Monday, 23 November 2020


Might the Queen mention #BLM in her Christmas speech?
From my enforced isolation over this last year, I have been greedily eating up news from a range of sources, and not just the dominant horrors around covid. I’ve been particularly excited by the evolution of things that we can genuinely describe as social movements - and #BLM has consistently blown me away - not least at its illumination of historical injustices. However, as those statues have been tumbled, that call for deeper understanding and accountability of our pasts somehow seems to skirt around the monarchy - and I’m curious as to why that might be? Perhaps we’re not quite ready for the republic just yet, or people are too hooked on their glossy box sets of how the other half live! - the queen’s metal hat certainly offers escapism in a time of lockdown, but what of our
 sceptred isle’s relationship to colonialism, extremes of inequality and racism? Can you imagine if the Queen actually addressed this - and particularly the collective anger/joy and potential thrown up by an acknowledgment of #BLM in her Christmas Day address to the masses! Now that would be probably one of the most significant moments in my life.

I’m not holding my breath - just clinging on to a vague delusion. From support that Elizabeth I gave to Captain John Hawkins, who captured hundreds of people from Africa exchanging them for hides, ginger, and sugar in 1562, to the 21st century the misdemeanours of our sovereigns need taking into account, as human rights activist Peter Tatchell has said "Nothing is stopping them from making a general statement in support of racial equality and inclusion. Their failure to do that speaks volumes about their white privilege mentality." Their historical role in supporting the Black slave trade, or instances of racism from the royal family over the years, seem somehow to be blindly accepted.

As for that recently grey-washed ape* in the Whitehouse who refuses to accept he isn’t the sun-king after all, but just the pinnacle of some individualist, neo-liberal shopping cult that got out of hand - your new hair job does not make you a left bank intellectual. Gravitas is something you can never buy. Still, your last legal man standing, Rudy (fail-fail-Grecian-2000-fail) Giuliani - who’s not appeared in a Federal Court for 28 years - should perhaps go for the gravitas and dignity look too! (Though he did receive an honorary knighthood in 2002 from the Queen - but that’s another story) He ended up looking like another vaudeville-inspired-free-market-pop-up-snake-oil-salesman with his mascara smeared temples dribbling down his gelatinous head. Now - an image of the wonderful Dirk Bogarde as the love-sick, cholera infected Gustav von Aschenbach in Death in Venice, sprang straight to mind when I saw the photos of this Grecian legal mobster. Which would I prefer - the pestilence of Thomas Mann’s, 1912 sumptuous Venice, or Capitol Hill and the unfolding horror-farce of the last days of the apprentice? I can’t wait to see the play, the film, the poem that captures these unfolding days of the old norms, where monarchs and elected leaders are held to account. Give it a few years for it all to percolate through…

A few times on this blog, I’ve shared the early work of the artist John Angus who alongside Alison Jones (now Clough) created some wonderful work in 1990/92 as “Celebratory Arts for Primary Health Care”.  Their health promoting collaboration explored lung health and heart health and the hand produced screen-prints were shown in many hospitals and health centres in the West Midlands and Gateshead. 
When I was working as an artist at the Royal Albert Hospital in Lancaster - a Victorian residential institution for adults with learning difficulties - we had a full set of these posters, and Angus and Clough remain something of key figures in this movement.

I was thrilled last week to read about an event over in Leeds, that’s not dissimilar to last year’s event in Manchester - Yardsticks & Dreamscapes: Beyond Measurements in Arts, Health & Social Change across Greater Manchester - seems like only yesterday! But in Leeds there’s an online event happening this Tuesday 24th and tickets are HERE. It’s simply called What is it about art & culture that can make a difference to our health? There are some great people involved and under the banner Beyond Measure is a part of a programme of digital engagement exploring research and evidence in culture and health, organised by the Cultural Institute in collaboration with the very exciting Centre for Cultural Value, and Leeds Arts Health and Wellbeing Network. Superb to see all this exciting work happening in Yorkshire.

