Sunday 23 January 2022

“You set an example … you live by that example” - Tracey Emin

It’s an overcast grey day today and I’m ruminating on the man who was overwhelming elected as prime minister in 2019 and whose name I can barely write - a contrived comedy act who is consistently referred to by his first name, so as to make him ‘one of the people’, some daft, bumbling showman, worse still, someone who apparently has presided over some miraculous action plan to deal with the ongoing pandemic. Yes, apparently it’s over and life will go on just like before. Throw your masks in the bin and crack on with life, let’s get the economy back on target. 
Stefan Tiburcio,* Stay At Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives, 2020,
Woodcut on plywood, © the artist
As of today, Sunday 23rd January at 11:42 am, 154,297 people in the UK have died of covid. Let’s not kid ourselves, the roll-out of the vaccination programme has been successful because of the incredible work of the NHS and the invisible swathes of people who volunteered their time to do the work. The pandemic isn’t over! We’re told glibly, that it’s become endemic, yet the virus is rampant in many countries, many of which have little access to vaccinations yet! This isn’t what success looks like to me. While superhero pharmaceutical companies pull in mind-boggling profits.

Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson (let’s not forget who this man-of-the-people-cum-bloated-Machiavellian-twerp is) advises us that the British public will show common sense when all the safety measures are thrown out of the window this week. What? Common sense and decency as modelled by him? Through his own arrogant behaviour, he has illustrated one rule for himself and his cronies, which others will inevitably emulate. If the Grey report lets him simply get away sacking a few minions, lessons will be learnt by the many, rippling out and elevating self-entered individualism to dizzying heights that we could never have previously imagined. At least the campaign against the government’s anti-protest laws this week, shows that people still have the passionate appetite to demonstrate, and the Lords stopped the bill in its tracks.

Emin neon© Tracey Emin. All rights reserved, DACS 2022.
Photo credit: Government Art Collection
Tracey Emin’s timely intervention to get her 2010 neon work, More Passion, removed from 10 Downing Street while its current incumbent is still is situ, couldn’t have been more timely. Here Here! Responding to the most recent revelations about Johnson and Downing Street parties on Woman’s Hour, Tracey Emin comments - “Their behaviour is pretty shameful…people had to watch their loved ones buried on their telephone…people are really angry…this government need more compassion, not passion…you set an example, and you live by that example.”

Yet, what we consistently get from Johnson is faux attrition and apologies - but for what? - the action or simply being caught out? He did a grand job of genuflexion and public hand-wringing following the publication of those images of the Queen sitting alone at the funeral of her husband. For his televised downcast eyes, I well imaging under his face mask, there's still that smug smirk.

On this blog, I’ve spoken about my own experiences of living with cancer in parallel to the pandemic this last couple of years. I've spared many of the details for fearing being seen as too self-indulgent, but these last few weeks have proved so politically unpalatable, I need to throw a few appalling details from my own life into the mix - which I don’t offer up glibly, or seeking words of solace. Like many other people, this timetable of arrogance and partying sit uncomfortably with my own experiences. While masks are thrown into bins and the hoards laugh and jape on the underground, do spare a thought for the terrified people with blood cancers who may sit there triple masked, or more probably will exile themselves from planes and trains indefinitely.

Having begun chemotherapy in January 2020, the stem-cell treatment needed to hold my cancer at bay, from May that year was variously delayed, postponed and canceled leaving the disease to return, and the stem-cell transplant eventually given in May 2021. Throughout all of this, the individuals behind the NHS that worked with me, were flawless. But, for all the personal turmoil of diagnosis, uncertainty and brutal treatment, it was the unfolding death of my partner’s father Peter; my children's grandad - through covid - that was unbearable. Tracey Emin reminds us of people not being able to attend funerals, for my family it was the untimely death (regardless of his age) of Peter over WhatsApp. This kind of trauma is unbearable. Not to be able to be with, to hold, to kiss. 

Peter died in May. He wasn’t a statistic, he was one of those individual humans who died while party season flourished at the heart of UK government. We should be so fu**i*g angry. If Johnson is able to continue in office following the publication of the Gray Report, we will know that democracy and any sense of common decency have failed.

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* You can see more of the incredible woodcuts and drawings of Coronavirus: Lockdown by Stefan Tiburcio HERE. 
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Here's an exciting opportunity for someone to get a foothold in the arts and health community in vibrant Greater Manchester.

Lime Arts + Health Project Assistant
Established in 1973, Lime is an internationally acclaimed Arts and Health organisation based at Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust (MFT). Due to programme expansion, and the recent launch of a pioneering arts + wellbeing centre to support NHS staff, we have a new and exciting opportunity for a project assistant. This is a great entry-level opportunity for anyone wishing to gain specialist skills knowledge and experience of working in the arts + healthcare sector.
The position requires a reliable individual with a professional manner who has good numerical skills. Attention to detail and excellent interpersonal and communication skills are essential. For an ambitious and hardworking graduate/professional, Lime is the perfect place to start your career in a broad role - there will be opportunity to learn new skills and eventually progress to handling more complex projects on your own. As the remit of the role will be varied, it would suit someone with a flexible ‘can-do’ attitude and eagerness to learn. This post is fixed term; however it will be reviewed for continuation in March 2023.  Click HERE to complete the online application form or find out more details. The application closing date is 2nd February 2022. For more information please contact Lime Administrative Manager Rosemary Howes on 0161 276 5839 or email

Fallen Angels Dance Theatre
Transfiguration is a trio of 10-minute dance films, focusing on a series of defining moments in the journey from addiction to recovery. The trailer for the trilogy can be viewed above

I Fall, I Need and We Rise explore key moments in the life of a person who experiences addiction, exploring craving, relapse, recovery, using dance theatre, text and digital technology. I Fall, the first film in the Transfiguration trilogy, explores the carnage and chaos of addiction. Focusing on the twisted love story between two addicts – how they can’t live with or without each other – and their unbearable compulsion to use. But through the despair, we see that recovery can be possible. The Transfiguration works are available freely HERE.

Driving along recently, I heard a piece of work by Meredith Monk, who I have to confess to not knowing a great deal about. I know even less about the intention behind this work which is called Memory Song. I'm sure that it has absolutely no connection to the kind of dementia field that some of us navigate, but it sure feels like a brilliant stimulus I'd use if I were still in the field. Some of you may find sections of it irritating, but in the round, it's a lovely thing.

If you have anything you'd like to share with the North West Arts, Health & Social Change community, please email me HERE and I'll do my best to share it on this blog and via social media. For where to send any details of events that you are planning for Creativity and Wellbeing Week (16 - 22nd May 2022) you can send HERE, but do remember to upload the details what it is that you are doing that week to the official website HERE.

Keep safe and thank you for passing by...

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