Tuesday, 26 August 2014

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From Urban Psychosis to Urban Death
Last Wednesday I was thrilled to welcome Professors John Read and Rhiannon Corcoran to the Holden Gallery, who at the invitation of my colleague Dr Kat Taylor, gave two quite remarkable presentations to coincide with the final days of the Holden Gallery exhibition, Urban Psychosis.

The Psychosis in Context event brought together people with experience of the ‘mental health system’ alongside psychologists, artists and interested others, and both speakers shared a passion for understanding the rich texture of the human condition. Whilst Rhiannon focused on a very real and unfolding research project, the Prosocial Place Project*, John gave a sweeping critique of the systems in place that label people, and the ways in which the prevailing model of psychiatry is focused on narrow biological factors, regardless of the lack of statistical significance in the evidence base.      

“For every British psychiatrist who thinks schizophrenia is caused primarily by social factors there are 115 who think it is caused primarily by biological factors.”

Focusing on the impact of adverse life experiences on our mental health, John questioned the motives of both biological psychiatrists and the pharmaceutical industry. He vociferously challenged the ‘evidence’ that schizophrenia is a’brain disease’ 

His presentation was entitled - Can Poverty Help Drive You Mad? - and the answer was an unequivocal yes! 30 years ago the relationship between ‘schizophrenia’ and poverty was described as ‘one of the most consistent findings in the field of psychiatric epidemiology’ (Eaton, 1980). 

Focusing on the impact of ethnicity, race and negative childhood experiences, he stressed that ‘deprived children are four times more likely to develop ‘non-schizophrenic psychotic illness’ but eight times more likely to grow-up to be ‘schizophrenic’ (Harrison, Gunnell, Glazebrook, Page, & Kwiecinski, 2001). Even among children with no family history of psychosis the deprived children were seven times more likely to develop ‘schizophrenia’,

Above all, John suggested that the redistribution of social power, the rejection of prejudice and bigotry and increased social justice, are central to public mental health. 

It was an inspiring evening that provoked debate and beautifully echoed the themes of the exhibition. My thanks to everyone who contributed

*I recommend this little film that shows how a simple intervention to disrupt our regulated lifestyles and introduce uncertainty, is liberating, unifying and ultimately very practical. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-vzDDMzq7d0 

Because death is momentous, miraculous, and mysterious
Because the cycles of nature help us grieve and heal
Because our bodies are full of life-giving potential
We propose a new option for laying our loved ones to rest.

Although I don’t know the people who are developing this work, I have to share this website with you. It would be interesting to know what you think.

‘The Urban Death Project is a compost-based renewal system. At the heart of the project is a three-story core, within which bodies and high-carbon materials are placed. Over the span of a few months, with the help of aerobic decomposition and microbial activity, the bodies decompose fully, leaving a rich compost. The Urban Death Project is not simply a system for turning our bodies into soil-building material. It is also a space for the contemplation of our place in the natural world, and a ritual to help us say goodbye to our loved ones by connecting us with the cycles of nature.’  

You can find out more about this vision and its instigator Katrina Spade, by clicking on the image above. 

Lord Richard Attenborough
This weekend Lord Attenborough died aged 90. The actor, director and film-maker has been a good friend to Arts for Health and for many years was its patron. In 1999 he gave the opening adress to the first world symposium on arts and health (CHARTS), here at MMU and set the course on this rapidly expanding agenda. 

‘The arts in all their glorious manifestations are essential prescriptions for all those who are in pain, despair or in recovery. Creativity and imagination stimulate the spirit and, in so doing, speed the healing process. They are a powerful medicine indeed.’ 
Lord Attenborough; Culture, Health and the Arts, World Symposium at MMU

Lost is Found Theory
Friend of Arts for Health and artist on the I AM project, Leon Jakeman has work on exhibition at The Brink in Liverpool. Click on the image above for more information.

Take the Critical Spaces Survey - A Critical Catalyst for Socially-Engaged Art
Critical Spaces is a new and FREE web-based platform for socially-engaged artists, launching in Autumn 2014. It has been designed by artists, for artists.

17 workshops have been held across the UK to research and develop this platform. This survey is your opportunity to support the fine-tuning of Critical Spaces. You will also be given the opportunity to pre-register for the beta launch.

Critical Spaces will:

  • Increase artist visibility - by featuring a UK map and directory of artists.
  • Facilitate new artist connections - by allowing you to search for artists, both geographically and by practice.
  • Support critical thinking - through advocacy, resources and arranging ‘Critical Gatherings’.
To complete the survey click 'Take the Survey' or copy and paste the following web-address into your browser: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/criticalspaces
The success of Critical Spaces relies on your support - please share this survey with other socially-engaged artists. The survey will close on Friday 19th September 2014. Critical Spaces is an initiative by Hannah Hull in partnership wih ixia public art think tank.

Funding for Projects that Address Urban & Rural Deprivation 
The Trusthouse Charitable Foundation has announced that capital and revenue funding is available to support the work of local and national charities and not-for-profit organisations that address rural and urban deprivation. Within these two main headings, the Trust is interested in helping established projects which work in the fields of:
  • Community SupportArts, 
  • Education & Heritage
  • Disability & Health Care. 
The type of projects the Trust are interested in funding include projects providing transport for the elderly, disabled or disadvantaged; contact networks for the young disabled; projects which encourage a sense of community such as community centres and village halls; employment training schemes especially those promoting local, traditional crafts; projects addressing issues such as drug/alcohol misuse or homelessness.

The Foundation also provides funding to support capital projects at hospices throughout the UK; and on local projects providing support for mothers and babies in the first two years of life. The Grants Committee meets quarterly to consider applications at the beginning of February, May, September and November. The deadlines for submitting applications are generally 2 months before the date of a meeting. Read more at http://www.trusthousecharitablefoundation.org.uk/

Today is the singer Shirley Mansons birthday, as it would be Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu, if she were still alive. Better known as the Nobel Prize winning nun, Mother Teresa, Agnes had some pretty queer ideas, best summed up by Christopher Hitchens:

“Mother Teresa was not a friend of the poor. She was a friend of poverty. She said that suffering was a gift from God. She spent her life opposing the only known cure for poverty, which is the empowerment of women and the emancipation of them from a livestock version of compulsory reproduction.” 

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