Now - bringing me back to those posters - I had an email from 
Geraldine Montgomerie over in Leeds, after a copy of the book Critical Care that I’d written a few years ago. Full of the joys of spring, I threw it in the post and low and behold the very next day, I received a pack of outrageously beautiful Votive Cards, designed to stimulate conversations around health, by way of a thank you! But it’s I that should be doing the thanking! I should also extend my thanks to the artist, not just the giver. Garry Barker draws narratives about the fact he finds the world he lives in a very strange place. He is also getting older and worries a lot about what it is he does. Superb. Click HERE to go to his website. I like this work so much because the cards don’t lay down the rules about how you might use them, they don't shy away from potentially difficult conversations - they stimulate exploration and encourage play, and they are bloody beautiful. 

You have to credit psychobiology/epidemiologist Dr Daisy Fancourt with her very high-profile advocacy for the arts and health agenda. She’s become a strong presence in the research field (much to the chagrin of some mudslinging, great pale apes* - a threatened old guard perhaps?). She had an outing on BBC News Night last week, but alas, I can’t find a link, but here’s something from April 2018 where she extols the potential of Social Prescribing. It’s on Facebook and has had lots of views - and there are some genuinely interesting comments, not just the usual ones in the echo-chamber, but people with constructive crit, who may be open to thinking differently. Although she and I may appear miles apart in our thinking, it's aways thought provoking stuff from Daisy F and delivered with clarity, and you can link to her aspirations around social prescribing by clicking on the image below.

That said - the Social Prescribing agenda is on the ascendance - but will require some serious consideration around the recruitment of this apparent army of link workers, and there are huge issues around what’s on offer to people; what’s the capacity of the local artists and 
cultural providers; how resistant might people be to having culture thrown at them and how the hell is any service of quality going to be funded in a time of even more pernicious period of austerity than we’ve ever known? It's important for anyone reading this to know I am not opposed to Social Prescribing and can see all the benefits - but alas, we also need to look closely at the pitfalls, and make sure this work is carefully thought through and funded adequately.

In my presentation to the delegates of a conference on Social Prescribing at the Whitworth - which sadly Daisy didn't make it to - my provocation A Delicate Ecology (see film link below) amongst other things, explored what 
the Secretary of State for Health & Social Care described as a free social cure. So let’s remind ourselves here: that’s free and it’s a cure. He may well claim to be opposed to big pharma - but I have some doubt as to that - and let’s not forget, it’s the ‘BIG” in pharma that’s the problem, not necessarily the medications that help us through physical and psychological health crises. Herein lies treacherous thinking and dangerous territory on Matt Hancock’s part. Yes, by all means recruit locally savvy link workers - but recruit artists, poets, musicians, dancers, actors - skilled and experienced community creatives (or whatever we might describe these people as) and pay them well, care for their health and respect them - and whatever you do, don’t force the hands of over-stretched medics to be more than they are. Invest in this new health and social care landscape, but don’t offer free cures, because they don't exist and mortality always has a 100% success rate.

But I have an another equally serious itch about rolling out social prescribing - that is planned I hope, with good intent - culture in all its guises isn’t just about making people stupefied, passive and compliant with the status quo - it’s not just about that misunderstood blanket term ‘resilience’. On the contrary, inequalities, poverty, racism and all the divisions that these factors (and many more) contribute to, means that we shouldn’t be doled out soporifics, so we all comply like good little citizens, nudged into a state of blind acceptance of state sanctioned cures. What we know is that the arts can do the polar opposite of this - they galvanise and they divide, they provoke emotions that are off the scale and they have the potential to help us evolve in the most outrageous and wonderful ways. Above all they help us shape our ideas about the world and our place in it and I for one am continuing to learn from #BLM, #ExtinctionRebellion and #MeToo. 

(footnote #11 - ok, it's been a while)
Well the lodger took a holiday over the summer months. I didn’t hear them go out, but then I didn’t hear them sneak back in either. So, to cope with this sneaky and may I say destructive and incredibly boring behaviour, I’m obliged to control the situation with the help of pills and potions - yes, yes, yes, the very same ones that make people millions.

