Monday, 7 January 2019


Hey - to all my friends and colleagues who I’ve had the pleasure of spending time with this year...
Happy New Year

Laimingų Naujųjų Metų

Godt Nytår
Hyvää Uutta Vuotta

Just this last few weeks I have seen an advert for a fridge that spies on your family when you’re not home - worse than Black Mirror! - I also saw a Dalek on Salford Quays, but it seems it had a positive message for Earth. The Arts & Health HQ was of course closed for the festive season, but I scribbled a missive, for any of you killing time over this, (for many people) a bleak period, and who stumble across this blog.

Regular readers will know that over the next two years I’m working on a large piece of work around a subject close to my heart - that of suicide, of impulse, of survival and of empathy. It’s a complex and messy thing to explore, surrounded by taboo and stigma and a very natural fear of putting ideas into the minds of people who are vulnerable. This thought of increasing ideation has its own complexities too, as fear of discussion in our risk-averse world creates as many problems and risks, by not opening up difficult, and well managed conversations. Having had some of these early tentative conversations in Lithuania, Japan and Australia has brought home some salutary cultural dimensions too - and not simply language differences’s, but belief and value systems. The film below represents some visual notes I have made that touch upon some of this. Oblique as it is, it's all part of a longer, unfolding conversation.

Thank you to everyone who has given me time to discuss suicide with them. I know that it is troubling and disconcerting for many people, and I really hope that as this work develops, we can have more of these conversations and contribute to de-stigmatising everything that surrounds it.

Of course I'm reading quite a bit around the subject and this ranges from the uncensored world of the web, to profound personal stories and professional perspectives. While the conversations I've had have tended towards individual experiences, I am interested in the part that wider society plays on both individuals and communities.

Some of this big picture thinking is already well described and nowhere is this better illustrated than in the USA. Ed Pilkington discusses the complete horrors of the Second Amendment, where gun deaths have risen to their highest level in 20 years. Data shows that 39,773 people in the US lost their lives at the point of a gun in 2017, but soberingly he reports, "in fact most suffering takes place in isolated and lonely incidents that receive scant media coverage. 
Of those, suicide is by far the greatest killer, accounting for about 60% of all gun deaths."

You can read this troubling article in full
HERE. Poignantly he comments: "The statistics speak to a brutally simple truth. Studies have shown that suicide attempts often take place in a moment of hopelessness that can last barely minutes – which means that easy access to a firearm can in itself exponentially increase the risk of self-harm." 

Seemingly disconnected, Bruce Levine discusses ketamine as the latest cure-all from the pharmaceutical industry - this time promoted as an 'anti-suicide' drug. Levine is utterly compelling, and amongst other things, he argues that: "a legitimate mental health authority would make great efforts to publicize the fact that suicide is highly related to social variables that create pain (for example, unemployment and poverty). A legitimate mental health authority would make clear that the most powerful solution to the U.S. suicide epidemic is not more treatment but a completely different culture and society: one with far fewer people who are totally isolated and alienated, and one where people would have the time to offer genuine compassion." Read his full article in counterpunch. 

It's a deeply relevant article and held up alongside Marcia Angell's review of new work that scrutinises opioid addiction (and goes far, far deeper) in the USA, these writers offer us some serious food for thought. Not light reading by any means and not entirely cheerful either - but - important critique of the establishment and the machinery that perpetrates addicted peoples, fractured lives and multiple means to end it all. As Mark Fisher so beautifully suggested (and as I have quoted a thousand times) - "affective disorders are forms of captured discontent; this disaffection can and must be channeled outwards, directed towards its real cause." 

And culture and the arts in all of this - what of it, you might ask? Here's a thought - expressing rage - galvanising human potential - and issuing a collective scream for social change - directed to the heart of Fisher's target - capital.

If you are in a low place, or feeling despair, the Samaritans (in the UK) are available around the clock, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. If you need a response immediately, it's best to call them on this free phone number, or via email. 
116 123 (UK) 

Citizen Activism
One more online article I can recommend (thank you again NS) is Citizen Activism in Europe’s Periphery: “An Antidote to Powerlessness.” The above image is Polish Mothers in Krakow, photograph by Tomasz Wiech. The Polish artist Cecilya Malik began a campaign against the removal of the obligation for private landowners to apply for permission to cut down trees. Click on the image to read on about extraordinary acts of art and activism.

Printmakers required for Artist in Residence programme at Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust
LIME is seeking experienced printmakers who can work closely with Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust staff patients to produce a unique body of print based artworks. There are currently two residency opportunities available. At this initial application stage, artists are advised to submit; an expression of interest, identifying their preferred residency from the two listed below, plus supporting documentation to include a CV and images of your work. Artists, who demonstrate excellent artistic skills and relevant knowledge and experience, will be invited to attend an interview to present their ideas and approach in more detail. FULL DETAILS AVAILABLE ON THE EMAIL BELOW.
Artist Residency 1 – Nursing + Trauma 
Nurses are traditionally seen as infallible "angels," but if they falter there is often little sympathy and they are demonised. What are the emotional and practical challenges that nurses go through every day in order to ensure they are providing compassionate care?
Artist Residency 2 – Elective Caesarean 
The residency will aim to reduce anxiety and stress associated with Elective Caesarean through an exploration of the procedure and the associated emotional impact it has on pregnant women. 

Artist Fee: £2,400
Materials Budget: £500
Exhibition budget: £ TBC
Submission Deadlines: Weds 13th Feb 2019
Interviews: Thurs 28th Feb 2019
Residency dates: From 28th March
For more information on Lime AiR: contact Dawn Prescott, Programme Director, LIME: 

Cumbria Arts in Health Conversation
Thursday 17 January 2019
In response to the rapid development in the Arts in Health sector, University of Cumbria and Healing Arts of North Cumbria University Hospital Trust are hosting a day of conversations and workshops for Cumbrian practitioners working in the arts or health. The aims of the day are to:. Create a network of people from Arts and Health backgrounds to start to plan the way forward for Arts in Health in Cumbria;
. Develop our knowledge and understanding of the evidence for Arts in Health;
. Hear the experiences of people who participate in art-based activities to support their health and wellbeing.

This event is open to all artists and health professionals who have an interest in arts in health.
I'm thrilled to be speaking at this event alongside Hayley Youell who is now working with the Culture, Health & Wellbeing Alliance. You can find fulldetails and registration HERE.

Please do keep an eye on this blog for details of a North West Arts & Health Network event taking place in North Lancashire as part of my collaborative work with the Alliance in the spring! It will be a biggie!

Applications open for Ruth Borchard Self Portrait Prize 2019
An exciting opportunity for artists opens today, Wednesday, 2 January 2019.
Submissions can now be made for The Biennial Ruth Borchard Self-Portrait Prize 2019. A competition which will allow 120 artists to have their work on show at the prestigious Piano Nobile Kings Place, London, and one receive £10,000.

Alongside the winning self-portrait, a number of works from the submissions will also be purchased for the Ruth Borchard Next Generation Collection.
Outside In is an official partner of this year’s prize and founder Marc Steene will be one of the judges. He said: “We are excited to be an official partner of the Ruth Borchard Prize and be able to support and encourage engagement from artists, many of whom face significant barriers to the art world.”
Full details are HERE.                                                      

In times when nothing stood but worsened, or grew strange, there was one constant good: s/he did not change.
Philip Larkin 

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