Tuesday, 30 June 2020

Never Waste a Good Crisis

“The NHS is an incredible feat of the imagination – complete strangers care for you and this means that it is social medicine and social health at its best.”

What a wonderful quote from poet Michael Rosen, who after his recovery from Covid19 and almost seven weeks in intensive care, has given a wonderful little interview in the Observer. Read it HERE. Even though our evolving NHS is being incrementally privatised, how different it feels to the American model typified here by this recoding of former cowboy president, Ronald Reagan. Click on the album below to hear a snippet of his verbiage.

On "not wanting Boris Johnson to die"
Over the years I’ve been aware of her, Miriam Margolyes has been rolled out on to numerous chat shows, frequently playing the part that keeps the money coming in; that of the eccentric provocateur - and once you’ve seen the routine - it can get a bit laboured. But her recent clearing by Ofcom for comments she made on TV in May this year, I’d say, warrant amplifying as loudly as possible. Discussing the governments miss-management of the pandemic and in particular, Johnson’s part in it - while he was ill of the virus - in a serious and a completely honest tone,  she commented,

“I had difficulty not wanting Boris Johnson to die, I wanted him to die, and then I thought that reflects badly on me and I don’t want to be the sort of person who wants people to die. So, then I wanted him to get better, which he did do, he did get better, but he didn’t get better as a human being.” 


These are interesting times and while countries report staggering low death counts like Hong Kong 7, Rwanda 2, Taiwan 7, Iceland 10 - we then come return to the UK, as of Sun 26th June we sit just under the behemoth of the USA 126,780 - at 43,230. A brutal and accurate attack on the failings of Bolsonaris Johnson’s handling of covid has been made by Kenneth Surin HERE. All those epidemiologists can easily tell us that statistically, considering the size of our population in comparison to the US, this has to be chaotic leadership on a colossal scale. Forty-three thousand two hundred and thirty people - individuals - precious lives - every single one of them. 

On the 5th May a member of my family unnecessarily died of Covid-19 as we could only watch and chat through his appalling last days via FaceTime and WhatsApp, unable to visit the covid ward while I am being shielded and shielding. It’s taken me a long time to muster up the strength of will to even mention this here. Why? The emotion was crippling - the anger, like nothing else - it’s fucking seismic. This vital life whose warmth I feel now, whose voice is clarion clear in my mind - and who was a rich, complete person central to the life of my family - unnecessarily dead. Of course, this virus is completely new and some would say, previously unimaginable - only outbreaks of corona viruses and other novel viruses have been predicted and planned for - apparently - for years.

As right-wing thugs have attempted to distract attention from #BLM we should be alert to our government using this agenda to address racism in a tokenistic way, providing a smoke-scree to its incompetence in all things Covid. Like the apparently forgotten flagrant behaviour of Special Adviser Cummings, we mustn’t lose sight of this government mismanagement and token attention to systemic racism which demands more than smoke and mirrors. As the ‘relaxation’ of lockdown kicks in and the inevitable escalation of new cases of infection and deaths begin - just remember, blame will be apportioned to the sunbathing masses - who yes - act like dumb cattle in many ways, but who are given all the signals for their behaviour from the arrogant elite who smirk and scoff their way through the crisis and fixated on the market, committing to spend BIG to 'build UK back to health'. Think - twisted ‘austerity’ - in a new guise. Never has a real sense of rebellion felt more needed, more urgent; the unnecessarily dead would demand this.

The comments of Myriam Margolyes were spontaneous and honest, and the kind of dark thoughts a few of us have probably mulled over, as Johnson blusters his way through these bleak months - and Trump arrogantly tweets his way through multiple deaths. For my part, while I see that litigation is being mounted against the government and its unlawful policies, I only hope that something akin to a war crimes tribunal will emerge, holding inept ‘leaders’ and their stooges to account for their systemic failings, and the appalling deaths of our fellow humans.