While I have nothing but admiration for all those working in the hospitals that help me with a temporary restraining order on this unwanted guest, I am frustrated to be one of the thousands of people that is slowly becoming a casualty of our ineffectual and shambolic government. Though apparently No 10 seems to be suggesting everything’s back to normal with the NHS! If indeed the lodger takes over completely, in my absence I do hope someone will erect a gibbet on Downing Street or Parliament Square and hold that creature to account. The final part of my ‘treatment’ (oh that it were a treat) is stem-cell transplantation and has been variously, ‘cancelled’, ‘delayed’ and ‘postponed’. If it does indeed happen in January/Feb, (oh so vague for an event so monumental) the eviction will be have been seven months late. 

Former regional director of public health for the South West, Professor Gabriel Scally who is also a key member of @independentSAGE (not the gov’t SAGE group) has some of the most prescient thoughts on the government’s feel-good rush to make Christmas as normal as ever. This week he has spoken on a number of platforms to say with sobering lucidity: ‘There is no point having a merry Christmas then burying friends and family in January.’ @GabrielScally

A lot can happen to body and mind in a short period - seven months alas - is not so short to a mean spirited lodger. That said - I plough on and am still inspired by things outside the dwelling and chomp at the bit to gallivant in the countryside, so much so in fact, that earlier in the year I succumbed to the joys of Instagram in a personal capacity, but which is nevertheless impossible to separate from my work/passion. Kim Kardashian I am not - it's just a gentle exploration of just being in the world and interested in everything. I’m learning. 
You can find my benign and flimsy contribution here - @clivebparkinson 

*Genuine apologies to apes. I do appreciate they are of a more sensitive, peaceable and communal nature  than these repugnant barbarians that I am reverse anthropomorphising!

Tuesday, 17 November 2020

We’re in the Money!

So - I woke up in the night all hot and bothered - was it my poor old body giving up the ghost, or that virus worming its way through the letterbox on invisible vapours? Alas, nothing so drastic - but hold on - I was feverish at watching the race for the prize unfolding - the cure - the vaccine - our saviours - big pharma! Like most people, I’d welcome a shot in the arm to help us all get back to some sense of normality - though ‘normality’ - what the hell’s that? Trump? (gone, going, itching and scratching away) - Johnson? (still here minus that pernicious sidekick) - food banks? (not going anywhere just yet) - and this beleaguered isolated islands' permanent state of austerity? (it’s only just begun).

Still, the chief exec of Pfizer, Albert Bourla ‘sold shares in the company worth $5.6m (£4.2m) on the day the drugmaker announced that its Covid-19 vaccine was more than 90% effective.’ So he cashed in ‘132,508 shares at $41.94 a share, equivalent to 62% of his shareholding in Pfizer.’ You can dig deeper into this legitimate wheeler-dealing by reading this article by Julia Kollewe HERE. Below is Mr Bourla sitting comfortably in his modest home office, (surrounded by oh so lovely art and a violin) and a bizarre caption below from the New York Times. 

But if 90% efficacy is not good enough for your market share, Moderna’s offering a vaccine at being nearly 95% effective! Moderna has said that, “As of September 30, 2018, we had an accumulated deficit of $865.2 million.” Yet, Sarah Toy reported back in 2018, ‘the compensation of its three highest-paid executive officers made a combined $40 million in cash and stock in 2017. Stephen Hoge, the company’s president, received $19 million in options and a $4.4 million cash bonus in 2017. Lorence Kim, Moderna’s CFO, received $5.5 million in stock and a $1 million cash bonus, while Chief Executive St├ęphane Bancel received $4.6 million in options and a $1.5 million cash bonus.’

It could be the dexamethasone that’s keeping me awake and bleary eyed at night, but all that money sloshing around while wholesale unemployment and poverty is on an inevitable rise, sticks in the throat more than any pills do. Thank goodness for Ginger Rogers.

WHO CARES? We do - we really do!
On Monday this week, I had the great pleasure of hunkering down with people who care about culture, the arts and all our health throughout this mayhem, as part of the Culture, Health & Wellbeing Alliance’s - Winter Gatherings. The event was a mixture of digital art, arts practice in communities, poetry and activism, movement and dance and thinking and conversation about what care means to us right here, right now. And of course, the lived experience of many participants was central to our thinking. I’m completely in debt to all of the people that contributed and who made it such a pleasurable event for everyone. Thank you. These events are happening throughout England this week, and you can find details HERE. 

