Wednesday, 4 March 2020

Minister of Propaganda

You have to laugh at Priti Patel being outed as a bully, by the instantly forgettable senior civil servant who benignly presided over the Windrush inquiry without so much as a by your leave, but now demands our tears. She’s elected, so she’s accountable and should be dealt with accordingly. But bullying in the ranks of government? - never! At least she’s been elected and can be turfed out if found guilty - but what about the pernicious and sloppy ‘special adviser’ to the oaf? Unelected and by all reliable accounts modelling the accepted gold standard of bullish behaviour in Downing Street. Our very own Reich Minister of Propaganda of Brexit Britain. His diktat: Replicate the cabal’s rules and behaviour - just don’t get caught.

While everyone has been keen to bash Corbyn, at least he didn’t display the accepted behavioural norms of contemporary parliamentary debate, displaying instead, consideration, intelligence and principles. With the current incumbents, it seems if they dumb it down to ‘oven ready’ and ‘getting Brexit done’ they can feed their lowest common denominator scraps out to the masses, patronise them and display their total disregard for others to replicate. We’ve only just begun.

We’ve had a flurry of both arts and inequalities reports, and all sorts of public health activity over the last few weeks, not least the media bombardment of everything Covid-19. I don’t at all question the importance surrounding this little understood corona virus, but it would be good to keep the sensation down to news and fact - however scant. For three years I worked with the Asia Europe Foundation on pandemic planning and it seems both communication and public preparedness around unfolding international health scenarios, still has a long, long way to go. That all said, as someone who at this moment in time doesn’t have much of an immune system, I trundled along to Boots to buy a bottle of hand sanitiser for my back pocket (have you used public loo’s recently? - perhaps it’s just the gent’s - urgh) and was told it had all been sold out; not only there but in every chemist in the city. Good grief. Apparently, people have been bulk buying too, so I guess I’ll need to stick to hot water and soap; either that or get fitted for a hazmat suit!  

Anyway - back to basics - Arts Council England has published their much anticipated 2020 -2030 Strategy, Let’s Create which places a strong emphasis on diversity and health. In their strap-line, they boldly state their aspiration for England to be: A country Transformed by culture. Bringing Us Together, Happier, Healthier. To Excite, Inspire, Delight. To Enrich Our Lives.
If you’ve not read it yet, you can see the full report online HERE. 

For those of you who are slightly jaded with strategy and policy reports, it’s worth taking a look at ACE in a Hole? Which its authors describe as ‘an alternative to Shaping the Next Ten Years, or at least suggest a different starting point for a cultural strategy that might provide a more robust foundation at a time when our country is deeply divided and the arts, by any definition, are under pressure.’ You can find it HERE.

For my part, I like to read in the round, so if you are interested in the arts/health/social change agenda - particularly in an age of austerity - it’s worth reading the very recent report by Sir Michael Marmot published to mark progress in talking inequalities since his landmark report 10 years ago. In fact, while I don’t want to pre-empt either of these report’s and give you any spoilers, Marmot and his co-authors present us with very sobering reading. You can read a summary report HERE. I'll comment further later in the month.

For a grounded approach to the reality of unfolding arts and health (across Greater Manchester at least) I’m pleased that work undertaken with Dr Clare Devaney as part of the Manchester Institute for Arts, Health & Social Change is due to be published very shortly. More of that very, very soon. In the meantime I’ll be giving a ‘provocation’ to kick start the second day of the CHWA Conference. It will have a focus on inequalities and maybe, just maybe touch on some wilder and broader strands of influence. Full details HERE.

TATE Liverpool
Until 22 March 2020 between 11.00–16.00 
TATE Exchange (1st Floor Gallery)
If They Spend the Time to Get to Know Me is an interactive installation from artist Vic McEwan focusing on facial nerve paralysis. These conditions can affect facial expression, speech and vision and they can significantly change a person’s appearance. This means that people experiencing facial nerve paralysis often face stigma and discrimination. McEwan explores these experiences through an audio-visual installation and an interactive 3D workshop using a 3D scanner and 3D printer. Visitors will be able to contribute by having their face 3D scanned, 3D printed and added to the project. Full details HERE including his new interactive Bio-Medical Composing Machine.

“Children and young people in GM tell us that the greatest issue they face around mental health is stigma. Three Minute Heroes is an inclusive and positive way to give those children and young people a powerful way to communicate their thoughts and to tackle that stigma. Children and young people are invited to participate in up to six sessions of creative writing, to express what is bothering them and their feelings. The resulting lyrics are given to established and breakthrough artists and bands from the area, and an album with a mental health theme is then professionally produced in the studio.” Want to find out more? Head over to the always exciting blog by Kat Taylor by clicking HERE.

Save the Date - May 21-23!
Bring Me Laughter Festival 2020
In Lancaster, The Dukes are delighted to announce the Bring Me Laughter Festival - a celebration of dementia arts! Open to all - people living with dementia, carers, arts practitioners, theatre-goers & families - there will be a range of workshops, talks and live performances for all ages. Interested in finding out more? Please contact Gil Graystone at 

Collective Encounters
Talking Participation: Ethics and Participatory Arts
6PM, 20th March 2020, Liverpool
What ethics & values shape and underpin our practice in the arts?

What ethical challenges confront practitioners? Participatory artists often work with vulnerable people or with sensitive topics, whether they be political or personal. This can be fraught with challenges. In our day to day practice we rarely have time to reflect on the ethics of our work, yet it's fundamental to who we are and how we work.

In this Talking Participation, Abi Horsfield & Chrissie Tiller will offer provocations to start a round table debate about the ethical issues and challenges of participatory theatre practice. The run time of this event is 2 ½ hours, including dinner and networking. It is focused on engaging professionals working in participatory arts.

The evening will include a cooked vegetarian and vegan dinner.
Please let us know if you have any dietary requirements when booking.

Suggested donation £4. Full Details HERE.
. . . 

(footnote #7)
This is less than a footnote, given my rant towards the top of the page (albeit a self-censored one given that I’d rather dangerously begun to compare an illicit malingerer of Downing St, to Goebbels). Way, way back in footnote #4, I introduced my hitcher, who when moving in with me, became something of a sitting tenant, like a Cummings kind-of presence in my life - and while I have it skulking in a room in my house, I still have to feed it. So as best I can, I slip it things that will subdue it and its appalling designs on dominating my life.  

In last weeks footnote I described a trip down an MRI scanner and the failing headphones and intermittent moments of terror and bliss. I’m not sure I wrote it so well, because the food I give the lodger, inevitable affects me and writing can be very bad, or worse, and everything in between. So I shan’t go back to editing it, other than adding here that both this symbiosis with the sitting tenant, alongside the slow exposure of ‘undiscovered countries being disclosed’ 1 is giving me insights previously unimaginable. Difficult to describe, but emerging from that soporific magnetic reverie, to my surprise I left something quite mystical only to return to a place where ‘human voices wake us, and we drown.’2

1. Woolf - On Being Ill
2. Eliot - The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

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