Wednesday 2 August 2023

So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, goodbye...

For those of you who pass by this increasingly irregular blog, (erm - annual, or so it might appear, but read on) you’ll know I left Manchester Met in June 2021, and it’s sad to see the old Arts for Health website is still hanging on in the ether, like some shimmering ghost of the wonderful thing it once was, or else, a neglected artefact mouldering away, on a university to-do list. People ask me what’s happening to it - and in all honesty, I can’t really say, other than offering a masters course that’s nothing like the one I’d written but which is still being advertised online! It’s important to say however, that this blog is completely independent to the university and has run from 2009 to today.

  David King, 1978

On the surface of it, I left the university because (yawn) I was diagnosed with a nasty cancer, and who wants to work full-time in an institution when their life has been limited by ill health!? So it was ill health that provided the opportunity to extract myself and focus on what’s important in life. The thing is, I still have a rollicking passion for getting stuck-in to all things cultural, and particularly, with the more political and critical side of this arts/health world, albeit tinged with a different kind of hue - a knowing and creative impulse, that internal and external forces have brought, and will bring about.

For many years I ran what I described as the North West Arts, Health & Social Change Network, to which this blog was a way of communicating far and wide. We had countless events, which more often than not, I facilitated in Manchester, and we got together and did things with passion and spirit and with a real sense of northern identity. I really do miss those collective moments. Similarly in 2017, alongside like-minded people across Greater Manchester, I established the Manchester Institute for Arts, Health & Social Change, which very shortly, I’ll be handing over, lock, stock and barrel to colleagues working in the city region to build further and enable it to grow into something useful for the creative health community. 

For a couple of decades or so, I’ve had the great pleasure of working with colleagues nationally to support and nurture the ever expanding field of arts and health and what is increasingly being described as a creative health agenda. I’ve been part of the National Alliance for Arts and Health and more recently, a North West regional champion on the Culture, Health and Wellbeing Alliance. It’s been great, and working with people exploring our shared passions, has been a wonderful thing. That said, I’ve decided to step back from this role and encourage new and diverse blood to be part of it.

I have to say too, that the creative health agenda, with its historical fondness for unethical politicians popping up at conferences and universities - I’m thinking solely of the perverse political muppet, Matt Hancock’s multiple outings in support of this agenda - does leave me feeling slightly queazy. Are we on the brink of overwhelming the ground-swell of a people-driven movement, in favour of a utilitarian program of deliverables, to the service of politically-driven cost efficiencies in the NHS? I wonder too, are those who ‘deliver’ on the social prescribing agenda, actually being remunerated yet?

I’m chuffed to bits to have been given an honorary chair at The University of Manchester as an acknowledgement of my work in the field: Prof of Creative Health and Social Change, no less, so I need to think carefully about this creative health agenda! The thing is, as the arts and health field has morphed into creative health, I find I have evolved too! Though, I’m even queazier at the thought of my own role having contributed to a dumbing down of the arts in all their forms, so the good but unequal citizens of our island become the passive recipients of gloopy, spoonfuls of bland, mindful elixirs. Again and again I’m reminded of what James Baldwin said, that “artists are here to disturb the peace,” and not just mollify them. There are positive signs however, that outside our gated community - and in the ‘real’ world - people are beginning to embrace the arts via a myriad of individuals and organisations which are realising, that they can do things differently. 
Emory Douglas, 1968

Perhaps success in the arts-health/creative-health field might best be evidenced through its own slow demise alongside the emergence of a far wider range of people's individual and collective impulse to create. I am continually thrilled at the small-scale heroism of climate change activists who take direct creative action. Only with enflamed passions, can we wrench the arts in all their forms, out of the hands of the comfortable elite and challenge the status quo. I look forward to the day when a well invested cultural armoury is readily seen as a legitimate means to questioning and addressing inequities, and more than ever, we need to move away from our naval gazing and look to the health of communities and how collectively we might redress the damage we’ve already done to our citizens, and to the local and global environment.

My personal thanks go to those special individuals who, over the last few years have continued to nurture these ideas with me at Manchester Museum, the Whitworth and the Care Lab, Portraits of Recovery, Greater Manchester Combined Authority and my walking companion. If you're so inclined, you can keep up with what I'm up to here. 

So in terms of this blog, perhaps see it as an irrelevant archive of one man’s reflections and rants in a world on fire - or else, a gibberish contribution to the grey puce literature!                           

Bye Bye 👋


1 comment:

  1. Wishing you well for the future Clive!