Sunday, 13 May 2018

"All is Not Lost"

There’s a line in the opening credits of the long-running 1970’s TV series MASH, that tells us that: “suicide is painless, it brings on many changes, and I can take or leave it if I please…” It’s a melancholic song, a little whimsical and something that when I was a lad - troubled me deeply. Having experienced the aftermath of suicide, thoughts of painlessness and choice seemed very far removed from reality (though I appreciate the irony and context in MASH). This week has seen three suicides make the headlines of the UK press, for very different reasons. You may or may not know the names; three men, three individuals, and all, no doubt with loving people around them in some way - sons, fathers, grandfathers, lovers. Individuals - Ben Murray, Scott Hutchison and David Goodall.

Only one of these men was known to me - the singer Scott Hutchison - from the Scottish band, Frightened Rabbit. Beautiful lyrics - beautiful sounds - beautiful voice and songs peppered with a deeper meaning that needs no analysis from me. You can read a tribute HERE. The song State Hospital has been posted on this blog before, from the album Pedestrian Verse. There are more poignant and brutally relevant songs by the band, if you choose to look further. In an interview for Noisey just a few weeks ago, Scott Hutchison spoke with Josh Modell about how he was doing.

“Pretty fine. Middling. On a day-to-day basis, I’m a solid six out of ten. I don’t know how often I can hope for much more than that. I’m drawn to negatives in life, and I dwell on them, and they consume me. I don’t think I’m unique in that sense. I’m all right with a six. If I get a couple of days a week at a seven, fuck, it’s great.”

Hutchison’s mental anguish and depression had been addressed consistently through his songwriting, but his death, however seemingly inevitable, is so deeply sad.

The second of the three men is Ben Murray and by all rights, he should be an anonymous lad whose name I’d never know, pursuing his studies in English at Bristol University, no doubt a well deserved place in a high ranking university. But last week, he became another name associated with a spate of suicides at Bristol University. Troublingly he’s the third student to die at the university this year and the 10th since 2016. As Netflix releases the second season of their blockbuster series focused on suicide, and targeted at young people - 13 Reasons Why - exam season looms large in the minds of many young people embarking on school and university exams, and inevitably anxiety increases in the lives of students. Might ideation and copying the example of others, lead to more attempts at suicide? Evidence from the open access journal PLOS ONE points to the 32 percent increase in death by suffocation following Robin Williams suicide and significantly they suggest that suicides in men aged 30-44 rose by 12.9 percent. Whilst a definitive link wasn’t proven, there appeared to be an unavoidable connection. The ways in which suicide is reported and portrayed in the media has an impact.

The third and last but by no means least, of these men, is the very moving story of Australian scientist David Goodall who at 104 years of age, had to travel all the way to Switzerland to end his life, which he felt had become unenjoyable 5 to 10 years ago. “What I would like,” Goodall said, “is for other countries to follow Switzerland’s lead and make these facilities available to all clients, if they meet the requirements, and the requirements not just of age, but of mental capacity.” What strength of character, to fly from Australia to Europe - but how sad he couldn’t have had support in his own country. You can watch the very articulate Goodall talk a little bit about his dying, the day before his assisted suicide - and singing a little Beethoven - by watching the film below.

I have written before about the scene in the film Soylent Green where Edward G Robinson’s character Sol, chooses to end his life in a clinic listening to a heady mix of Tchaikovsky, Grieg and Beethoven whilst watching film of beautiful landscapes (from a not too distant dystopian position). Watch the film to dig deeper into the themes of poverty, state control, choice and state sponsored murder. It’s always enthralled me to know that Robinson was living with terminal cancer when he shot that scene. When Goodall died, he was listening to Beethoven’s Ode to Joy. 

What very different stories these three men offer us, and some important refections on the terrible depths of human despair, alongside thoughts on sentience and complex issues of choice. It seems the time for having meaningful and nuanced conversations about the right to die, and the depths of mental despair more generally, has never been more urgent. With the plight of David Goodall in mind, perhaps its its more relevant to think about those difficult but critical break-point conversations around how we live well, and die well too. Conversations that you might find by connecting with Dying Matters, who this week, begin their awareness raising week. Click on their logo for details.

It’s difficult to imagine the pressures that Hutchison or Murray were under, and throughout Hutchison’s life, we know he experienced significant anxiety and depression, (and not just everyday melancholia) because he sang and spoke about his life experiences very candidly. I think we owe him a debt of thanks for his honesty, and if we listen to his voice, we also owe it to ourselves never to glamorise or mythologise suicide. 

Perhaps too, where people are predisposed to the extremes of mental anguish, we should take note of the external factors around their lives, which might play a significant part. In an earlier interview, Hutchison describes the pressure to create and to produce to record company deadlines:

“…we completed a two-year tour, got back in January of 2009, and were told that we needed to book studio time in June, to make this record that we hadn’t written a note of. So we get back off tour, which had broken us all down—it was extremely long and gruelling. And then I had three months to write and demo a whole album…”

Society contributes to our anxieties - compounding the fractured sense of who we are - student debt, abject poverty, oppressive systems, bigotry and prejudice and a thousand day-to-day influences, have the power to undermine our mental health. Insidious levels of inequalities contribute to a deeper social poison and if people experience severe mental distress, these poisonous social factors inevitably have a part to play in a climate of despair. As Mark Fisher warned us: "Mental illness has been depoliticised, so that we blithely accept a situation in which depression is now the malady most treated by the NHS.
Loneliness and the belief that we have a thousand or more close friends, feeds our divided and deluded society, where another royal wedding is offered up as some anaesthetic from grinding poverty, and we reassure ourselves by uploading a billion airbrushed moments, to our careful constructed virtual version of ourselves.

