Saturday, 26 March 2016

...a love filled slap

This weekend marks the start of the 100 years commemoration of the Easter Rising in Ireland, where on the streets of Dublin, free thinkers, poets and activists rose up against the English, ultimately resulting in the execution of many of those involved and putting a marker down in Irish history. 

In January this year, I was invited by the always imaginative and ground breaking, Arts + Health Ireland, to take part in one of their events to mark the Easter Rising, and share the Manifesto for Arts & Health that so many of you took part in developing, here in the North West of England. Exploring its development and it’s relevance in the here and now - and with something of the spirit of this poets who drafted the Proclamation of the Republic in 1916 - we shared and explored our manifesto a bit more - and who knows - something very exciting might emerge from the streets of Ireland in the name of arts and health.

So, this edition of the blog shares some of the thinking behind that event in Dublin, providing the presentation I gave of a reflective paper, A Love Filled Slap in either film, full colour glossy words, or plain black and white text. There’s footage from the chair of the day, Pat Cooke and much more if you want it, by clicking here.

Meanwhile back in the UK, and not entirely disconnected, I had the pleasure of accompanying Alan Higgins, Director of Public Health in Oldham, to speak at an All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) meeting exploring devolution across Greater Manchester and the potential synergies between the arts and health - which I’d argue is, in and of itself, a social movement. Those eagle-eyed blog watchers will know that I’ve been advertising a PhD opportunity to be central to this agenda, not least to offer a timely critical eye - albeit from an artists perspective. As soon as I have news to report on this, I will. For now though, I am convinced that if devolution is happening (and it is happening), we should be part of it - questioning, provoking, exciting and contributing to social change. 

Let’s keep our eye on the political ball too, as I for one am deeply concerned about the further £3.5b savings announced in the budget for government departmental cuts! The impact on local authorities and inevitable consequences for culture and the arts, are something we should be ready to counter. It was unsurprising that in the APPG on devolution that I spoke at, that research reared its head. We weren’t there to talk about research or evaluation, and yet the same old blinkered arguments will be peddled time and again. ‘Where’s the evidence?’ - and yes, its the same old RCT gibberish, obsessed with pathology and hard scientific fact and the Cochrane Library! But give us a break - we were discussing public health and the social determinants of health and inequalities - yes we need to talk about evidence (which there are bags of) but at the appropriate time and critically, in the language of cultural value, not just pseudo-scientific gibberish.

From an altogether different point of view, but arguably from a global health perspective, John Pilger throws down the gauntlet to us, that is entirely connected to both the Easter Rising and perhaps re-imagining what we might consider ‘evidence’ of impact:

‘What has happened to the great tradition of popular direct action, unfettered to parties? Where is the courage, imagination and commitment required to begin the long journey to a better, just and peaceful world? Where are the dissidents in art, film, the theatre, literature?’  

This blog will be silent for one week as your blogger escapes to the wilderness, so no April fool this year. That said, there's a new fool on the block in this arts health  field, who doesn't just talk rot one day a year, but 365 days a year (and in a leap year 366).


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