Flourishing Through Creativity- Supporting Better Mental Health
Arts and Health Southwest who have facilitated these Winter Gatherings have some remarkable activities throughout December too, as part of the AHSW Big Give Christmas Challenge, which this year is supporting the South West region through awareness-raising, collaboration and the development of creative activities for those who are experiencing mental ill-health, or facing limited access to the arts due to barriers related to social circumstances and inequality. You can find more details HERE, but to get your mouth watering - on Thursday 3rd December, 12:30 – 1:15pm they have a live conversation with the artist David Shrigley who will talk about his work and thoughts about the arts and mental health. This online event will also offer attendees the chance to pose questions to David, so a great opportunity for discussion about the benefits of the visual arts for wellbeing and better mental health. There’s no set ticket price, but they are encouraging attendees of this event to donate what they can to our Big Give Appeal when it goes live, when every pound donated it is matched and DOUBLED via the Big Give from 1st – 8th December! Now surely, that has piqued your interest! Click HERE for the Shrigley details.

A Gentle Haunting
Over the last few years I’ve had the pleasure of working with Vic McEwan over in remote New South Wales and on a variety of things, from our first work together on The Harmonic Oscillator to delivering artists training around arts, health and social change - and a long term collaboration exploring suicide. Alas the pandemic scuppered our three-day collective performance work at the Riverina Playhouse as part of the Art State Wagga Wagga 2020, but not to be foiled by the virus or my own fragility, I contributed a short film to Vic’s performative presentation instead. So this short film is a seven minute contemplative piece as I’ve been walking in the hills above my town since January, all caught on a mobile phone. I’ve written up a transcript with some references both literary and personal - and left some to the imagination! You can find all that HERE. You can watch the film by clicking on the image below.

Wednesday, 28 October 2020


 ...well at least it got your attention! More of that further down the page, but it does involve two new jobs, so do keep on reading. First things first.

Exposed: Special procurement channels for ‘VIPs’ and Cabinet contacts
Here's an extraordinary exposure of dodgy dealings in a time of covid by the Good Law Project, who I'd never heard of but who've been flagged up by flagged up by NS to whom my thanks. Here's an extract:

'Leaked documents seen by Good Law Project set out special pathways by which “VIP” and “Cabinet Office” contacts could be awarded lucrative PPE contracts at the height of the pandemic – and at inflated prices.

Lord Bethell, a junior Health Minister, promised that “suppliers will be evaluated by Departmental officials on their financial standing.” But questions arose over how enormous contracts came to be awarded to dormant or new entities and those of dubious financial standing including:

  • PPE Medpro won two contracts worth over £200m to supply PPE to the NHS. The £100 company, set up by the former business associate of Conservative peer Baroness Mone, won the contract just seven weeks after it was set up.

  • SG Recruitment UK Limited, a staffing agency, won two PPE contracts worth over £50m, despite auditors raising concerns about its solvency. Tory Peer Lord Chadlington sits on the Board of its parent company, Sumner Group Holdings Limited.

  • P14 Medical Limited, controlled by former Conservative Councillor Steve Dechan, who stood down in August this year, was awarded three contracts worth over £276m despite having negative £485,000 in net assets.'

if you are rightly outraged, click HERE to read the full article. 


Twenty Second Hand Wash
Loop from the Hiroshi Teshigahara film: The Face of Another - 1966.
Sound, Ryoji Ikeda -1111011111 from the album, matrix - 2001

Who Cares, We Care -
Oh yes we do!

The virtual North West Arts and Health event on the 16th November, in collaboration with the Culture Health & Wellbeing Alliance, is all about care this year - who cares for artists - who cares for health workers - and how do we care for each other? 

While we hear plenty of politicians spouting on about care - what do they really mean, and what's the action they take. From Trump to Johnson and most politicians in between go about modelling abusive behaviour as their bread and butter - what hope is there? We hope - lots. So sign up HERE and join members of this arts and health community alongside poet Jhilmil Breckenridge,  visual artist and LENS NW Champion Sue Flowers, LPM Dance (George Adams and Helen Gould), digital artist Shanali Perera, Clive Parkinson, Dancer Susie Tate, founder of In Place of War, James Thompson and Director of Manchester Museum, Esme Ward. So, lots to discuss and let's get some conversation flowing.

