Saturday, 12 April 2014


Whilst the former Culture Secretary rested her poor little head on the block of public opinion earlier this week, I was one of a small contingent invited into parliament by Ed Vaizey, UK Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries. We’d been invited to contribute to a round-table discussion around arts/health. To be honest, it was a pretty good cross section of our community with therapies, third sector, patient voice, art forms and research & practice from the field represented. Why were we there? To give voice to the field and maybe, just maybe, inform political direction. Let’s see, but I for one felt that the minister took things seriously and sees the relevance of culture and the arts to wider society. It was great as ever, to have the support of Alan Howarth, this time enthusiastically supported by MP’s, Sarah Newton and Paul Burstow who between the three of them, are the driving force behind the All Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing.
But what’s this? We have a new Culture Secretary! Want to know more? Well here’s an open letter from a potential future culture secretary, author Michael Rosen, to the new culture secretary for you to digest. Click on his dear old face.

Following in the wake of the arts/health research communities response to Arts Council England’s report on cultural value, it's been heartening to witness the outpouring of the rich, but hidden data that exists in the field. There's a real nuanced picture emerging that allows patient phenomenology to be at the heart of our understanding of our impact and reach, tempering any drive to dominate our field with pseudo-scientific reductionism. Although, it has to be said, some of the Social Return on Investment models that are being explored, are indeed fascinating and it’s particularly interesting to read the report of work done in the Craft Cafe’s in Glasgow, who claim that the ratio of social value of their work is equivalent to £8.27 to the £1. Click on the sublime Frida Kahlo for more details.

All that said, I recommend the excellent Dr Samuel Ladkin as a healthy counterblast to those bogged down with their outdated reductionist models. Here’s his starting gambit:

“Against Value in the Arts” sounds like a counter-intuitive way to go about describing and defending the value of the arts. The project proposes, however, that it is often the staunchest defenders of art who do it the most harm, by suppressing or mollifying its dissenting voice, by neutralising its painful truths, and by instrumentalizing its potentiality, so that rather than expanding the autonomy of thought and feeling of the artist and the audience, it makes art self-satisfied, or otherwise an echo-chamber for the limited and limiting self-description of people’s desires.

More please Dr Ladkin and thanks RGN for this! Click on the Ai Weiwei above to read more from the excellent AHRC funded Cultural Value Project.

Next week, Arts for Health’s sister organization in Lithuania, Socialiniai Meno Projektai are hosting the International Conference Arts for Mental Health and Wellbeing: Creative Partnership in Policy and Practice at the National Gallery in the Lithuania. With support from amongst others, the government of the Republic of Lithuania, the British Council, NORDEN, the Tiltas Trust and of course, Arts for Health at MMU.

I’m thrilled to be going back to this beautiful country and to be being joined by three colleagues from Manchester too - Stuart Webster from BlueSCI; Julie McCarthy from 42nd Street and my arts/health collaborator, Dr Rebecca Gordon-Nesbitt who is currently interrogating longitudinal data from Sweden, Finland and Norway against UK data-sets to explore the long-term impact of cultural participation on health outcomes. More of that in July, when she publishes her findings.

What’s that? You can’t go to Lithuania, especially over the easter holidays? Or it’s too late to get a place because it’s standing room only? Well don’t worry, because you can watch it live at 
(...although I could live to regret mentioning this)
Click on the National Gallery for more details. 

SICK FESTIVAL 2015 are seeking doctors, healthcare professionals and patients to participate in a  Wellcome Trust funded-project entitled Stories From The Front Line. We are looking for true stories that reveal emotional and ethical issues associated with people’s experiences of illness, healthcare and the hospital system. The participants will be interviewed by leading comics artists / graphic novelists who will use these stories to create a series of 12 large (4m x 1m) public space light-box installations throughout the Manchester in March 2015.

SICK are looking for stories that relate to the following thematics: children & adolescence, cancer, mental illness, geriatrics, end-of-life care, sex, physical abuse, substance abuse and medical ethics in general. Want to know more? Get in touch with Tim Harrison

A PhD opportunity that you just can’t afford to miss!
Applications of Socially Engaged Art
The socially engaged arts have been developed in a number of fields as transformative interventions entailing specific forms of arts practice and methods of inquiry. The combination of artistic and social elements gives rise to tensions between aesthetic, ethical and instrumental dimensions of the work. This PhD will study the nature and significance of the socially engaged arts as an aesthetic and relational practice, a mode of inquiry and an agent for personal and social change. The precise field will be determined in consultation with the successful candidate but we would particularly welcome applications with an interest in addictions and recovery. The Psychosocial Research Unit has a wide range of partners who can offer access to research sites for the successful applicant. However, we will also consider other proposals for the empirical component of the work. There are opportunities for paid teaching duties with this studentship Applicants must submit a detailed research proposal, a CV, and a covering letter along with their application. Applicants should have, or expect to receive a minimum of UK 2:1 honours degree (or equivalent) in a relevant subject area. Informal enquiries may be directed to Dr Alastair Roy email: Requests for an application pack (quoting the reference number RS1328) should be directed to the Research Student Registry. Tel: 01772 895082 or email:
Closing Date: 16th May 2014 
Provisional Interview Date: 3rd June 2014

The month of May will see the Stroke Association collaborating on all manner of events that bridge science, stroke and the arts across Manchester. You can find out much more by clicking on the image above.

