Saturday, 14 December 2013 is what it is

Last week I studiously held back from joining in on the Worshipful Company of Mandela Acolytes - his place not needing my low-level sycophantic gibberish. He was great. I’m glad some commentators have drawn attention to his dialogue with those out of favour with the ‘superpowers’ including Gaddafi and Castro. I think we’d all agree, he is largely responsible for the ending of institutional racial apartheid in South Africa. (though I can think of one country in particular, where racial and economic apartheid are deeply systemic...go on, hazard a guess)

But setting out of the office on a long drive this week, I tuned into The Film Programme on R4, in which Francine Stock interviewed the bloated movie mogul, Harvey Weinstein - on to promote Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom - his well-timed blockbuster. 

“I knew him - and I was incredibly impressed by him, I don’t want to talk too much about this, ‘cause I’m emotional about this, but I will tell you one story…” Anecdotes of the Tribeca Grill (in which he has a steak/stake or two) and over-fed movie stars followed. Yes Harvey, you sounded devastated by your mate's death - tragic for you that he died during the premiere of your new film.

Mandela wasn’t exactly the greatest fan of the US and prior to the invasion of Iraq, he slammed the actions of the US in a speech he made at the International Women’s Forum in Johannesburg, declaring that former President George W. Bush’s primary motive was ‘oil’, while adding that Bush was undermining the UN. “If there is a country that has committed unspeakable atrocities in the world, it is the United States of America. They don’t care for human beings,” he said.

Even more shocking to his emerging post-mortem fan-base, might be Mandela’s 1991 speech, given alongside Castro entitled “How Far We Slaves Have Come,”  in which he commented:

“From its earliest days, the Cuban Revolution has also been a source of inspiration to all freedom-loving people. We admire the sacrifices of the Cuban people in maintaining their independence and sovereignty in the face of the vicious imperialist-orchestrated campaign to destroy the impressive gain made in the Cuban Revolution….Long live the Cuban Revolution. Long live comrade Fidel Castro.”

So too, he has consistently discussed the plight of Palestinians, commenting, “We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.” As the political prisoner Marwan Barghouti reflects to Mandela that, "from within my prison cell, I tell you our freedom seems possible because you reached yours," perhaps Mandela offers hope of transition to from ‘terrorist’ to ‘saint.’

As to why those to the right of the political spectrum seem to be falling over themselves to praise Mandela, Information Clearinghouse offers some provocative and well considered reflections on African politics on the international stage. Stephen Gowans suggests that: 

‘Mandela made sure that the flow of profits from South African mines and agriculture into the coffers of foreign investors and the white business elite wasn’t interrupted by the implementation of the ANC’s economic justice program, with its calls for nationalising the mines and redistributing land. Instead, Mandela dismissed calls for economic justice as a “culture of entitlement” of which South Africans needed to rid themselves. That he managed to persuade them to do so meant that the peaceful digestion of profits by those at the top could continue uninterrupted.’

So, whilst racial apartheid in South Africa appears to have diminished, economic apartheid seems to be deeply embedded and inequalities extreme.

Gowans also reminds us that ‘after almost a decade-and-a-half of the Western media demonising Mugabe as an autocratic thug, it’s difficult to remember that he, too, was once the toast of Western capitals.’

‘The West’s love affair with Mugabe came to an abrupt end when he rejected the Washington Consensus and embarked on a fast-track land reform program. Its disdain for him deepened when he launched an indigenization program to place majority control of the country’s mineral resources in the hands of black Zimbabweans. Mugabe’s transition from ‘good’ liberation hero to ‘bad’, from saint to demon, coincided with his transition from “reliable steward” of Zimbabwe’s economy (that is, reliable steward of foreign investor and white colonial settler interests) to promoter of indigenous black economic interests.’

Contentious stuff, but never the less compelling and eye-opening, particularly given Mandela’s often candid view on the US. You can read the full article by clicking on the war criminal below.

Self Doubt
During a melancholic reverie this week, I had a small moment of turmoil. An email arrived suggesting I might want to nominate this blog for the UK blog of the year award! The person who sent it is lovely and was encouraging and well-meaning. I saw that one of the judges was indeed, Arts for Health ally and sponsor, Professor John Ashton - again, someone I admire. So my natural inclination was, go for it! So I uploaded my favourite pages from the last few years and an outline of what this ‘networking’ blog is - and pressed the submit button.

It was that night however, that I had the heebie-jeebies! I thought - ‘what does it exactly say on those pages - and should I double check them?’ So I did. I got up early and read through four pages that loosely were about GlaxoSmithKlein, Environmental Racism, A Huge Evergrowing Pulsating Brain which Rules from the Centre of Ultraworld and Thalidomide (well, the way we perceive dis/ability). 