Branching Out by Ruth Flanagan

The Alliance website is crammed with interesting and very useful things at  the moment, so I urge you to check it out HERE. This month it includes a call-out to recruit for Directors! to join The Lived Experience Network (The LENs) of the Culture Health and Wellbeing Alliance - click HERE for details.

Report on a conversation: Evaluating remote or online creative activities during the pandemic
Dr Karen Gray and Jane Willis provide us with some new food for thought.
'Changes in approaches to evaluating creative activities for arts, health and wellbeing delivered remotely or online during COVID-19 have been prompted by increased flexibility from funders and the continuing desire to find appropriate, accessible and sustainable ways to access participant experience. Creative practice has shown itself capable of adapting at speed in response to Covid-19. In this context, evaluators and arts organisations and practitioners are also asking: “How do we use existing forms of evaluation without being limited by them?” They are reflecting on how participatory and creative approaches to evaluation might support its integration into project delivery, make participants feel more like people and less like data, and enable access to participant voices, authentic stories and experience.' Want to know more? - click HERE. 

One for Sorrow...
...Two for Joy. I wonder how many of you are old enough to remember the 1970's children's programme Magpie? Well, that little tune and nursery rhyme that it stemmed from were one of the influences on Vic McEwan and I when we began planning an event two years ago in 
Wagga Wagga, Wiradjuri Country. Well, time has played some strange tricks on us, and the event which originally planned to run for three days in a theatre in the city and explore the troubling area of suicide has inevitably been impacted on by covid and my own inconvenient health problems. Anything remotely performative in a theatre became untenable, as did any travel for me. But Vic has been working towards a collaborative performative event with a socially-distanced audience. Under the header One for Sorrow, Two for Joy commissioned for Art State 2020 he'll be sharing new work that includes a community choir, a narrative contribution by a wonderful community elder and a small sound/film piece by me that touches on walking and thinking over the last year and some reflections on what it is to be alive, here and now.  

Image: Melanie Manchot, Twelve (The Bronson Monologue), 2015, courtesy the artist and Parafin, London

Earlier this year Portraits of Recovery (PORe) secured two years organisation development funding from Arts Council England’s Elevate scheme. PORe is now seeking to appoint a Business Development Support Administrator and Digital Marketing Coordinator for K.I.S.S (keep it simple stupid). If you want to have more details, or apply for either post which has a closing date of 5pm 22nd November, click HERE.

Always experimental, always relevant - a new work developed by arthur+martha - Whisper to me alone - is unfolding over twitter right now - pandemic epic by people who've been homeless or vulnerable. The CV-19 story is told in poems, songs & artworks, composed over the phone. @whisper2mealone

. . . 

Wednesday, 14 October 2020

An Event, A Job and the Secret of Happiness - what more could you want?

Who Cares? We Do!
Arts, Health & Social Change

North West 'Winter Gathering' for Culture, Creativity and Health: 
10am-1pm, Monday 16 November
For the North West Regions' Culture, Creativity and Health: Winter Gathering, we’ll be exploring care from multiple perspectives across cultural, health and social change agendas, with input from amongst others: Esme Ward, Director of Manchester Museum; and Prof James Thompson, author of Performing Care: New perspectives on socially engaged performance.

With a rich mix of inspirational contributors and virtual participatory sessions, this three hour event will amplify what care means in this field of work and explore ways we might contribute to more caring, cared-for and cared-about communities.​ Full details of this event and other regional events can be found HERE.

Other contributors include:
Jhilmil Breckenridge - a poet, writer and activist.
Sue Flowers - practising visual artist, director of Green Close and LENS NW Regional Champion.
LPM Dance - with George Adams and Helen Gould developing inclusive dance projects with a health and wellbeing focus.
Shanali Perera - a digital artist, educator retired clinician, and a patient who works across the intersections of art, health, medical education, and patient support.
Clive Parkinson - the Director of Arts for Health and your occasional blogger.
Dawn Carol - from National Museums Liverpool and the House of Memory project.
Susie Tate - focused on dance and health with North Cumbria Integrated Care Foundation Trust.

This event is organised in partnership with the Culture, Health and Wellbeing Alliance regional champions and the LENs regional champions and is subject to change in these strange times. FULL DETAILS.