RUFF, by Split Britches. The piece is written by Peggy Shaw and Lois Weaver, performed by Peggy and directed by Lois. The show is presented in Manchester by Contact and The Centre for the Study of Sexuality and Culture, The University of Manchester and is delivered as part of the Sexuality Summer School's public event series 2014. RUFF is also supported by the Stroke Association.

Peggy Shaw had a stroke in January 2011. The stroke was in her PONS, which rhymes with the Fonz, one of her many early role models, and since the stroke she’s realized she has never really performed solo. She has always had a host of crooners, lounge singers, movie stars, rock and roll bands and eccentric family members living inside her. RUFF is a tribute to those who have kept her company these 68 years, a lament for the absence of those who disappeared into the dark holes left behind by the stroke and a celebration that her brain is able to fill the blank green screens with new insights and an opportunity to share them with the her favourite confidants – the audience. Click on the image below for more information.

A small note from the national press...
Ruth Wishart has written in the Guardian this weekend, on the increased understanding of the power of the arts to impact on health.

Rainhill Eco Garden - Call out for artist
WHO: Visual & Public Artists
BACKGROUND: The Rainhill Eco Garden project at Exchange Place, Rainhill Village is organised by Rainhill ECO (Environmental Community Organisation), a volunteer group dedicated to improving green spaces in Rainhill.
WHAT: We are seeking expressions of interest from Visual and Public Artists who are interested in working with the group and the local community to produce a piece of permanent artwork to be installed in the garden.  
BUDGET: The budget is £10,000 to include VAT
Deadline for expressions of interest: Friday 2nd May 2014
Rainhill ECO group will then produce a shortlist of artists from all expressions of interest, and invite those on the shortlist to come for an informal interview.
TIMESCALE: The work will need to be fabricated and ready to be installed in the garden by Friday 29 August 2014
For full brief please Email:
Deadline for expressions of interest Friday 2nd May 2014.

Wellcome Trust – Arts Awards 
The Wellcome Trust is inviting organisations and individuals to apply for funding through its Arts Awards. The Arts Awards support projects that engage the public with biomedical science through the arts. Applications are invited for projects of up to £30,000 through their small grants programme, and for projects above £30,000 through their large grant programme. The aim of the awards is to support arts projects that reach new audiences which may not traditionally be interested in science and provide new ways of thinking about the social, cultural and ethical issues around contemporary science. The scheme is open to a wide range of people including, among others, artists, scientists, curators, filmmakers, writers, producers, directors, academics, science communicators, teachers, arts workers and education officers.

The next application deadline for small projects is the 27th June 2014, the deadline for large projects has now passed. Read more by clicking on the intimate glass casts (above) by Charlie Murphy and funded by Wellcome. 

FREE Training Opportunity: Music in Healthcare Settings 
29 May to 4 June 2014
OPUS Music CIC, in partnership with Nottingham Music Hub, is offering a five-day training programme for musicians working in, or interested in working in healthcare settings.
The course will take place over five days (including two half-days of music-making at Nottingham Children’s Hospital).  These will take place from 9.30am to 3.30pm on 29, 30 May and 2, 3 and 4 June 2014. There is no deadline for applications, however limited places are available.  Applications will close once the course is filled with suitable applicants.  You are advised to send an application as soon as possible. 
Details and an application form are available at our website here:

Project Director: Heart of Glass
St Helens
Salary £42,000p.a.
Heart of Glass is St Helens Creative People and Places Programme, a £3m project managed by a consortium of St Helens organisations, led by Saints Community Development Foundation, with the assistance of £1.5m Arts Council funding. Heart of Glass will bring an ambitious and extraordinary cultural programme to St Helens that will create opportunities for many more people to participate, experience and enjoy the arts. All of the work commissioned, developed and presented will be co-produced with and for local people, taking St Helen’s rich sporting and industrial heritage as starting points for engagement. We are looking for an imaginative, experienced, confident and inspirational Project Director who will engage, enthuse and challenge artists and audiences and set in place a meaningful legacy. We are looking for someone with proven artistic leadership and vision, and an outstanding track record in cultural programming as well as established connections both nationally and internationally. The role will require vision, energy and entrepreneurial flair to bring brave thinking and ambitious ideas about growing arts participation and engagement in St Helens.

We know that these qualities may not be found in equal measure in any one individual, and are open to the role being offered on a job-sharing basis if we have two candidates who offer different but complementary elements of the role’s requirements. If you have a real passion for audience engagement in the arts and feel that you have some or all of the qualities we are looking for, we want to hear from you! To request an application pack please email stating Project Director in the subject line of the email. Closing date for receipt of all applications is 12 noon on 6th May 2014, with interviews weeks commencing 12th May and 19th May.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we are floating in space. FACT

No comments:

Post a Comment