Sunday, 8 June 2014

...a thing of fairy tales

Last Thursday evening saw Manchester School of Art welcome Vic McEwan from the CAD Factory to a free North West Arts and Health Networking event. Thanks to Vic and all of you who attended. Those of you came won’t quite know what a diverse group of people we were and I can tell you that there were a very rich mix of artists, curators, health professionals, academics and on this occasion, I’m thrilled to say - members of the general public - who gatecrashed the party!

Vic shared the work that he's been involved in with a community that had been devastated by floods in Australia, and all of us there were enthralled by his integrity, sensitivity and creative vision. He exposed us to what we so often hear cultural bureaucrats bang-on about: exceptional artistic quality. For my money, Vic could certainly give this presentation to the entirety of the School of Art and illuminate the wider social impact of what it is we all do. So, many conversations about ‘putting memories back into the landscape’ whilst holding negligent authorities to account. Vic shared some hard earned truths too, particularly about early resistance to artists having a role in traumatised communities.

He responded to difficult questioning, particularly around deficit of imagination, so often present in those resistant to change. For me, he reminded us of the importance of thinking about our arts and health agenda beyond narrow notions of individual pathology - and more broadly - communal wellbeing. Here are some comments from those who attended.

Here’s what some people said:

For starters, WOW! 
Vic's lecture was incredibly engaging, inspiring and almost magical: it was like BEING there, on the other side of the planet - witnessing all those fantastic ways of making art in the greatest possible way, which is HANDS ON. 

...impressed by Vic's work in Australia. It's amazing how the arts help people get through traumatic experience.

One of the most insightful, contemporary artist talks I have ever been to.

...a very useful and inspiring night...

Inspirational, sensitive, ethical, caring.......... joined up can't beat it! 

Contemporary art practice can be what I think it should be!!!

His work is what I have been looking for for the last 5 years. Thank you for inviting him. I feel inspired and refreshed.

I’m pleased to be working with Vic over the next few years exploring musicality in everyday environments and maybe, just maybe sharing some new stories with you as we grow. You can read lots about Vic and his work by clicking on the images in this text and follow his blog/diary by clicking on the image below. A big THANK YOU to Vic from all of us.

Central to Vic’s presentation was the marriage of immersive high-quality practice and imagination, so it was strange to read reports (or perhaps knee-jerk misreporting) of the normally compelling Richard Dawkins lambasting children's fairy tales as being something that could cause great harm, suggesting that it was "pernicious to instill in a child the view that the world is shaped by supernaturalism.’ But hold on a minute - wasn’t this, as usual, taken out of context by the obvious newspapers? I know he comes over as pompous, especially when he’s got a book to peddle, but the essence of what he was asking was: "Is it a good thing to go along with the fantasy of childhood?," {…} "Or should we be fostering a spirit of scepticism?." I’d like to think that imagination fostered through fiction, song, poetry and all the arts, is not something to be cast-off in adulthood, but embraced throughout life - and who knows - that imagination might just foster a spirit of rebellion, of anarchy and action beyond words. As a committed humanist, I tend towards what I hope is a healthy scepticism and a simpletons knowledge of contemporary arts, would suggest a billion artists do too. 

Albert Einstein, when asked how we could make our children more intelligent, famously replied, "If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales." He understood the value of reading and the imagination.

Just a thought, but if I were to ask - in the case of a black hole - how is it possible to have something with zero volume and infinite density? I would be curious as to how an artist would respond and how a scientist would formulate a hypothesis! 

For artists wanting to play with this, my dim understanding of it is, spacetime around a black hole has infinite curvature, and matter is crushed to infinite density, under the pull of infinite gravity. So that’s three sets of infinities. At the singularity of the black hole, what we understand as the ‘laws’ of physics break down, so we are left (scientists and artists alike) to imagine, or if you prefer, hypothesise. For those with less confidence in their imagination, or blind panic at lack of empirical evidence, you can always turn to supernaturalism for your easy answer. (for my money, an artist like Bjork might offer interseting thoughts on the cosmos) imaginative song that Richard Dawkins would in all probability enjoy
Friend of Arts for Health and director of Lime Arts, Brian Chapman is one of the earliest pioneers of the Arts and Health movement.  After 38 years working as an artist in health care he is due to retire at the end of 2014. The details of the replacement post are not yet finalised but expressions of interest will be sought soon. Watch this space! But don’t ask questions prematurely! 

Ithell Colquhoun - Scylla - 1938
...a brief update. A long time ago, in a blog far, far away, I shared news of the AHRC funded research project that I am a part of called, Dementia & Imagination. More recently I  advertised3 research artist positions. We were inundated with brilliant applicants. Thank you all. I’m please to announce that the research intervention begins in earnest this month across the three sites in Derbyshire, the North East and North Wales. If you want to find out more about the project and keep up with all our emerging news, please visit the project website by clicking on the photograph below. Both Dr Kat Taylor and I have written blogpostings on that site for you to get a felling of where we’re coming from and what we hope to achieve. Click on Pears by William Scott for more information. 

The Wingate Foundation: Performing Arts Grants 
Performing arts (excluding music) grant. Particular emphasis is given to providing financial support for not-for-profit companies with a record of artistic excellence that require additional funding (not available from public sources or commercial sponsorship) to broaden their repertoire or develop work. Assistance also considered for training and professional development for creative talent or the technical professions. Deadlines: 23 Jun, 19 Sep & 12 Dec 2014. Read more by clicking on Green for Danger.

Healthy Hearts Grants 
Heart Research UK has announced that its Health Hearts Grants Programme will re-open for applications in July 2014. Heart Research UK Healthy Heart Grants support innovative projects designed to promote heart health and to prevent or reduce the risks of heart disease in specific groups or communities. Grants of up to £10,000 are available to community groups, voluntary organisations and researchers who are spreading the healthy heart message. The closing date for this funding round will be the 31st August 2014. Read more by clicking on paradise!

Urban Community-Owned Shops Pilot 
The Plunkett Foundation has announced the launch of new initiative, the Urban community-owned shops pilot. Working in partnership with Locality and funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, the pilot aims to support urban communities to create and benefit from new and sustainable community-owned shops. The shops will offer better access to good food, enhance community cohesion and provide robust retail solutions. The pilot will include a programme of events, enterprise support including specialist advice and resources, and financial help including grants, fundraising guidance and loan-provision.  The programme starts in April 2014 and will run for two years. Communities will be able to secure support for their idea at events to be held later this year. For more information please contact Hannah Barrett on 01993 810730 or at

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