Sunday, 15 February 2015

“ must still have chaos in one, to give birth to a dancing star…”

New research suggests health benefits of cultural activity

Last Thursday the 12th I had the wonderful opportunity to see the last few months work with MA - Art, Design, Health and Wellbeing students come to fruition. The 14 students who come from a variety of disciplines showcased their work at the launch of a new report; The Long-Term Health Benefits of Participating in the Arts, published by Arts for Health and which reveals that engaging with the arts and culture generally has a positive long-term effect on health and wellbeing. I was thrilled too, to welcome just under 200 people to the Manchester School of Art to share their practice and encourage some lively debate. Part of the day was an Open Space session which enabled us to re-visit the Manifesto for Arts and Health and imagine where the field might be in 2020. Hey 20/20 - is this all about having perfect vision?? More of that when I’ve collated the extensive notes from the day. But a huge THANK YOU to everyone who presented, came along and took part. All North West Arts and Health Network events are free and made possible by your inspiration and input.

Now, back to the research undertaken by Dr. Rebecca Gordon-Nesbitt which has uncovered evidence, stretching back a number of decades, that shows a significant association between engaging with the arts and longer lives better lived. All this despite being consistently told that there are no long-term studies! Under the auspices of the Cultural Value Project – initiated by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the UK’s main academic funder in the field – Rebecca has compiled an evidence base comprised of fifteen longitudinal studies. These international studies collectively suggest that attending high-quality cultural events has a beneficial impact upon a range of chronic diseases over time. This includes cancer, heart disease, dementia and obesity, with an inevitable knock-on effect upon life expectancy. 

Many possible reasons for this positive association are speculated upon by the researchers brought together in this report – from increased social capital to psycho-neuroimmunological responses – all of which are interrogated in detail. One of the most compelling potential explanations for any positive association observed between arts engagement and health comes from the field of epigenetics, specifically the idea that environmental enrichment (in this case, cultural activity) can cause certain harmful genes to be switched off, enabling health-protective effects to be communicated from one generation to the next.

In an era in which arts organisations are repeatedly urged to account for themselves in economic terms and we have largely lost sight of the individual and social value of culture, it is hoped that these combined findings will be heeded by policy-makers in the arts and health. This work highlights that there is every chance that any positive health effects attributed to arts engagement are the result of a hidden factor, most likely a socio-economic one. As such, this compelling report urgently incites further research into the inequalities that mediate our access to health and the arts.

The report is available free online by clicking on the issuu image above. Thank you to Rebecca for sharing this work at our event and presenting it so compellingly - and eloquently. 

Women Make Music grant scheme
Deadline: 27 April and 28 September 2015
The Performing Right Society’s Women Make Music grant scheme offers financial support of up to £5000 to women musicians. You can create new music in any genre, from classical, jazz and experimental, to urban, electronica and pop. Support is available to:
  Individuals and organisations / groups including solo performers
  solo songwriters or composers
  promoters or event producers
  local authorities and schools

New Building Better Opportunities Fund from Big Lottery (England)
Subject to approval from the European Commission, the Big Lottery Fund (BIG) is planning to put up to £260m of Lottery funds against a similar figure from the European Social Fund (ESF) 2014-2020 in order to support communities and people most in need across England. Projects delivering against the ‘Promoting Social Inclusion and Combating Poverty' part of the ESF can receive funding in Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) areas according to local priorities, which have been set by the LEPs. LEP area partnerships have made provisional decisions about how much of their ESF allocation to devote to this strand of work, meaning that the amount of main funding available will vary widely across different areas. Ahead of the main funding becoming available from 2015, BIG will also offer Lottery development funding in each of the LEP areas it is working with. Read more at: 

Arteffact Manager (Freelance): North Wales
Duration: 60 days  Fee: £12,000  Start date: April 2015  Closing date; 23rd Feb 2015.
Arteffact is the project name for a partnership of museum and archives across north Wales working together to use historic collections and exhibitions to inspire creativity and self-expression to promote better mental health. Arteffact helps people suffering from depression and other forms of negative mental health to begin to feel better about themselves and to start making positive changes in their lives. It does this by engaging professional artists to run creative activities in museums or galleries, providing a supportive way to engage with culture and heritage. The absorbing art activities, the stimulating settings, the social interaction and the connection to the stories and lives of others all help to achieve this positive impact.

Arteffact is also a unique way of opening up museums and galleries for groups of people who may never have thought that such places had anything for them. It is a partnership between museums, galleries, archives and community art services in north Wales that collaborate to deliver positive creative experiences for people with mental health needs. Our courses of art workshops are inspired by the artefacts and records held in the museum and archive collections. Full details & job description 

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