Monday, 12 September 2016

...b l u e m o n d a y

Last Friday saw the launch of Sing me to Sleep at the National Gallery of Art - Lithuania and what I believe to be, the first exhibition of work by people affected by homelessness in a national gallery. Judging by the opening event which saw around 250 people attend, it inspired a great deal of curiosity and impassioned responses. So what’s the exhibition really about? With any curation of people’s work who normally sit outside the hallowed halls of contemporary galleries, its easy to assume it would be branded as some kind of exoticised outsider art - worse still - that the artists would be paraded around like some show-ponies for the great and good to pat on the head and return home satiated by their benevolent endorsement. Well, a number of artists in attendance were from Lithuania and from Manchester and were supported by the Booth Centre, and there wasn’t a moments condescension.

Large scale work and more intimate pieces explored the experience of homelessness through poetry, stitch and the fairy tale - universal stories of fear and challenge - and in some cases - the overcoming of seeming insurmountable obstacles. Through sound pieces, and recorded and performed music from both countries, the common stories of lived experience of life on the streets, and the factors that contributed to peoples experiences, became manifest. When Albert Einstein, was asked how we could make our children more intelligent, he replied, "If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales." There is much we can learn from his advice.

The large and pristine glass windows of the gallery were daubed with a thick coal and wood dust, (a challenge I’m sure, for the gallery curator) in which multi-talented artist Eglė Gudonytė and her colleagues had meticulously transcribed the Lithuanian and Russian writing of the women and men who were part of the project. Alongside images that would fit well in a Duchamp exhibition, the areas that had been rubbed away in the dust, made a compelling backdrop to the gallery, which refracted and transformed with the moving sun.

In the presence of British Ambassador for Lithuania, Claire Lawrence and Director of the British Council in Lithuania, Artūras Vasiliauskas - Ieva Petkutė from Socialiniai Meno Projektai shared some of the stories behind the work and poet Philip Davenport and artist Lois Blackburn (Arthur & Martha) reflected on the nature of homelessness, introducing artists from Manchester who shared their work. Some of the work will be coming to Bury Art Gallery soon.

Fundamental Human rights should be central to any conversation around this arts and health agenda - but it would be lazy to connect work born from the experience of being homeless, with simply having a roof over your head, or access to healthcare and education - this ‘access’ to profound cultural expression, with all its sophistication and nuance - is a fundamental human right. We must never forget freedom of creative expression.

Homelessness is commonplace, these are not rare birds - though some of the stories offer something as beautiful as birdsong, others the sharp jab of a sharpened beak - they are raw and everyday, poetic and visceral.

How would we choose to measure the worth of this work if we were so inclined? Well - for my part - it’s the quality of the work and the story that it tells - the emotion that it provokes - like all art, that enables us to understand the value of something. This isn’t some other worldly exoticism, it’s us - you and me writ large.

People's Postcode Trust Small Grants Programme (Scotland, England & Wales)
The People's Postcode Trust' Small Grants Programme has re-opened for applications. Since 2009, People's Postcode Trust has awarded over £11 million to more than 1600 projects across Great Britain. Through its Small Grants Programme, the Trust offers grants of between £500 and £20,000 (£10,000 in Wales) to registered charities for projects lasting up to 1 year (for organisations in Wales 6 months. Applications will be invited for projects that focus on the prevention of poverty, healthy living initiatives, upholding human rights and facilitating reconciliation projects which help disadvantaged or at-risk groups. Applicants that are from organisations and community groups not formally registered as a charity with OSCR / Charity Commission can apply for up to £2,000 in funding. The closing date for applications is the 30th September 2016. Read more at:

Centre Manager: The Island (Bristol)
Deadline: 10th October 2016, 5:00pm
P/T role: 25hour per week (spread across 5 working days)
Occasional evening and weekend work
Salary: £19,500 – £21,450 PRO RATA depending on experience
Fixed term: 12 months
Please check link for further information and an application pack:

Director of Creative Engagement – Theatr Clwyd (Wales)
Position Details: Permanent (F/T) 
Grade TC01.5 (SCP from 36 – 40)
Salary: £31,288 - £35,093 (subject to the conclusion of a new House Agreement, including the pay model)
Location: Theatr Clwyd – Mold, Flintshire

High Peaks Community Arts: Business Development & Communications Manager
Salary: £25,693 - £27,394 pro rata, 2 days per week. 
Based in: New Mills, High Peak SK22 3BW
Deadline for applications: 5pm Wednesday 28th September. 
High Peak Community Arts is a small charity and limited company based in New Mills, covering the whole of the High Peak. We are recruiting a part time Business Development and Communications Manager on a 2 year temporary contract. Ideally, we would like a worker to join the team for 2 days / week. But we are open to a freelance proposal based on this fee. Job Purpose: To support income generation by raising awareness of High Peak Community Arts with partners, stakeholders, and the general public. To include devising and launching income generation through individual, private and corporate giving, and developing a stronger communications strategy with the team. For more information and application pack, email: or download from our website, Interviews: Tuesday 11th October.

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