Sunday, 18 November 2018

A Delicate Ecology

A Delicate Ecology from Arts Health Cinema on Vimeo.

I've been to a fair share of anaemic conferences in my time, but the ENGAGE conference at the Whitworth Art Gallery was one to blow your socks off! First of all, a big thank you to Jane, Jessica and Sayak for asking me to speak and arranging such a rich agenda. It was great meeting lots of new people and some old, familiar faces. Superb to be part of a well considered programme, but I do wonder how that fringe activity went? (It makes me think long and hard about this World Healthcare Congress that Esme Ward and I are co-curating next March - and the way the cost of these big events makes it prohibitive for so many people. We’ll certainly be making sure that there’s space/time for fringe events on and around this event.)

For my part, I’m only sorry we all didn’t have more time to talk - so many people under one roof! Claire Ford - superb as ever - and rocketing on with brilliant things. I reckon that anyone living with dementia who has been fortunate enough to spend time on a piece of work with her, will certainly treasure her thinking, warmth and total ingenuity.

For my part, I’d taken the request to think and speak about our contemporary arts and health landscape, very seriously, and I was certainly a little worried, that as opposed to rousing the delegates, I might bring the party down! Not least following the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care’s speech last week on social prescribing. Yes, there were good and interesting things in his words - who wouldn’t want to see an end to the blind belief in the claims of big pharma to control our fractured mental health? So offering the arts up as a challenge is great, while not being blind to the benefits of medication. But is he really calling for a war on drugs? I’m sure a reduction in the tax revenues they bring in might not go down too well with his pals in the Treasury. Read more by clicking on his new school bag below.

Anyway, my spasmodic revulsion - (and I have to admit to greatly tempering my keynote at the 11th hour) - was at the idea of the arts offering a ‘free social cure’. Anyway, if you want want to know more and you are not already sick of my droning on, below is a quick rough cut of the presentation I gave, which brings together minds far greater than mine from a few recent book chapters. Take it as you will - only beware - it sounds like the arts are being offered up as a cheap way of decorating over the cracks of an already fragile health system. And there are one or two decorators out there, only too ready to capitalise on this opportunity. Great claims should be tempered by a little caution - and borne of experience. 

Influence Arts Council England...
I do have to prompt people to comment on Arts Council England’s consultation on their next ten year strategy. We really can influence their direction if we take ten minutes out and comment on it HERE.

Wellbeing & Care for Arts Practitioners
Artist and 2017/18 Clore Visual Artist Fellow Nicola Naismith is seeking contributions to her latest research project looking at the support creative practitioners receive when working in the participatory arts for the health and wellbeing sector. Explains Naismith: “It is essential that the health and wellbeing of artists is properly supported, which in turn will help them to deliver the best quality work in the participatory arts for health and wellbeing sector. The evidence base of the benefits to health and wellbeing from participating in the arts continues to grow, but what about the health and wellbeing of the creative practitioners delivering these activities?” Read more HERE. Complete the short survey HERE.

Sing-a-Long & Dance-a-Long to old school arts and health...
Meanwhile in Australia - I'm steering clear of bats with the hendra virus, old koalas with chlamydia, and the white-fever of evangelical singing and dancing in the name arts and health. See the apparently authentic footage above, taken covertly at a recent jamboree! For eager eyed visitors to this blog, you'll know I've gone deep south and am developing a longer-term piece of work with artist Vic McEwan, which although not directly linked to the Harmonic Oscillator, does build on some of those fundamental thoughts in Critical Care and takes our shared work to a very, very different place. More soon.

...and finally, one last song.

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