Sunday, 27 May 2018

Das Wesentliche

Following my mail out to people asking if they wanted to opt out or remain on the North West Arts & Health Network database, I can confirm only 4 fell by the wayside. Thank you remainers!!

I would like to quote my friend JC Ashton: "REPEAL THE 8TH securing the YES vote in Ireland is fu*k*ng HUGE for women's rights and women's campaigning in face of religious and cultural oppression. Let's keep going..." 

What a heady few weeks - Dementia & Imagination hit the road and the wonderful Chris Lewis-Jones has been sharing practical training stemming from the Yellow Book in Wales and in London. I’m pleased that he and Sian Hughes will be working with me again in mid July as part of Engage Cymru training events in South Wales. If you’re an artist who wants to explore working in contexts around dementia, and are based in or near Swansea or Carmarthen, check HERE. But a right old treat for me personally has been taking part in A Life More Ordinary Festival at the Dukes Theatre in Lancaster. As well as giving me the opportunity to reconnect with arts and health pioneer Alison Clough, I got to make a revolutionary racket with Leo Nolan them and their collaborators as part if Cognitive Shift. I met a local councillor who was sporting a God Speed You Black Emperor t-shirt - things were damn good! Superb people and well planned and nuanced events - thanks for asking me Gil and Alex and thanks for the company KMD. Very inspired particularly by a session led by the artist Dr. Louise Ann Wilson - more of which to follow.* 


#LiveWellMakeArt burst into life last week at Leigh’s Turnpike Gallery. Great to hear Dr Kat Taylor beginning to share her work from Finland as part of her time with a Churchill Fellowship. When she publishes her report in June, I’ll make sure to post it online. I have to say the Royal Exchange’s Tracie Daley completely blew me away with her collaboration with isolated people living in tower blocks in Manchester. Who needs Ted Talks when we have such brilliant, driven and compelling people right here - doing profound stuff. Thanks Gerri for making it happen.

One of the speakers at the LWMA event was Lois Blackburn and as half of arthur+martha (alongside Phillip Davenport) they will be sharing more of their work with people who for whatever reason, find themselves on the fringes of society. Click on the image below for more details of this work and launch.

The National Alliance for Musicians in Healthcare conference is taking place at Alder Hey Hospital on the 4th June. I’ll be sharing something personal, something political and something poetic. Want to know more? Well you’ll have to come along. Click HERE for those ever important details.

On Tuesday 5th June Professor Jill Bennett will be sharing all manner of things from the Big Anxiety festival in Sydney, and if you want to come along, pleased. All the details are HERE. Failing that and if you’re in London, I can heartily recommend my friends and colleagues from Lithuania who will be sharing some of their systemic work under the title: Accessible Museums: Research and Practice in Lithuania. This is all part of London Creativity and Wellbeing week, and you can find out much more about it by clicking HERE.

Today is the feast day of Saint Melangell, patron saint of hares and rabbits. Prince Brochwel Ysgithrog was hunting near Pennant in the year 604 when his hounds chased a hare into a thicket, where they found a beautiful maiden at prayer. The hare sheltered under the hem of her garment, and the dogs fled. The Prince, discovering that the lady was Melangell, a king’s daughter who had fled Ireland to escape a forced marriage, gave her the valley as a place of sanctuary. Artwork by Kay Leverton and more details on Melangell, here. 

Indigenous Men’s Conference and 2018 Indigenous Women’s Wellbeing Conference in Cairns QLD Australia.

I know it’s a bit late off the press, but here’s something of real interest in Australia. The stage is set to accommodate all delegations of the 2018 Indigenous Men’s Conference and 2018 Indigenous Women’s Wellbeing Conference scheduled on the 13th – 15th of June 2018 at the Pullman Cairns International Hotel. The convenor of the 2018 Indigenous Men’s and Indigenous Women’s Wellbeing Conferences has now finalised the conference proceedings with a kaleidoscope of First Nations speakers sharing stories and great opportunities for delegates to participate in events which are devoted to the sharing of Culture, Empowerment, Education & Networking. Details HERE.

After witnessing some astonishing levels of racism around First Nations people in Australia back in 2016 from someone who should know better, events like this seem more important than the usual insipid and self congratulatory guff. 

*A Morecambe Hauntology #1
I was part of a small group that explored maps of places special to us. I took it seriously, and in the limited time we had - went deep. Too deep perhaps. The scratchy little map I prepared by the end of the session was peppered with spectres from my childhood. I didn’t share with the group - well not in any depth - but left an out-of-scale map with Louise including the West End Pier, Stone Jetty zoo, two paddling/boating pools and some clues to some sticky jigsaw pieces. I suppose because I had written dis/ordered for the Big Anxiety last year, I’d already dipped my feet back into the muddy waters of Morecambe Bay, but Louise’s session left me wanting more.

So spending the bank holiday weekend alone, I took myself on two walks: one - from the front door of my childhood home, along the promenade of Morecambe to its centre, then back along the labyrinthine alleyways and side streets of the West End and walk two: - to the top of Clougha Pike and a rural landscape devoid of humans, my company for this second journey mainly curlews, disconcerted and warning me away from their grounds. So two very different, but emotionally connected walks. So taken was I, by the methodology of the session, that Louise Ann led that I’m going to write up the walk in full - both walks - connected. (not here you'll be relieved to know)

She’d introduced her work as therapeutic walking, and for my part I certainly delved deeply - but there’s something teetering on experiment for me here. Perhaps psycho-geography, though who am I to attach such a label. 

No, for me there was some kind of haunting - the death of people and the death of places. When people talk about the treacherous sands of Morecambe Bay, quite naturally minds go straight to the exploited Chinese cockle-pickers who died en-masse in 2004. Twenty four people. Horrible. But such a terrible thing blinds us to the small scale tragedies of the suicides and drownings that have happened in these waters over the last century. My mind goes back to three lads my age, school friends of sorts, who drown together in 1981: that, and the decline and change of all the things I knew and did - the shops - the cinemas and the lives, all mixed up - a daytime haunting. A Black Bear shot dead.

I stood on Sandylands prom and looked down at the outline of the saltwater paddling pool. Sand had encroached it, leaving just the faint outline of the place where every year, we competed to catch the biggest red-eaters in the deepest corner. I stood on West-end prom and looked down at the outline of the saltwater boating pool. No faint outline. No trace of those boats. Sandgrownuns and just a little despair.


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