Sunday, 4 September 2016

...Sing me to Sleep

This weekend saw the extraordinary Rediscovering the Radical Festival in Liverpool at LIPA at which I was thrilled to speak about the Recoverist Manifesto. Well done Collective Encounters for pulling together such a full-on and exciting event. I’ll post and follow-up material on the blog as soon as it’s available. I wrote a small piece for the event flyer, which is copied here.

Arts for Health - sounds like a prescription - doesn’t it? Do a watercolour and you’ll be cured of all life’s ills! Whilst I’d argue that there’s a huge part for culture and the arts to play in exploring human wellbeing, it still sounds like a medical prescription to me, and one that’s all wrapped up in the language of illness and individualism. 

There’s a big opportunity for rethinking the health agenda – and no, not just to save our cash-strapped NHS a few pounds – but to think about quality of life beyond pathology. The Francis Report into neglect and abuse within the NHS, identified a target obsessed culture, that “focused on doing the system’s business - and not that of the patients,’ {…} ‘ institutional culture which ascribed more weight to {…} methods of measuring compliance (and) which did not focus on the effect of a service on patients”.

It seems that our obsession with targets within health and social care, has blinded us to the very people we should be caring for and the all-prevailing ‘management culture’ that dominates this sector is mirrored in the arts and cultural sector too. Australian artist, David Pledger, in his essay Re-evaluating the artist in the new world order, provides us with a compelling critique of the systems that have seen more money put into marketing and management that into artists, with the artist being at the very bottom of the food chain. 

Yet shouldn’t the artist be at the heart of public debate; scrutinizing, curious and enabling - questioning dominant ideologies and giving voice to those most marginalized by those in power? Pledger astutely suggests that ‘managerialism sees itself as the antidote to chaos, irrationality, disorder, and incompleteness,’ - but aren’t these the essential elements that are central to the arts? Samuel Ladkin in Against Value in the Arts, suggests, “It is often the staunchest defenders of art who do it the most harm, by suppressing or mollifying its dissenting voice, by neutralizing its painful truths, and by instrumentalizing its potentiality, so that rather than expanding the autonomy of thought and feeling of the artist and the audience, it makes art self-satisfied…”

Anxiety’s on the up, depression’s on the ascendance and we’re all stressed out – inward looking and isolated - offered up pills to numb the day-to-day crisis and if we’re lucky; a course of CBT to get us on our way and back into the wonderful world of employment! As we become increasingly obsessed with wellness, we’re inevitably loosing sight of the bigger picture. The arts have a critical part to play in civic society, but unless we think about life beyond our own narrow confines, what hope have we got to bring about social change and even encourage thinking about global health and the factors that underpin inequalities.

So whilst bookshop shelves groan under the weight of popular science, mindfulness and colouring books for adults, the arts might offer something bigger than this, something beyond self-centered individualism. These books may well be written with good intention, but perhaps they’re just about maintaining the status quo, making the publishers a stack of cash, and all the while creating a generation of isolated and passive good little citizens, sat at home crayoning in. Whatever this arts/health thing is all about – whether it takes place in clinical or community settings – it’s a growing movement and one that we need to watch, as a growing army of middle managers muscle in and attempt to commodify everything we do. The arts are political – our health – that’s political too.

. . .

Padainuok Man Labanakt
This week I am proud to be supporting Socialiniai Meno Projektai and Arthur & Martha who have been working together across Manchester and Lithuania to create work with people affected by poverty and homelessness under the title, Sing me to Sleep, (Padainuok Man Labanakt).

The Sing me to Sleep exhibition is a journey through a fairytale forest as though through the homeless life – facing shadows that carry long forgotten riddles, embraced by the sounds of words, cries and laughter, leaving no place untouched, filled with an uncertain perception of what is small and what is big, light or dark, good or bad, real or imaginary.

The project draws attention to the importance of arts activity in the lives of people that live in the margins of society, expanding our understanding of homelessness by presenting the participants’ thoughts about values of our common humanity – home, feelings of safety, health, solitude and the value of taking walks together and walking together in life. In Lithuania and Great Britain around 500 people took part in all activities of the project and 80 of them meaningfully contributed to the exhibition in the National Gallery of Art in Vilnius which opens on September the 9th for one month. That this exhibition is happening in Lithuania's National Gallery is a testimony to the vision and passion of all those people involved.

Seen alongside the recent exhibition of the Homeless Library in the House of Lords and at the Southbank Centre. You can read more about the Homeless Library here, or an article in the Lancet here.

