Sunday, 23 September 2018


What a week - arts overload of the very best kind, courtesy of the wildest range of exciting and shimmering cultural activists. Of course - I want to talk about it all here - but if I do, you'd inevitably be drowned in text - that said - can I? Just a little?

First of all - a small film dropped into my inbox from a Chilean film maker and ethnographer, and I’m not sure if I have permission to share it - but if and when I do - you’ll be the first see it. It’s short and sweet and follows four men living with HiV and is a thing of great beauty and lyricism. If I can’t share, I’ll post you in the right direction to find out more about the film maker and film.

On Thursday Walk the Plank hosted a Live Well Make Art (LWMA) event that saw a superb range of health professionals, third sector and arts practitioners come together to explore work - and possible links to arts/health. I’m deeply indebted to Paul Dwyer from the University of Sydney and all his collaborators who created the piece of verbatim theatre - Grace Under Pressure - for allowing me to share elements of their work, which premiered last year at The Big Anxiety Festival. Superb, revelatory and disconcerting theatre that highlights the workplace and training culture within healthcare settings that sees nurses, doctors and interns under enormous stress, often resulting in a culture of unacceptable pressure and resultant hierarchical bullying. You can find more about this work by clicking HERE. This rainy-day event was bursting to the seams with diverse talent and chaired by the writer Amanda Dalton, to whom our huge thanks. The next LWMA event will take place in Oldham on October 19th and will focus on Motherhood, Early Years and the Arts, which you can find out more and book tickets for HERE.

This brings me on to an event organised by ARC and at which I facilitated a large-scale conversation with artists, researchers, psychologists and health/care professionals in Manchester Gallery. The event was part of a superb collaboration between the artist Sarah Greaves and ARC in an exploration of perinatal mental health and ‘wealth’ (my addition) which compliments her exhibition currently on show at Manchester Art Gallery. The exhibition -  The Other in Mother - closes this Sunday - but don’t fret, it tours to Leeds Museum (9-12 October) and Gallery Oldham (17-19 October). This last venue will be where the LWMA event takes place! Neat huh?

Sarah Greaves has been working with women who are recovering from postnatal depression, creating a Library of Objects on social media from women all over the world and interviewing perinatal health professionals to research the psychological impact of becoming a mother.

In response to her research, Sarah has created an immersive installation of manipulated objects representing diverse experiences of maternal transition. Her work as always, provokes a range of responses and invites you to actively engage with it, and she presented her work at the seminar, at which this large group conversation took place. A big thank you to all the women present for sharing their candid and rich stories and thinking. Impossible to name all the participants - but just a quick wow to the artists/curators/activists who contributed: Helen Knowles, Helen Sargeant, and Amy Dignam, psychologist Anja Wittkowski, Manchester Gallery’s Katy McCall and Naomi Kendrick. Finally to artistic director of ARC Jacqui Wood, my big thanks for the invitation to take part. What did we discus, you might ask - censorship and taboo, the diversity of lived experience, inequalities, the dominance of technological births and the possibilities of moving from the individual to the collective - oh - and the arts at the heart of doing things differently. Superb and thanks to everyone.

Finally, a new exhibition burst into life at the Whitworth - and this isn’t the work of William Kentridge I’m talking about - its the sumptuous, intimate and beguiling work of Alice Kettle and the enhancing The Travelling Heritage Bureau. Thread Bearing Witness is a major new series of large textiles that considers cultural heritage, refugee displacement and movement, while engaging with individual migrants and their creativity within the wider context of the global refugee crisis. Thread Bearing Witness represents displacement though the migration of stitches, using the three strands of artistic representation, participation and creative resilience, testing ways of belonging within a cultural space, and using textile as a medium of integration, collective expression and resilience to displacement.

“Simultaneously, Alice is working on a local level to connect personally with individual women and children refugees and asylum seekers, asking them to work with her to contribute to and inform new monumental stitched artworks. These artworks are inspired by the strength, resilience, and hospitality of refugees and asylum seekers whom she and her family have worked with. Artists at the centre of this work include: Kani Kamil, Ana Lucia Cuevas, Shahireh Sangrezeh, Monika Rajani, Aida Foroutan, Firoozeh Fozouni, Mahboobeh Rajabi, Roxana Allison, Roua Nazar, Zhila Mozoun, Manya Alkhmri, Rand Aljundi, Shaheda Choudhury, Johura Choudhury, Susan Kamara, Mei Yuk Wong, Gloria Saya, Khalida Alkhmri, Ekua Bayunu, Anya Mikolajczyk, Angelica Cabezas.
The Digital Women’s Archive North CIC (DWAN) is linking to the project the Travelling Heritage Bureau which will address both the need to ensure the participation of women artists in contributing to arts archives, and the additional complexities of displacement for undertaking arts archive development.” Read more HERE. 