Arts Project Manager
£31,365 - £37,890 pa pro rata
As one of the largest acute Trusts in the UK, MFT employs more than 23,000 staff working across nine hospitals and in the community, providing care for approximately 750,000 people every year. Lime is a multi-award winning Arts and Health organisation with global recognition for excellence in the delivery of art + wellbeing projects in hospital and community healthcare settings. 

Established in 1973, and based at Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust (MFT) in central Manchester, Lime boasts a diverse portfolio of projects spanning 47 years. Lime has forged strategic partnerships within health, education and cultural sectors, both nationally and internationally and received numerous awards and recognition, including recently, a Highly Commended award from the Design and Health International Academy, multiple Building Better Healthcare awards including the 2019 shortlist for Best Collaborative Arts Project and winner of the international category ‘Patient Choice’ award and Best Collaborative Arts Project award 2018. The post presents an exciting opportunity for an experienced and skilled project manager to deliver the Built Environment Arts Programme and make an important contribution toward MFT being recognised as a global landmark for culture and wellbeing in healthcare.

Lime is currently presented with new opportunity to integrate innovative art + design schemes across a broad range of major healthcare developments backed by significant multi-million-pound investments. It is an exciting opportunity to apply your expertise, join us at the beginning of an exciting journey and develop through a challenging and complex projects programme. With your help, Lime will build on existing and develop new art and design initiatives to extend the reach of our service for the benefit of 1000’s of NHS patients and staff alike. Click HERE for all the details.

Hey Ho...

Sunday, 13 September 2020

Lord Howarth, Creative Health and the...

...World Healthcare Congress
It seems a lifetime ago since day-to-day normality involved hugging and laughter and skittish interactions with friends and complete strangers - that wonderful noisy, brash existence - although, yes, I have enjoyed privileged moments that solitude has offered me these last months too, walking out into nearby countryside. But what I'd do to have a coffee in a cafe without fearing I'd keel over - admittedly my own vulnerabilities have added complexity to this time. Worryingly I find myself craving the fumes of petrol and bitumen - of the oozing black tar from telegraph poles on hot summer days.

Recently I caught myself feeling a nostalgia for aviation (!) - the long-haul, the possibility of extra leg room and the awful transit-cattle-market of the whole experience - yet somehow.... Pulling myself up short - I realise that those days are temporarily over for everyone and that perhaps there should be less opportunity for mass aviation, given what we know and see. I still crave difference and unknown landscapes - but at what cost? As my work shrivels up and morphs into very sensible online video conversations and conferences - I recently stepped up to an invisible lectern to speak at a conference in Singapore with equally invisible hoards of online delegates - a working life similar to that I had prior to the pandemic/diagnosis, seems lightyears away, and in terms of the planet - for the better.

To those of you visiting this blog in a time of Covid, the World Healthcare Congress, Europe - which was co-curated by Esme Ward and myself back in March 2019 - 
may seem vintage, in its lack of foresight of the pandemic. It was filmed by Dave Bewick and his team at Shortform Media with funding from the British Council and much of what is discussed and shown may be even more relevant today as culture and the arts take on a different significance. This short film which has not been seen before, gives some flavour of the congress where arts and health was one of the three conference strands. In it you'll hear from Lord Howarth of Newport, Gerri Moriarty, CEO of Arts Council England, Darren Henley and many, many more. The film is below and runs to around fifteen minutes. For those of you interested in more of a raucous, quick-fire Manchester slant, there is a four minute stand-alone film with amongst others, film director Danny Boyle; yes, that Danny Boyle - HERE. 

14-18 September
Saxophonist and activist Soweto Kinch is curating a collection of performances and discussions which will not only feature a strong line-up of musicians and speakers – original music from Kinch, Jay Phelps and Xhosa Cole, and choreography by Jade Hackett – but has some historical heft too. These events will be available via our computer screens, tablets and phones each evening from Monday 14 to Friday 18 September.

“Throughout this summer, British bridges, streets and squares that were the scene of violent race riots in 1919, will be transformed into dynamic stages, galleries and plinths to creatively explore this past. It’s easy to get the erroneous idea that mobs of ‘woke’ millennials are suddenly forcing Britons to confront ‘diversity’ for the first time – however, from Glasgow to Barry, and indeed Chicago and New York the entire western world was engulfed in racial conflict over 101 years ago.

