Monday, 3 May 2021


Reimagining the North West Arts, Health & Social Change Network
Just the biggest thanks to all of you who have been in touch about the reimagining and reworking of our network and how we fit in with the Culture, Health & Wellbeing Alliance. I'm overwhelmed with the response to my call-out - thank you. Above all, thank you for the care - particularly from those of you I've never met - which is very lovely. Please do get in touch if you want to part of these developments and I'd really welcome anyone from under represented groups. Just email

Most regular readers of this blog will know that I've been having treatment for multiple-myeloma, which comes to a head shortly with stem-cell treatment, (urgh) but I will be in touch with you all and via this blog and email once that treatment is done and dusted! While consuming all sorts of efficacious medicinal compounds, I've been beavering away on all manner of things, one of which is this big old report, which while focused on Greater Manchester, is something that I hope might be relevant to others regardless of geography.

Greater Manchester: a Creative Health City Region

On the 12th May a piece of work I’ve been working on for some time - for Great Place in the Greater Manchester Combined Authority - will be published.  A Social Glue is a snapshot in time of this fast-growing field of culture, health and wellbeing and its place in Greater Manchester’s ongoing cultural evolution.  

The narrative of A Social Glue offers a platform from which to spearhead a change in the cultural agenda, from one where arts and health is focused on ill health and deficit, to one where human creativity is seen as a liberating social asset and a means to effecting individual and communal change. It warns too, of the dangers of the arts being seen as a blunt instrumental tool, acknowledging the nuance and complexity that creativity opens up.

The last decade has seen a flowering of work in this field - a rich and messy ecology - and A Social Glue explores some key areas of development around the arts, mental health and wellbeing across the city-region and potentially different ways of delivering the Social Prescribing agenda that are able to flex to the subtle divergences of neighbourhoods, communities and local human and physical resources.

Greater Manchester certainly has the spirit and drive to make this happen, building on its rich arts and heath lineage, and the time has never felt more appropriate to connect the strands of health with social and civic life, reimagining Greater Manchester as a Creative Health City Region.

Creativity has the potential to inspire more connected, critical and active citizens, where the arts in all their forms help us make sense of the world and drive change forward, in the cultural sector as elsewhere.  At the very heart of this narrative, we place high value on participatory and socially engaged artists and practitioners, as we do on the people at the centre of our communities and those citizens, activists and emerging change agents who will drive this reimagining of our city-region into reality.  Given the stresses of the pandemic, our attention should rightly focus on the factors that influence everyone’s health, where culture and creativity enable communities and citizens to consider themselves participants in a common venture.

The report, which originally came in at an unwieldy 100,000 words has had its hefty form sculpted down to something more appropriate. Some of those deleted sections will form key threads for a work I'm preparing for a more personal keynote for the Culture, Health and Wellbeing International Conference. This combines issues around the environment, social justice and my own fragile body. Keep your eyes out for that. It'll be called: SEDATIVE or STIMULANT: Consume by 24:06:202. Find out more by clicking HERE. 

But back to the report.

A Social Glue sits a complimentary series of parallel narratives of practice from across the city region. These case-studies were originally collected by Clare Devaney many moons ago, and I am grateful to her and all the individuals and groups who have contributed to A Social Glue. The full and summary report alongside the Parallel Narratives will be available on the Manchester Institute for Arts, Health & Social Change website following the publication on the 12th May. If you’d like to come along to the free launch event between 10:00am and 11:00am, just register by following clicking HERE.

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