Sunday, 24 March 2013

NHS countdown - minus 7

So - we’ve one week left before radical ‘free-market’ changes take place in our NHS. Be prepared, be very prepared. You may think that this isn’t something that’s going to affect us - but it is. You, me and everyone we know that lives in the UK.

Dr Clare Gerada, Chair of the RCGP, gave a talk to the British Medical Association on 21st March, which I hope to be able to link you to next week. In her paper, Stand up and be counted - before it is too late, and of which I’m quoting, she reminds us that no-one voted for NHS privatisation and it’s not in the coalition agreement.

She describes a health service that in 2010, was functioning so well that for the first time in her lifetime it was not an election issue. An NHS that has provided what no other country in the world has achieved at the same cost: universal health care in the form of equal access to comprehensive care irrespective of personal income, at a cost to us the tax payer at many billions of pounds less than other comparable health services. A health service that bound us together as a society.

Lord Ara Darzi said “The NHS is the greatest expression of social solidarity found anywhere in the world: it is as much a social movement as it is a health system. It is not just that we stand together but what we stand for: fairness, empathy and compassion. It is for these reasons that we all care so deeply about its future; and it is why I stand ready to contribute to ongoing efforts to invest in and improve the NHS, in any way I can.” 

Ed Hall
This comment about being a social movement is one that gets to the heart of things for me. It’s a comment I’ve heard before from the people I respect - from clinicians; from public health workers; from artists; from free-thinkers and yes, from politicians.

In our manifesto for arts and health Lord Howarth talked about individual and collective integrity, of trust and arduousness, of self-expression - about politics being predicated on our values. Mike White at the Centre for Medical Humanities talked about nurturing a better and fairer society and Gary Christienson of the Society for Arts in Healthcare of how artists help amplify our human nature. Ruth Passman at the Department of Health talked about how the manifesto itself, brought about hope to health, strengthening our resolve in creatively challenging dehumanising or 'warehousing' models of care which can so easily corrode self expression and remove meaning from life. Jami Bladel of KickStart Arts perhaps, hits the nail on the head, describing this small p political manifesto as: ‘at once bleak and hopeful, a troubled text searching for answers, asking questions and promising nothing if we don't start working (creatively) together. It is a starting point. It faces us towards the global revolution we simply cant afford not to have.’

In my latest paper, Inequalities, the Arts and Public Health: Towards an International Conversation I share something of my aspiration for us being part of an arts and public health movement - something that embraces big thinking, but critically brings diverse partners together. From the 1st April, things are set to change fundamentally and as all the confused elements of a dispersed NHS mutate into whatever form emerges from the swamp, arts and culture could shine out like a beacon, offering all sorts of innovation - or else, fade miserably into obscurity.

So, its time to galvanise - but beware: the simpering arts and health bean-counters, blind to any notion of cultural value and driven by singular, market-based justification of their approach to arts, culture and health - are waiting in the wings. Their offer - an insipid prescription for reducing arts and culture to some cost effective, bland panacea. Of course there’s room to explore these ‘efficiency’ questions, but beware again: if we go down this route, we may well end up like our fractured NHS, seeing a dominance of the happy, well-educated, middle-classes accessing what they can already easily afford. If the evidence of your weights and measures are based on cultural placebos for the wealthy worried well, you’ll miss the true value of the arts. Poet, Simon Armitage on the manifesto again, rounds things off for me - It reminds me of something that I've always believed in: that art gives us worth as humans, no matter who we are. And as a consequence makes us more humane.  

A Job Opportunity
Lead Artist: Animating the Odeon, Chester
Deadline: April 15, 2013
Cheshire West and Chester Council are currently looking to appoint an artist to lead on a social engagement project in the old Odeon cinema in Chester.
The Odeon has been selected as the site for a new Theatre and Library in Chester and the Council are initiating a programme of work in two of the old shop units which are part of the building, in order to begin the process of bringing the building back to life and into people's imaginations. The ethos behind the project is to mark the process of change as the building transforms into a city centre theatre; to interact with its previous identity as a cinema and subsequently to its present form as a derelict building.

Cheshire West and Chester Council wish to commission a lead artist to have an overarching view of this project in the Odeon Units over an eighteen month period, and coordinate a programme of activity within the units. The artist will work with the Arts and Festivals team and their partner organisations in developing a strategic, thematic approach for a programme of art commissions / interventions / projects / displays etc within the units.

The programme of activity should consider the place, the people, the surrounding environment, history, partner cultural activity and more.
Project Budget: There is an artist fee of £6000 + VAT. This is inclusive of expenses, travel and subsistence costs.  The artist will work on a self-employed basis. 
Estimated budget of £4500 + VAT is available for a number of commissions and projects during the 18 month project.
Timescale: Project start date is May 2013 running until the end November 2014.
Longer term aims: Cheshire West and Chester Council hope that the projects will be a source of research material that may inform any future public artworks that are commissioned as part of the new theatre.
Closing date: Monday 15th April 2013. For a full artist brief please contact 

Two funding opportunities
BBC Children in Need Major Grants over £10,000
Next application deadline:  15 May 2013 
Grants for not-for-profit organisations that are working with disadvantaged children and young people who are 18 years old and younger living in the UK. BBC Children in Need’s focus is firmly on children and young people experiencing disadvantage. They fund organisations working to combat this disadvantage and to make a real difference to children and young people's lives. Funding is available to organisations that are supporting children and young people of 18 years and under who are experiencing disadvantage through:
· Illness, distress, abuse or neglect.
· Any kind of disability.
· Behavioural or psychological difficulties.
· Living in poverty or situations of deprivation.
Organisations must be working to combat this disadvantage and to make a real difference to children and young people's lives. Read more at: 

Time to Change Grants (England)
The Mental Health charity, Time to Change has announced that its grants programme will re-open for applications on the 6th March 2013.Through the programme, grants of up to £100,000 are available to constituted not for profit organisations for projects that bring people with and without mental health problems together to challenge discrimination in their communities.  Time to Change plan to fund approximately 75 projects between 2012 and 2015.  
The closing date for applications will be 2pm on the 30th April 2013. Read more at 

Just a big fat thank you for visiting again...C.P.

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