Monday, 20 July 2020

The Seahorse...

How can the arts and creativity support people who are shielding and vulnerable during Covid-19?
Last Thursday I took part in an All Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health & Wellbeing - well - I sat huddled amongst the other would be participant-observers, the session ran right up to the mark meaning I was less of a participant and just an observer. No time for questions or comments from those watching was possible. For those of you with an interest in all things arts/health/policy, you can watch a video of the proceedings right HERE. The webinar was titled, How can the arts and creativity support people who are shielding and vulnerable during Covid-19? Oh lord - I had so much to say too!

While Daisy Fancourt fresh back from a high level UN summit, revealed amongst other revelations, that her large-scale research had uncovered the fact that watching the news as the pandemic has unfolded, has been bad for our mental health, but hobbies had been good for us!! Baroness Lola Young made clear, the future needs a more nuanced and substantial response to and through, the arts. It's rather clear that artists of all disciplines working towards social change need serious long-term investment - not just in that great capital city, but in the towns and villages of this island. Thank you Patrick Fox (Heart  of Glass) for providing a qualitative and civic focus and to Victoria Hume for stressing the relevance of inequalities in this great ongoing arts debate. The potential of culture and the arts in all their forms, to impact of health, wellbeing and social change, has never felt so relevant.

I hope that in a distant post-covid world, the arts will have been seen to be a galvanising force for social cohesion and a making sense of the anxiety and isolation that the pandemic has created. I hope too that the arts are no longer the sole preserve of the educated elite, but a means to imposing order and disorder on the chaos of contemporary existence. The arts challenge, arouse and liberate the potential in all of us and this arts, health and social change agenda - begins in the very heart of our communities. As both an arts led researcher and one of those ‘extremely clinically vulnerable’ people, I know from research and rich personal experience that the arts are both essential and necessary - and thankfully not always palatable! Patrick Fox called for ‘leadership from the margins’ - and I for one, couldn't agree more.

Unable to add my voice to that specific discussion, I was able to have an altogether different conversation last week as part of the SICK! festival digital offer. As a guest of Lucy Burke and Smug Roberts who head up the 4OFUS podcast interviews, I was able to share something of my experience of living with myeloma during lockdown alongside Katie Awdas and her life with endometriosis. I cringe at everything my great gurning head says, and I seem to keep clear of staking any claims on culture and the arts, but boy-oh-boy, my derri√®re makes a none too subtle appearance once more!

A short film by Jonathan Glazer and inspired by a powerful involuntary mania that took hold of citizens in the city of Strasbourg just over 500 years ago, STRASBOURG 1518 is a collaboration in isolation with some of the greatest dancers working today, performing to a composition written by the superb Mica Levi.The film will premiere to UK viewers on BBC Two at 10:00 BST, Monday 20 July 2020. Watch it live, or catch it on BBC iPlayer, available from 21 July. For more details on the Artangel commissioned work, click on the image below.

Poorhouse to Powerhouse...
Meanwhile, over in North Wales Frances Williams charts the narrative surrounding the statue of HM Stanley erected in Denbigh in 2011 in light of the global eruption of Black Lives Matter protests and public tearing down of statues, and explores what the ‘saving’ of the statue in 2020 reveals about more recent political histories. Sensitive readers must be warned that this work contains a giant rubber sheath! Now you're interested! Click HERE to read this excellent article in full.
Jean Painlevé The Seahorse 1934

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