Friday, 20 November 2015 is time

Arts & Health Taskforce Announced 

This week saw the 7th Annual Art of Good Health and Wellbeing International Arts and Health Conference at the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney. With a heady mix of research, policy and practice, the event brought together key figures from the field. This year proceedings were opened by former governor of New South Wales, Dame Marie Bashir who highlighted her personal commitment to the place of culture and the arts in a healthy society. Alongside the Vice Chancellor of the University of New South Wales, Professor Ian Jacobs, who stressed his institutions long-term commitment to developing arts and health research, Minister for Health, Jillian Skinner pledged the governments ongoing and proactive engagement with the field by announcing her establishment of a Ministerial Taskforce alongside conference convener Margret Meagher, to ‘ensure the benefits of the arts are shared system wide with patients, carers, staff and the wider community.’  Without doubt, this level of political commitment has happened thanks to the high level public advocacy of the Australian Centre for Arts and Health which consistently delivers events that broker new strategic alliances and very real working collaborations.

It’s always difficult to pick stand-out moments, both high and low,*(see below) from such a full conference, but my personal highlight was the joint presentation by Karin Diamond and Alison O’Conner from Re-Live, Life Story Theatre, in Wales. They exuded honesty and integrity and shared practice that was grounded in the day to day realities of people facing some of life's most difficult moments. Their presentation style was personable and compelling. I want more of this in the world please!! I found the research of Professor Jill Bennett riveting and the the expansive thinking of Errol Francis quite breathtaking. Then all those breakaways - too many to reflect on - although the work of Julie Collins around pre-natal care and the celebration of pregnant bellies in indigenous communities, was utterly absorbing. 

I was pleased to share a new piece of work that conjoins the theatrical ‘avant guard’ alongside our developing understanding of cultural value and health impact, and offered a gentle inquiry into how we might gain deeper understanding of the arts, not necessarily through the language of medicine, but perhaps with something of the conviction of a theoretical physicist. I hope to be uploading a version of this presentation to youtube very soon. 

Thanks to everyone who was free with their ideas, aspirations and friendship. Big congratulations too, to Anna Goulding, who justifiably won the award for Arts & Health Education & Research. Brilliant. Enduring thoughts too, of our friend Mike White.

Me Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen...the inbox is bulging with news of arts/health evaluation frameworks here, arts/health conferences there. So, as ever, if you’re interested, here’s a link to a new framework and here's a link to what is being billed as the first national arts/health showcase! First eh? No, it’s not being laid on by UKIP silly, but by husband and wife team, Vivienne Parry and Tim Joss and with its focus on enterprise and social purpose, it's targeting ‘health decision makers’- does that mean the general public?

Garfield Weston Foundation
The Foundation funds a broad range of activities and organisations, however, details from their annual report indicate that projects came under the following categories: Arts, Community, Education, Welfare, Medical, Faith, Youth and Environment. Trustees are flexible on who funding can be used. Organisations need to demonstrate how the funds can make the most difference – either by funding core costs (not salaries); or funding a specific project. There are no formal deadlines for submitting applications. Applications and supporting documents must be sent by post and you should allow approximately 4 months for a final outcome; for details of application process click:

BBC Children in Need – Small Grants Programme
Not for profit organisations such as such schools; registered charities; voluntary organisations; churches; and community interest groups; etc. can apply for grants of up to £10,000 through the BBC Children in Need Small Grants programme. The grants are available for projects that:
Help children and young people experiencing illness, distress, abuse or neglect
Any kind of disability
Behavioural or psychological difficulties
And / or living in situations of deprivation.

* Less palatable was the impromptu hijacking of the stage by Emma O’Brien, who alongside the in-yer-face Andy Howitzer Howitt, delivered a passive-aggressive Abbott and Costello style 'impromptu' routine, focused on hand washing and choreography, which resulted in some clumsy audience manipulation (should that say participation? er, no, I'll stick with manipulation) and a high-production and ultra glossy filmed dance, but will it really change behaviour, other than persuading the likes of me, that confrontational audience participation, isn't the best way forward. There’ll doubtlessly be one or two who enjoyed being shouted at, as part of this pseudo flash mob, but for my part, aggressively selling your product this way felt like arts/health totalitarianism. 
Just awful.

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