DCMS review of Arts Council England
For those of you keen to comment on your experiences with Arts Council England, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport has launched a review of Arts Council England to investigate the body's efficiency, effectiveness and governance. The ‘tailored review’, first announced in the culture white paper in March, will be carried out in two parts, the first asking whether the functions performed by the Arts Council remain appropriate for its status as a non-departmental public body, as well as assessing its performance. The second part will examine issues including how ACE advocates for the arts, delivers its current set of functions, and manages its board. As part of the review, DCMS has opened an online survey asking for feedback on the Arts Council, which is open for submissions until September 20. HAVE YOUR SAY BY CLICKING HERE. 

TAnDem Arts and Dementia Conference: Research into Practice
Event: 21st September 2016
A partnership between the Association for Dementia Studies at the University of Worcester and the Centre for Dementia, University of Nottingham, TAnDem is one of eight Doctoral Training Centres funded by the Alzheimer’s Society. Its mission is to produce an evidence base for the arts and dementia.  This conference will explore the theme of researching the arts and dementia via keynote speakers, workshops and panel debates. Through a mixture of keynote speakers, workshops and panel debates this conference will explore how research and arts practice can work together for mutual benefit. Clive will be at the event and hopes to be speaking about artists as researchers in the Dementia and Imagination project alongside Dr Victoria Tischler. 
Click on the bicycle made for two, above.

IMPORTANT SYMPOSIUM ON THEATRE From 15 – 17 September 2016 we will showcase exceptional examples of theatre practice from the UK and Europe, provoke debate about making work with older people, and explore what’s next for this emerging movement. We will offer a rich mix of speakers, performances, discussions and workshops to challenge and inspire.

We invite individuals and companies actively creating theatre with older people to be part of this event. It will be a space to bring your ideas and your questions, to meet and connect with others and to enhance your practice. We would like to offer delegates the opportunity to showcase their work and we have a number of opportunities for this - through a film showcase on the day and a photography exhibition to run for three weeks from 5 September. We also have a very limited number of short performance opportunities. 

Delegates will be invited to attend a production of Anniversary by The Performance Ensemble and West Yorkshire Playhouse on either 15 or 16 September, and/or to experience volunteering at a dementia friendly performance on 17 September.  Participation at the symposium is by invitation, and is completely free, including theatre tickets and refreshments. We encourage delegates representing organisations to attend alongside an older participant if this is possible. 
There are limited places available. Please contact to request a place or express interest in attending

OK - So I never thought I'd have a section on this blog that links to the 'masons' but here you go...

Masonic Charitable Foundation Community Support Grants 
The next deadline for the Masonic Charitable Foundation's Community Support Grants Scheme is the 28th October 2016. Grants are available to registered charities for projects that:

  • Address financial hardship and its effects
  • Improve the lives of those affected by poor physical and/or mental health and wellbeing
  • Provide educational and employment opportunities for disadvantaged children and young people

Tackle social exclusion and disadvantage.
Charities can apply for either large grants of £5,000 and above or for small grants of between £500 and £5,000. Large grants need to be used for a specific purpose such as funding salary costs, specific project costs and refurbishment costs, etc. Small grants can be awarded to smaller charities with an annual income that does not exceed approximately £500,000. Small Grants can be used for core expenditure such as general running or overhead costs of the charity.  Applications to the large grants programme require a Community Support Enquiry Form to be completed in advance of this deadline and the last date for submission is 14th October 2016. Read more by clicking on the chap above!

Granada Foundation Grants Programme (North West)
The Granada Foundation has announced that the next closing date for applications is the 11th November 2016. Through its grants programme, the Foundation wishes to encourage and promote the study, practice and appreciation of the fine arts. The Foundation also welcomes applications which aim to engage and inspire young people and adults to take an interest in science. The Advisory Council meets three times a year at regular intervals to consider applications. There is a clear preference for new projects; although the Foundation will support festivals and other annual events, this should not be regarded as automatically renewable. Click on the good old logo above for more detail.

Creative Commission: Gwynedd Council (Wales)
Community Arts: Tackling Loneliness amongst Older People in Gwynedd Rural Communities
Duration of contract: Beginning of October 2016 to end of March 2017 (6 months)
Fee: £12,000
Closing date for applications: 9am, 14 September, 2016.
Gwynedd Council’s Community Arts Unit wishes to commission an individual or arts body to trial an arts scheme that will reach isolated, lonely older people in rural areas of Gwynedd. With a population of 122,273 and approximately 61,000 dwellings, providing arts opportunities across the county can be challenging; and reaching older, isolated, people is a specific challenge we wish to tackle. We wish to build upon the good work that is already happening by trialling a new scheme to reach older people who are lonely and isolated in our rural communities. We wish to specifically focus on those who reside in the County's rural areas by especially focusing on Meirionnydd and south Gwynedd. For a full copy of the brief and how to apply, please click on the Edward Hopper painting above.

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