I looked at them with all their errors, typos and unbridled histrionics and thought, ‘I’d better edit that bit down.’ Then it hit me - BANG - WRONG! I pulled myself up. What was I doing? The blog was never intended to be a big-deal - it was for updates on funding, training, new opportunities and perhaps peppered with the odd bit of commentary and never polluted with adverts. I love that people in different countries read it and email me, and I know a good number of people have been in touch to say they got the job I advertised, or the funding that was online - or even took part in an event that was advertised. So what was I thinking of - editing it down after the event - just to have the honour of an award?

With total respect to the organisers of this award and the knowledge that increasing numbers and raising profiles are important to so many bloggers - that’s not what this one’s about. It’s low-key, informal and I hope, just occasionally interesting, or at least useful. So, after scrabbling around with toolbars and backspace buttons, I found the delete button and extracted myself from a near egomaniacal moment of self-nomination. Just for one second, I almost saw myself as the bloated blogger of the arts/health world. I shudder at the very thought. We are what we are - it is what it is.

One of the things I should say - is I’m always grateful to those of you who drop me email about all manner of things. You’ll know that it all gets thrown in the mix and makes it onto the blog, albeit in a hybrid mix. The Mandela/Mugabe mash-up today is an example of exactly this, and provoked by the footer of someone else's email to me! 

I can confirm that the first participatory recovery event will take place here at MMU between 6 - 8 on January 9th. I’ll send exact venue details at the start of the new year, and to attend you’ll have to have a significant personal or professional connection to substance recovery. Thanks to all those who have emailed me. I’ll be confirming with you in the new year. You’ll notice that with the input of one regular reader and influence on the agenda, the name has already transformed from RECOVERY to RECOVERIST
To attend this event email 

To complete the 2013 Public Art Survey, click on the dear little pipe below. If you have already filled it in, thank you. The survey provides vital information about public art, informing national and local policy as well as giving shape to a sector that is sometimes overlooked because of its diversity and non-institutional structure. Last year’s survey showed a public art sector of at least 1,000 people working within a market valued at approximately £53m in England alone. This represented employment opportunities worth around £17m for artists and arts workers. Whatever your involvement in public art, your participation in the survey is central to helping create a robust overview of the current state of the sector. The survey will take between 3 to 15 minutes to complete, depending on the extent of your involvement with public art. All subscribers to Public Art Online’s e-list will receive a report summarising the surveys findings.

Clore Poetry & Literature Awards 
The Clore Duffield Foundation has announced that the sixth funding round under its £1 million programme to fund poetry and literature initiatives for children and young people across the UK is now open for applications. Through the programme, schools, FE colleges, community groups, libraries and other arts/cultural organisations can apply for grants of between £1,000 and £10,000 to support participatory learning projects and programmes focused on literature, poetry and creative writing for under 19s. The closing date for applications is the 7th March 2014. Read more at: 

Will Charitable Trust: Blind People & Learning Disabilities Grant 
The Will Charitable Trust has announced that its Blind People & Learning Disabilities grants programme is now open for applications and will close on the 31st January 2014. Through the programme UK charities can apply for funding for the care of and services for blind people, and the prevention and/or cure of blindness.  The Trust also supports projects that support the long-term care of people with learning disabilities either in a residential care or supported living.  Around 12 charities are supported each year with grants varying from £5,000 to around £20,000. Read more at: 

Music grants for older people (England & Wales)
The registered charity, Concertina which makes grants to charitable bodies which provide musical entertainment and related activities for the elderly has announced that the next deadline for applications is the 30th April 2014. The charity is particular keen to support smaller organisations which might otherwise find it difficult to gain funding. Since its inception in 2004, Concertina has made grants to a wide range of charitable organisations nationwide in England and Wales. These include funds to many care homes for the elderly to provide musical entertainment for their residents. Read more at: 

Arts Council England Exceptional Awards (England)
The Arts Council England has announced that organisations with projects that have the potential to make a significant additional contribution to the arts but sit outside its normal funding routes have the opportunity to apply for grants of above £50,000 through its Exceptional Awards. Projects need to help deliver the Arts Council’s ambitions as set out in its Achieving great art for everyone strategic framework.  The projects funded will probably have national (and even international) impact in terms of outcomes and it  is likely that the Arts Council will make fewer than 25 Exceptional Awards before 31 March 2015., given our limited resources at this time. Read more at: 

We will call for Expressions of Interest for 3 contemporary artists wanting to work with the Dementia and Imagination research project. Exiting times ahead...

...and I say it every week, but thank you for popping in to read this...

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