A Distorting Mirror
Reading about the 1,300 theatres closed across the UK at the moment, the playwright Tom Stoppard makes some pithy observations about the arts in our lives: 

“The arts, whether it’s theatre or opera or circus or pantomime, are not an add-on, like restaurants: people are joined together by what Shakespeare called a mirror held up to nature. It’s a distorting mirror, which may be convex or concave or as flat as when you’re being measured for a suit, but when they’re in danger – as they are now – one begins to feel forlorn about picking up life where one left off, if we somehow fail to reassemble this essential part of a fulfilled life.”

Reasons to Be Cheerful
Graeae is a force for change in world-class theatre, boldly placing D/deaf and disabled actors centre stage and challenging preconceptions. There's still time to catch the joyful and raucous hit musical celebrating the infectious songs of Ian Dury and the Blockheads, in Jenny Sealey's 2017 production with book by Paul Sirett. Featuring stone-cold classics including Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick; Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll; Spasticus Autisticus; Reasons to be Cheerful (part 3) and the rousing new protest song If It Can't Be Right Then It Must Be Wrong written by John Kelly and The Blockheads especially for this production. Click HERE to watch this free performance until 3 August 2020. 


As PRIDE month 2020 comes to a close today, a lovely story from the Andalusian village of Villanueva de Algaidas in Spain caught my eye. Following the complaints of three residents, local police ordered the mayor of the village to take down a rainbow flag which he’d put up to celebrate gay pride - because it was illegal! However, ‘more than 300 households in the village rallied to the cause and flew their own flags. By the time gay pride celebrations took place in Spain on Sunday, [the village near Malaga] was awash with flags hanging from balconies, windows and even a bar in solidarity.’ Read the full account of SOLIDARITY by clicking on the image below, or HERE.

Never waste a good crisis
This competition, run by UCL openDemocracy is open to school and university students (aged 14 and up) to share their vision of the future, with prizes of £200, £100 or £50 in book tokens plus the chance for personal mentoring from the panel of some of the world's foremost thinkers and some fantastic work experience with either UCL or openDemocracy. Entrants can submit either a written article, short video or image that describes their vision for the world after the coronavirus crisis has passed. The competition opens on 15 June 2020. The competition and public vote will close at 23:59 UTC on 10 July 2020, so make sure to share your entry and get your friends and family voting! Any entries after this date will not be accepted. The winners will be announced on 2 August 2020. Winners will be notified by email. full details are HERE.

A Collective Approach to Arts, Health & Social Change
...as culture, heritage and the arts have come into their own over these past few months, it's never felt so pressing to reimagine this arts and health agenda so that we're fit for purpose in this ever changing, diverse world. Try and put the perverse image of Johnson doing press-ups out of your mind for a moment. For those of you who regularly stop by this blog, you'll know the masters course that HF and I had designed around Arts, Health & Social Change is in abeyance until 2021 - but rest assured your erstwhile blogger is on with it. We are committed to addressing systemic inequalities and injustices through research, experimentation and practice - and this too, infects thinking around the North West Arts & Health Network and how it evolves with the Culture, Health & Wellbeing Alliance (who have some brilliant new features HERE), and how we work collectively across the region. It's been so long since we worked together - indeed those big events like Chaos & Comfort and all the Manifesto sessions seem light-years ago. So perhaps now's the time to be reimagining this too. So let's explore these things together and capitalise on our collective thinking and action. More of this on the next blog posting - and solidarity to kindred spirits. 

Instead of a music interlude, here's the actor Gene Wilder and some of his wonderful comic pauses.

The official United Nations COVID-19 Response Creative Content Hub
"Thousands of creators from around the world have generously submitted their work to help communicate important and unifying messages that can combat the spread of COVID-19 and unite the world during this pandemic. The creative work is free to share and available in multiple creative formats and languages." Whether they are all 'good' or not really depends on your own opinions, but there are a lot of free to download animations and films here. Well worth a look HERE.

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