Saturday, 19 April 2014



This week, your roving Arts/Health reporter is blogging live from Lithuania where he’s taking part in the international conference, Arts for Mental Health and Wellbeing: Creative Partnership in Policy and Practice at the National Gallery in Vilnius. More of that soon. I have to report on an artists residency which took pace at MMU last week. What, you didn’t know there was a residency? Well it was an event for people in recovery from substance addiction and was managed by Mark Prest of Portraits of Recovery and facilitated by the artists Cristina Nunez and Selda Asal. Funded by Grundtvig as part of their lifelong learning stream, around 30 people took part in an immersive workshop over four days. I can’t quite describe how powerful the experience has been for all of us involved - after all the art speaks for itself - and it was deeply collaborative, emotive and deeply personal. How so? Well, in July we’ll be having a symposium here at MMU to mark the project and we’ll be sharing some of the work in an exhibition that will run alongside it, so you’ll be able to judge yourself. I’ll set up an eventsbright page for registration, so keep your eyes peeled! For me it was fantastic to see the Manchester School of Art populated by people who wouldn’t normally set foot through its doors. I’m inspired - official! In July, the tri-lingual Recoverist Manifesto will be born too. Thank you for all those people from Liverpool and Manchester who’ve contributed so far. Want to be involved too? Get in touch.

In a few weeks time, I’ll be welcoming Mike White from the Centre for Medical Humanities, who will kick start our ever-so-informal Arts and Health Research Network, with a trawl through ideas, experiences and thoughts on all things arts-healthish! It’s all happening on 22nd May and is free, utterly free! I can’t wait, and if you want to come along, you must register your interest and we’ll confirm your place and venue details on 9th May. Want to read Mike’s latest? He’s just published an article on the IXIA website called Directions and Misdirections in Arts in Health. He has the uncanny ability to talk with authority and reason in our ever-changing times. The North West Arts and Health Networking events will continue throughout the year with Vic McEwan from CAD Factory in Australia sharing his work on June 5th. He’s just been awarded the Inaugural Art New South Wales Fellowship, the only artist in the state selected. In July the author Will Self (yes that’s right, that Will Self), will be responding to URBAN PSYCHOSIS with a public talk here at MMU. More details of this soon. But you can get a taste of his take by clicking on his photo below and reading, The Madness of crowds: Going off-grid. Here's a handsome line. 
"...I’d sooner have my buttocks sawn off, varnished and retailed as salad bowls in a charity shop alongside Clare Balding’s autobiography than wear such a dumb bit of clunker."

So, Lithuania - what’s it all about? Over these last few years since it was Capital of Culture in 2009 and held its first international conference on arts and health, it has gently and oh, so stealthily, been expanding and nurturing its practice and research. This week sees its delivery of a conference exploring cross-sectoral working in arts and mental health at the National Gallery with key political commitment from ministries of culture, health, education and employment and key contributions from Nordic countries, Lithuania and the UK. I’ve been very fortunate to have been able to support the wonderful team at Socialiniai Meno Projektai and with the consistent input from the British Council, be part of something that’s growing and that I am proud to be connected with. Aciu. 

Untold Stories in Health and Illness
This week a medical student from the University of Manchester got in touch in response to my call-out to patients, staff and others who might inform SICK! festival 2015 here in Manchester next year. Ben Norris is organising an event called Untold Stories in Health and Illness on Saturday 17th May at the Baronial Hall at Chetham’s School of Music between 9:30am and 5:15pm followed by an evening of music and literary performances (6.15pm-8.00pm) This one-day conference is a platform for stories of health and illness deserving of recognition. The conference aims to:
  • encourage cross-disciplinary understanding and collaboration
  • refresh and expand the shared moral, humane and ethical dimensions of health and illness
  • entertain different perspectives in an open, enjoyable and thought-provoking environment. 
“Untold stories” encompass a variety of perspectives and subject matter. Each story provides imaginative and refreshing responses to healthcare education and practice. We invite presentations (by students, the general public, academics and healthcare professionals) that highlight creative endeavours taking in a range of viewpoints. Contributions will be diverse and entertaining, including music, drama, poetry, artwork, biography and historical narrative. Each performance will be accompanied by responses from student, lay, academic and professional perspectives. The conference is free to students/unwaged; £15 for waged. Contact:

The Dog That Barked Like a Bird
film screening, talk & Q&A
Mark Ware MFA is a multi-media artist, an Honorary Research Fellow at the Brighton and Sussex Medical School and a stroke survivor. During 1996 Mark had a severe stroke, an event that suddenly and abruptly altered every aspect of his life. ‘The Dog That Barked Like a Bird’ is an Arts Council England funded video composition created by Mark, based on his diaries of stroke recovery. It was described by Alan Bennett as, ‘an extraordinary piece of work’. This workshop will include a talk from Mark about how his stroke influences his art, a screening of the video composition and a Q&A session.
Lecture Theatre 4, Stopford Building, The University of Manchester
Friday 2nd May. To book please email or telephone 0161 745 8222 to book a place at this unique event.

...and as it's a religious weekend.

BIG Announces New £150 Million "Power to Change" Initiative (England)
The Big Lottery Fund has announced that it will launch a new £150 million fund to support the development of sustainable community-led enterprises. The fund aims to respond to the many economic challenges facing local communities. Challenges that have led to empty shop premises and the closures of pubs, libraries, community centres and sports facilities. The fund wants to support communities to come together using creative approaches that involve local people and resources to improve their local neighbourhoods, villages and town centres. These could take many different forms from small-scale enterprise to large-scale asset management and ownership. Solutions could include, transferring resources into the ownership of local residents, and using former commercial spaces to incubate social enterprises and cultural activities.

The fund will be delivered by an independent Trust and launched in the autumn 2014. Read more 

Funding for Artists & Bands 
PRS for Music Foundation and Arts Council England have announced that the next application deadline for the Momentum Music Fund is the 3rd June 2014.
The Momentum Music Fund is a £500,000 fund to develop the careers of talented artists and bands. It is anticipated that grants of between £5,000 and £15,000 will be awarded to between 50 and 75 artists/bands over the next 2 years. Applications can be submitted by the artists themselves or those who are working on their behalf, e.g. a manager, an independent label or publisher. Priority will be given to those that haven't been funded by PRS for Music Foundation in the previous 12 months.

The People's Millions 
The Big Lottery Fund (Big) in partnership with ITV has announced that The People's Millions programme has re-opened for applications. A total of £3.8 million is available through the programme and 4 awards of £20,000 - £50,000 will be made in each ITV region for projects that improve the local community. The programme is open for applications from:
  • Voluntary and community groups
  • Local authorities
  • Schools
  • Statutory health bodies
  • Social enterprises; etc.
A total of £3.8 million is available through the programme and 4 awards of up to £50,000 will be made in each ITV region. The closing date for applications is 12 noon on the 16h May 2014. Read more at:

Yesterday evening (good Friday), I arrived in Kaunas (Lithuania) a couple of days early for the conference, but with bags of work in my bag to get to grips with. I had the longest and loveliest of walks, spending some time people-watching around the beautiful old town squares. Alas, as I get older, I run the risk of looking like some dodgy old letch, so, self-conscious of being a singleton amongst so many couples out to enjoy the sun, I scuttled off down to the river and walked along the banks of the Neris and Nemunas, where at the confluence of the two, rather accommodatingly the sun set and as I happily communed with this beautiful country, two swans spotting a convenient photo-opportunity, flew towards me. So two images then, the two waters converging and two avian souls soaring.

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