With a mixture of improvised responses, existing material and new commissioned work we intend to shed new light on Britain’s fractious relationship with race and class. What is distinct about a ‘British working class’?  Why is the pre-Windrush Black British presence so often overlooked? If there were the scenes of violent racial animus over a century ago, what is to prevent it from recurring? especially amidst a post Covid-19 deep recession.

The backdrop of today’s civil unrest, statues being torn down and serious soul searching across Britain, mean that there has rarely been a more opportune moment to explore ignored British history – radically challenging the way ‘British’, ‘White’ and ‘Working-Class’ identities have been constructed. As Soweto Kinch describes, ‘1919 established and entrenched hierarchies of racism that have yet to be undone’."

Join Soweto Kinch and his superb line-up from London, Hull, Salford, Liverpool, Cardiff and Newport for this exclusive curated series of online performances, bringing the past to life and making sense of the present! Full details HERE.

Artangel presents 24 leading thinkers converge in a non-stop 12-hour conversation relay, live-streamed online! Embracing the essence of Longplayer as a contemplation of the future, the Assembly brings together 24 participants from around the world, whose individual specialism embodies long term thought.

Each speaker will converse in turn, passing the virtual baton every 30 minutes in a non-stop 12-hour live relay. We have just released the schedule of timings and pairings so you can read about each participant on our website to get a glimpse into the themes and differing viewpoints they will be bringing to the Assembly. From epidemiologist Precious Lunga to astrophysicist Janna Levin by way of Laurie Anderson and Brian Eno. Saturday 26 September, 10:00 – 22:00 BST. Full details HERE.

'The filmwork of Alan Lomax is a resource for students, researchers, filmmakers, and fans of America's traditional music and folkways. Shot throughout the American South and Southwest over the course of seven years (1978--1985) in preparation for the series, "American Patchwork," which aired in 1991, these videos consist of performances, interviews, and folkloric scenes culled from 400 hours of raw footage, many of which have never been seen publicly.

The project is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts. 
This short film is from the section 1982-1983: Central & Southern Appalachia (1982-1983). Amongst other things, this section includes: Cloggers and buck dancers; bluegrass and string bands; white gospel groups; stories, folktales, and ballads from coal miners, tobacco farmers, and former bootleggers. It's an extraordinary archive. What struck me about this little 'white gospel' film (and I'm not a religious person) is the sense of community and communal euphoria. Quite a thing. You can see the whole archive HERE.

Thanks to NS for giving me faith in humanity...

Saturday, 22 August 2020

How to breed anarchy

What on earth is happening? - These last months have seen understandings of our place in the world, tilt and shift. The old normality has run adrift as we attempt to make sense of what came before and what might be. 

Old morality too, has been seen for what it is - for a moment in time, the still-evolving virus, gives us clarity to see unpalatable truths - that some refuse to accept. 

But I have an extended moment of lucidity, quite unlike anything I’d previously thought possible - the things we all know, somehow amplified. Preposterous faux leadership - held up against those who personify considered collective decisions - fills my heart with a near-violent rage; what was dormant splutters with acrid sparks of sulphur. 

Stuttering bravado hiding behind algorithms - post-code discrimination and disparity of voice, but y
our protective mask will foil their facial recognition software.
Five hundred and thirty two billion tons of melting ice course through my veins while cops choke the life out of a human - because they can. Then in my little world, we count out the ways in which the arts might staunch the chaos. I cringe a little. That same small world has been shoved off kilter, where bone and blood themselves calve away, like balmy winter cliffs. A grinding reality.

Inequalities are falling off the radar, while childlike politicians prepare for a vote-winning technological war on a common enemy, not seeing that the enemy itself attacks those who are most unequal.

Am I angry - am I going to do something with my smouldering rage through these fading hours? - fuck, yeah.

It Ain't Half Racist, Mum (1979)
Stuart Hall & Maggie Steed
(...of course, the following film will offend as it deals head on with the racism many of us were unintentionally complicit with on television in our younger years)

The following text contextualises the above film and was written by Ashley Clark, in Sight & Sound.

