet, tear out a page of Woolf, wave your graphic novel and remember stories are powerful things - consume them, create them, retell them.

The Role of Arts in the Delivery of Social Care 
The way in which people are supported in communities continues to change. With this in mind Skills for Care (SfC), in partnership with Skills for Care and Development (SfC&D) and Creative & Cultural Skills, are keen to develop their understanding of the role of arts in the delivery of social care with a particular emphasis on workforce development.

The study will inform the future direction of work in this area by highlighting learning from effective practice of using arts to deliver social care and providing recommendations for workforce development.

Delivered by a consortium led by Consilium Research and Consultancy Ltd, this survey aims to identify details of the activities of practitioners (i.e. artists or care staff) using arts to deliver social care. Specifically this survey is keen to obtain detail on the following: 

• The characteristics of arts led activities (i.e. duration, setting, art form)
• Factors that support or impact upon the effective use of arts to deliver social care outcomes
• The extent of training/workforce development for care staff and artists
• Outcomes achieved for organisations, artists, care staff and service users

Where appropriate a sample of projects or activities identified by this survey will be contacted by the study team to explore in order to prepare a more detailed case study of practice.The survey can be accessed by clicking on the diamond.


A stunning and disturbing public health film about alcohol impact, from Finland. Find out more about this campaign at

Now that the Olympic party is over...
As we brace ourselves for deepening austerity, you can see the ‘impressive results’, lots of graphs, numbers and stories about the investment in the cultural olympiad and its impact - now that the fireworks have finally fizzled out. Here’s what they say and details of how you can read up on their evaluation.

WE PLAY is the North West's celebration of the London 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games, ensuring that they leave a lasting cultural legacy across the region. WE PLAY is led by new regional partnerships and managed by Arts Council England.

Since its launch in 2009, WE PLAY has delivered more than 1,200 public events and workshops across the North West region, reached more than 2 million people and attracted 875,000 people to public events. The programme has engaged people from all sections of the community with 30% of audiences from neighbourhoods of no or limited arts engagement and almost a quarter of all audiences from communities ranked within the 20% most deprived within England. The programme has delivered 170 entirely new commissions and presented the work of more than 2,650 artists, all of which has taken place through more than 400 new partnerships. You can see the impressive results achieved so far in the final WE PLAY evaluation. Please click on the Radium Dazzler to view a short film or download the full report.

Nelson is one of the first successful Portas Pilot towns and the Town Team is now 6 months into delivering their ideas to help regenerate our high street. Our Portas Pilot vision is to attract innovative and creative uses which garner energy, produce social, bustling places and compel people to visit Nelson. We have two key priorities; one is to generate younger footfall to secure the long term future for Nelson and the second is to reduce the number of empty shops and market stalls. Another major part of our Portas Pilot bid is to engage a number of artists who have the ability to create exciting ‘anchor projects’ which will generate higher footfall, particularly from young people. We are looking for creative, effective and perhaps unusual ‘happenings’ to get people talking and gain media attention and interest.

Commission One
Our brief is quite open but, bearing in mind our vision and priorities outlined above, we are looking for an artist/creative team who can help us to:
Capitalise on the availability of the amphitheatre in the town centre (this is the space in the centre of Nelson, where the Shuttle Sculpture stands) as a space to meet, to socialise, to play, to perform, etc. Develop a project which will actively engage and interact with local businesses in the town centre; making them feel involved in a way which is beneficial to them.

Commission Two
Again our brief is quite open, but bearing in mind our vision and priorities outlined above, we are looking for an artist/creative team who can help us to:
Develop a project/create a series of ‘happenings’ which will actively attract young people into the town centre. This includes college age students as well as younger children who would come into town with their family. 

We would like at least one of the successful artists/creative teams to set up residency in an empty shop in the town centre and use this as a base for the 3 month period of the commission. We hope that any project suggested will have a digital element of some nature, be that blog, social media, app or other.  

Your submission
Please submit up to 500 words detailing what you would do and why you would be the ideal artist for this commission, stating clearly which commission you are applying for (or whether your project addresses both aims, i.e. a project that uses the amphitheatre and involves local business’ but also attracts young people) and you can include up to 5 images. 

We would also like you to submit a short timeline detailing how your idea would work in a practical way. (For example, detail the number of days in residency, the number of studio days, planning time, length of events etc). 

Please provide a broad breakdown of the overall costs of your proposal. You must be able to demonstrate that your proposals can be delivered within the budget. Make sure your contact details are included and please don’t submit docx documents.

Artist Fee: £8000 per commission inclusive of all time, materials, etc. 
Submission Deadline: Friday 22nd February 2013, 5pm 
Timescale for commissions: Between April and September 2013 
(Depending on what submissions are received these two commissions may run either simultaneously or consecutively).

Contact details or further information:
Post: Judith Watmough, Economic & Housing Regeneration, Pendle Borough Council, Elliott House, 9 Market Square, Nelson, Lancashire, BB9 0LX

Clore Fellowships are now OPEN
The Clore Leadership Programme was set up to develop outstanding cultural leaders, mainly, but not exclusively, in the UK and has awarded over 230 Fellowships to outstanding individuals from across the creative and cultural sector.  Fellows come from diverse backgrounds.  They may be working freelance or within organisations, of all types and sizes,  in areas ranging from archives to theatre production, and including visual and performing arts, film and digital media, heritage, creative industries, museums, libraries and cultural policy. Applications for 2013/14 Fellowships are now open. The deadline for applications is 5.30pm, Friday 22 February 2013. Details HERE 

IdeasTap university fee fund
Deadline: 29 March 2013
Whether you’re a first-year student or a graduate, if you embarked on a BA or BMus in 2006 or later, you could benefit from having £9,000 wiped off your Student Loans Company balance by arts charity IdeasTap. For a chance to win, simply tell IdeasTap in 100 words or less what you could offer to its network in exchange for the money. It could be an idea or a service, for example “This is how you could improve your site…” and the more imaginative, original and feasible the idea, the better! Find out more by clicking on the logo above.

...and finally, but not least, I am thrilled to be able to share the unfolding work delivered by friends and colleagues in Lithuania, who this week publish a report of their pilot project, Menas žmogaus gerovei (Art for well-being) which was implemented over 2012 by the Artists Association Gallery and financed by the Ministry of Culture of Lithuania. The goal of the project was to promote access to culture and well-being through the creative partnership of professionals within culture, education, health care and social services - presenting new approaches towards arts and health.

Activities were delivered in four health-care and social-care organisations in Vilnius and Panevėžys. The target groups of these activities were seniors, mental health service users, clinicians and children.

The project evaluation employed quantitative and qualitative methods which illustrated the positive impact of the artistic activities on the well-being of participants. By creating access to culture, the project taught the participants new skills and capacities, encouraged aspiration to improve skills and create new knowledge. The evaluation revealed positive impacts on emotion and mood, self-esteem, social vitality, communication and relationships, encouraging openness and strengthening a sense of community.

So here is a rich and full report that I recommend to you. Of course, it’s written in Lithuanian - so remember, google translator (with all its quirks), is a wonderful tool. Click on the image below to download the report.

Aciu to Roma Survilienė, Ieva Petkutė 
and Simona Karpavičiūtė

Thank you as ever for visiting this blog...C.P.

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