Saturday, 6 September 2014

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Arts for Health are about to embark on an exploration of the impact of arts interventions on the mental health and wellbeing of nursing and care staff in the UK and further afield. We would be interested to read any papers, academic or journalistic in style, or have a brief outline of your work in this field. We are particularly keen to hear about the efficacy of measurement tools like WEMWBS. Just email Thank you. 

The Bland Middle-Ground of Arts and Health...
A few years ago I posted this short clip of the actress Queenie Watts imposing something of her characters personality on the day-to-day tedium of a residential care-home. I share it again, not just because it makes me smile, but because as well as the Dementia and Imagination project that I have the pleasure of working on, it seems that at every corner I turn, people are scrabbling around to create the worlds greatest arts project with people affected by memory loss. Every conceivable art form is being sold as the next great breakthrough in dementia care - quite often bland and poorly conceived - driven by well intentioned, but deluded self-belief. 

Although I work in the field of arts/health, I have a dark fear about the wholesale reduction of culture and the arts to some bland wellbeing formula for older people. Isn’t it obvious that access to the arts will have a profound impact on people? But isn’t it even more blindingly obvious that lots of people don’t access the arts because they don’t think it’s relevant - can’t afford it - haven’t experienced it - or it’s not something offered in their postcode? (well, perhaps some nanny-state-sponsored Legz Akimbo might be). This week I saw the blistering Helen McCrory as Medea*. Sitting not too far from me, was a woman I know to have dementia. It was thrilling to see her absorbed and moved by this violent and deeply harrowing tragedy. A dangerous theatre visit for someone affected by dementia perhaps? I think not. Let us up the ante in our creative thinking.

I’ve spent too many hours in care homes, hospitals and other waiting rooms to know that the most isolated older people would probably enjoy a bit of decent company and conversation more than anything else. We’ve got ourselves in a bad way, when we’re forced to house our elders in overcrowded terminal transit depots, whilst we work all hours possible to line the pockets of owners, who pay their underpaid, uninspired bank-staff to sing prescription songs of bygone days, to the rheumy-eyed depressives, who we’ll all ultimately replace. We should be concerned - deeply concerned. Well, Queenie does it for me every time. It’s that determined look in her eyes, the defiant hammering of a sub-standard piano, the self determination and just a little bit of frustrated rage at this sub-standard experience of living. Forget worrying about purgatory in the 'after life', it's here on earth and just around the corner.

The Art of the Phone Booth in Remote Northern Territory
Anyone over the age of 20 may just remember the tail-end of a time, when to talk to friends and lovers, (beyond the prying ears of the family) we were dependent on phoneboxes on street corners. Foul piss-smelling places, scrawled with scratched-out names and numbers and more often than not, non too sophisticated renditions of genitalia. Bob Gosforth has written a neat little article on the phone booths in the remote Northern Territory of Australia, which reflects on these last out-posts for people who need to communicate from the middle of vast empty spaces, but who might not have credit or can’t afford, or access a mobile. Click on the image below to read the article.

The Chandelier of Lost Earrings... 
...has been named as the winner in the Best Arts Project category of the 2014 National Lottery Awards, following a public vote. Made from more than 3,000 single earrings, donated by people who have lost the other half of the pair, the sculpture is 2.5 metres tall and was first exhibited in the courtyard of St Mary’s Hospital, Manchester before going on to tour the country. Big congratulations to Lauren and Sharon and click on the image below for more info.

Austin & Hope Pilkington Trust
The Austin and Hope Pilkington Trust which awards grants to registered charities in the United Kingdom has announced that the next closing date for applications is 1 November 2014. During 2014, the Trust is seeking to fund projects that promote Music and the Arts and help the elderly. Grants are usually between £1,000 and £3,000 and are awarded for one year. Read more at:

Interactive Health Care Fund Opens for Applications 
Creative England has announced a new £1million fund for regional based Small and medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs), designed to stimulate creative and digital innovation in UK healthcare. The fund aims to encourage small creative and digital businesses in the North, Midlands and South West regions to develop innovative concepts or prototypes using digital technology to improve patient care and health services. The first of four programmes to open as part of this fund is the West Midlands Interactive Healthcare Fund. This is a £250,000 fund that will offer five £50,000 investments to support projects that focus on:
Improving quality of care
Caring for people with dementia
Supporting people with long-term conditions
Data visualisation.
Applications will be assessed on a rolling basis and the fund will close on 31 October 2014. Read more at

Media Therapy Developer
An exciting opportunity has become available for a motivated media graduate to apply theirproduction and project management skills and expertise in a unique environment. The post has been created as a result of an innovative Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) project, The Nottinghamshire healthcare NHS Trust and The Lincoln School of Film and Media at the University of Lincoln. The successful candidate will be based at The Peaks Unit which is located within the high secure Rampton Hospital. The Peaks is a centre for the treatment of men with severe personality disorder and the project will form part of the unit’s “Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT)”. 

The project aims to design and produce a system for patients to create interactive drama and then disseminate that drama to others within the hospital via the units secure media system. There will also be the expectation that the associate will work with clinicians and academics to produce a system for measuring patient engagement with the process and products.

*Medea, written in 431BC by Euripides. Even though I didn’t want to think any more about what psychosis might, or might not be, this play provokes a deep questioning of what constitutes ‘insanity’ in the face of abuse by the individual and by society. Bloody brilliant. 

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