In March 1979, weeks before the election of Margaret Thatcher, Stuart Hall starred in his own protest film of sorts, a surgical critique of racism entitled It Ain’t Half Racist, Mum. Written and presented by Hall alongside actor and activist Maggie Steed, It Ain’t Half Racist, Mum screened on BBC2 as part of Open Door (1973-83), a series which gave airtime to outsiders to use under their own editorial control.

The show is frank from the start, as Steed delivers a message to camera: “When the BBC says that a programme like this is ‘outside their control’, what they’re telling you is that they don’t think it’s balanced, neutral, or fair. We hope to show that many of the programmes which are under the editorial control of the BBC and ITV are themselves biased and unbalanced, especially in the coverage they give to Britain’s Black community.”

Commenting on carefully chosen clips, the pair analyse the racism and biases within sitcom stereotypes, and dissect the insidious ways that far-right nationalists, including Enoch Powell, were given freedom within the supposedly neutral space on current affairs television to articulate their hostile positions on immigration, effectively framing the national discourse. (Anyone pondering the programme’s contemporary relevance may consider the fact that far-right politician Nigel Farage – who has never successfully been elected as an MP at Westminster – has appeared 35 times on the BBC’s Question Time, and is its ninth all-time highest record appearance holder.)

Sadly, It Ain’t Half Racist, Mum did not provoke a period of self-analysis from the BBC. Instead, it struck a raw nerve: a subsequent Open Door episode began with a feebly apologetic message that entirely disavowed Hall and Steed’s critique: “The BBC wishes to dissociate itself from any such suggestions [of racial bias] which it considers to be entirely without foundation.”

Restructuring Public Health England: public health is about more than being prepared for future pandemics
As the socioeconomic causes of ill health are being ignored by the British Government, Paul C Coleman, Joht Singh Chandan and Fatai Ogunlayi consider the effect this restructure will have on the future health and wellbeing of England in the British Medical Journal. Read this timely article HERE. 

How to walk through walls: reimagining health and healthcare through the arts
On Tuesday 4 August, the CREATE Centre in New South Wales hosted the second of its online series - "How to walk through walls: reimagining health and healthcare through the arts". Vic McEwan of The Cad Factory presented a video work called "Come Face to Face with Your Face" and reflected on his practice. His presentation talks to the work he has been undertaking in the Sydney Facial Nerve Clinic as part of his practice led PhD and reflects on what it means to be an artist working with complex things such as facial nerve paralysis. Watch the full film below.

Are you an artist based in the North West of England? The Festival of Hope Sefton are looking for artists to collaborate in a series of projects to be delivered in October 2020. 
The Atkinson, in collaboration with Hope Streets, Curious Minds and Blaze, is working with a group of Young Producers to create the Festival of Hope Sefton; a pioneering festival that places young people at the heart of design, making, programming & production. Please note that there are a number of commissions, and the image below will take you to the webpage with more detail. Or click HERE.

Victoria and Albert Museum/AHRC collaborative doctoral partnership studentships
Arts and Humanities Research Council, GB
These allow the V&A and UK HEIs to collaborate on a project that is relevant to both the AHRC’s subject areas and the V&A’s collections and research priorities, and that can provide demonstrable benefits to both partners. Studentships include tuition fees and a student maintenance grant for up to four years, and additional financial support towards travel and related costs.
Full details HERE. Deadline for applications Wednesday 30 September 2020.

Sunday, 9 August 2020

1945 - 1998

On the 6th and 9th August 1945, the United States - with the consent of the United Kingdom - detonated two nuclear weapons over the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing between 129,000 and 226,000 people. I have shared this piece of work by artist, Isao Hashimoto before and will again. The work, "1945-1998" is described by the artist here.

"This piece of work is a bird's eye view of the history by scaling down a month length of time into one second.  No letter is used for equal messaging to all viewers without language barrier.  The blinking light, sound and the numbers on the world map show when, where and how many experiments each country have conducted.  I created this work for the means of an interface to the people who are yet to know of the extremely grave, but present problem of the world."

"1945-1998" © 2003

This constitutes 2053 nuclear explosions conducted across our planet and does not encompass any activity after 1998 including announced nuclear tests by North Korea.

No more needed from me.