You can read more about The Travelling Heritage Bureau HERE. In essence it is is “a co-research project and supportive network with and for international women artists based in the North West of England. The Bureau is a space of resistance, creativity and inclusion; a space for women artists including refugees, exiles, those seeking asylum and other migrant women with direct experiences of journeying or displacement. Steered by the brilliant Jenna Ashton, Digital Women’s Archive North (DWAN) leads the project – a Manchester based feminist arts and heritage organisation supporting women's practice and addressing social inequalities. The Bureau aims to ensure the arts practice and cultural heritage of international women visual artists is identified, documented and shared.”

Castlefield Gallery
I'm excited to be sharing personal & professional stories around my arts and health journey and some thoughts on policy context in Greater Manchester. All taking place at Castlefield Gallery on Tuesday evening...

…and for those of you eager beavers keen to know where the  Manchester Declaration  is up to - I’m thrilled to be holding some smaller group conversations with very diverse groups of people across Greater Manchester this next month - I think when all these aspirations and commitments are woven together, we will have quite a thing to sign up to!

For those of you living and working in Australia, I'm pleased to be back sharing new ideas and exploring long-term collaborations this November in New South Wales, more of which soon.   

Making Change: children and families grow together through creativity and nature – project symposium

We invite interested individuals, educators, artists, arts and community organisations and health and wellbeing networks to our symposium on Friday 19th October from 12 – 5pm at the Sidney Nolan Trust. 

Guests will learn about the project’s approach to sharing creative practice with children and their families marginalised from access to visual arts culture and the natural environment.  

Over the spring and summer months children and their families have engaged in creative workshops in their own communities and at The Rodd. For most of them daily life is shaped by the affects of multiple deprivation and the constant pressures of urban life: being immersed in a rural environment whilst exploring their own creativity are wholly new experiences. The outcomes have been hugely rewarding for participants – babies, teenagers and parents responded to these opportunities with great openness and a keen desire to learn and connect to the people and place. 

We’ll be introducing a piece of new research that demonstrates the benefits of immersive and inclusive creative experiences delivered in the natural environment for children and families from inner city Birmingham. The research has been undertaken by Dr Karamat Iqbal of The Forward Partnership who has extensive experience of working with disadvantaged communities. Participants, partner organisations, artists and the project will share their experiences, outcomes and findings. As well as a series of short presentations guests will have the opportunity to discuss aspects of the project with those taking part in a Q and A session. 
The event is free of charge and refreshments will be provided. 
Please email us for more information and to register a place  

International Arts and Homelessness Summit– Manchester 15-18 November 2018
Homelessness is not just about housing, and people who are homeless can suffer from a multitude of challenges from practical ‘house-lessness’ to low well-being, social isolation and stigma. The arts are being used effectively around the world to reduce social isolation by building social networks and increasing both physical and mental health, improve public attitudes/promote understanding towards people who are or have been homeless, and enable homeless people to express themselves so their voice can be heard.

From 15 to 18 November the international movement for the arts and homelessness With One Voice is holding the first ever International Arts and Homelessness Summit. (NB the four-day Summit sits within a week-long Festival from 12-18th where all events are free. Details will be released soon).
Join us to discover, interrogate and celebrate the role the arts can play in tackling homelessness.

This four-day conference will explore the themes of People, Practice, Policy, Performance and Partnerships in relation of arts and homelessness. With People and Performance at its heart, the Summit focuses on one of the themes each day bringing together practitioners, artists, activists, academics and policy makers together. 50% of the tickets available are allocated for people who are or have been homeless to be able to attend for free. 
Each day, attend key-note speeches and panel discussions in the morning and join in practical workshop sessions in the afternoon. On Saturday, visit organisations across Greater Manchester for taster sessions and seeing their work first hand. On Sunday, join us for a reflection day and the closing performance of Man On Bench Fairy Tale, a new opera by Unlimited supported Emerging Artist David Tovey of the One Festival and Museum of Homelessness. All tickets include a free light breakfast, tea/coffee breaks and lunch (excluding Saturday). Each evening, delegates are also invited to attend free Festival events. Tickets and details are HERE.

Director of Portraits of Recovery and commissioner of the Melanie Manchot commission Twelve, Mark Prest has drawn my attention to this new exhibition in which Twelve features, opening in London on Tuesday. Read on.
Science Gallery, London launches its inaugural group exhibition HOOKED next Tuesday evening. Delve into the complex world of addiction and recovery through this free exhibition and events programme. From gambling to gaming and smartphones to social media, HOOKED invites you to question what makes us as humans vulnerable to addiction and interrogates the underlying factors and routes to recovery. We invite you to challenge the stigmas associated with addiction, consider addiction as a health issue we are all susceptible to, and explore how recovery takes many forms.

Earthed. Just this evening, I walked up across the tops of my home town and over a bluff. Not too far away but far enough not to hear the cars and the low growl of life. Stood up there, sun warm on my back and facing out to the north and easterly sky, those sparse thin clouds and the trails of high planes make the earth shift a little beneath my feet. I fix my gaze on the hills across the valley - steady myself. Darkly green, autumnal tinted with gold - the last of the day. Walking back over the track, my shadow stretching out in front of me, I decide to measure the length of this other giant self. Using gatepost and cattlegrid as markers I walk toe to heal along my temporary self for fifty five neat steps. I hold on to cold limestone and lichen in that half light.

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