As the arts become an add-on in the school curriculum relegated to some 4th academic division, the creative and emotional intelligence of future generations will be seriously undermined. I regularly see an advert on TV aimed at recruiting people into teacher training to the STEM subjects, with the handsome offer of a bursary. My heart goes out to our future artists and cultural leaders, who have no such offer. I see that a Cultural Learning Alliance has been formed which offers a New evidence Briefing: The Arts, Health and Wellbeing, ahead of this weeks
Mental Health Awareness Week (14-20 May). They have launched a new briefing written in partnership with the children’s mental health charity a Place2Be. This includes a foreword from a Place2Be's President and Founder Dame Benita Refson, the briefing sets out why the arts make us happier and healthier and are key to supporting children’s good mental health.

Writing anything about mental health issues, it seems incumbent on us all to be aware of ‘triggers’ and whilst I see the importance of not writing anything that sensationalises, mythologises or in any way feeds suicide ideation, I do worry that in part, we may inhibit some conversation by over censoring ourselves. As I am about to welcome Professor Jill Bennett to the Manchester School of Art to discuss the Big Anxiety Festival, I remember preparing for my performance of dis/ordered last year in Sydney. My work explicitly explored obsessive and compulsive personality alongside suicide and of course, it was the festival’s responsibility to advise people attending on any potential triggers. Can you imagine? Where do you begin! So in advance of the free event on 5 June 2018 between 14:00 to 16:00, we will be discussing many of the issues that surround the differences in all our mental health, and the troubling nature of suicide, but we will do it in a safe and mature way. These are important conversations and it’s my conviction that in some way, the arts in all their forms, might contribute to serious long-term debate, and just maybe, affect positive change.

In the UK, the Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123.

I'll be sharing an extract from dis/ordered at the National Alliance of Music in Healthcare conference at Alder Hey on Monday 14th June as part of my keynote there. It's probably the only time I'll share this in the UK, so if you want to come along and say hello, you can get tickets HERE. Similarly I'll be at the Menier Gallery on Monday and Tuesday this week for the second wave of the Imagination Cafe session, which expand and demonstrate research informed learning from Dementia & Imagination, so again, say hello if you're around. Details HERE. And finally - talking about dementia - I'll be speaking at A Life More Ordinary alongside some amazing contributors at the Dukes Theatre in Lancaster on Friday, so book a place and come and say hello.

The Culture, Health and Wellbeing Alliance is a free membership organisation and will provide monthly updates on policy and developments in the field, access to resources and research, as well as deliver training, conferences and events. It will advocate for the importance of cultural engagement for the health and wellbeing of everyone in society. It will work closely with the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing to bring about a step change in policy and delivery, and will focus on a strong regional infrastructure to support development and progress in the field.

What does this mean for the North West Arts & Health Network? Well in the very least more infrastructure support and a closer connection to partners in museums and galleries and a collective voice. You will continue to get regular blog postings like this one, and a more access to an overarching national perspective. 
To become a member sign up by clicking on the logo above.

Manchester’s first Mindful Art Centre is launching in Levenshulme Old Library on 27 April, 4pm-9pm. Local social enterprise The Owl and The Coconut are behind the centre, which opens with a community crowd-sourced exhibition and offers of free places on their Mindfulness and Mindful Art courses.

Doctors move closer to unified plan for arts on prescription
27 National Health Service (NHS) organisations across Cheshire and Merseyside have committed to developing a social prescription plan, which one NHS official promises will be implemented across the region within one year. Read this  excellent article by Christy Romer in Arts Professional by clicking HERE.

Affecting space: an interdisciplinary ethnography at Manchester Art Gallery: 
A Funded PhD Scholarship
This doctorate will explore how babies and young children’s encounters with space, the visual and aural, movements and materials at Manchester Art Gallery (MAG) invent new ways for artists, health and educational practitioners to learn transversally about the emerging development of the under twos.
More details HERE.

Sunday, 29 April 2018

This, That & the Other

The Imagination Cafe events began last week in Llandudno at the beautiful Mostyn Gallery and a big thanks to Alfredo Cramerotti and his team for making everyone so welcome. These events are a mix of awareness raising and artists development which stems from the Dementia & Imagination research project, and builds on the principles in the Yellow Book. More are planned for London and Edinburgh this year. Personal thanks to Chris Lewis-Jones for facilitating the artists workshops. Looking forward to the next workshops at the Menier Gallery 14 - 19th May. And if you are an emerging artists who would like to take part in the training event at the Menier, please click HERE to book a place.

There are number of exciting events happening across the North West and further afield over the next couple of months and as promised last week, here are just a few of them. Please feel free to send in more from your locality! I’ve listed them in terms of dates. Please send events, opportunities, conferences and work opportunities to for inclusion on this blog.

A Life More Ordinary Festival
17 and 18th May

The Dukes - Lancaster
This festival is billed as a unique two day exploration of how the arts are touching the lives of people living with dementia in wonderful and remarkable ways. 
‘A Life More Ordinary’ at The Dukes in Lancaster, invites people living with dementia, family  friends, health and care professionals, artists, researchers and, clinical commissioning teams, to share and discover some of the ground-breaking ways that the arts help us understand dementia better and play an invaluable part in how we journey through life together. You can find all the details by clicking on the image above. It looks great, and I'm excited to be speaking at this festival.

‘Loneliness is as damaging to our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day’ Holt-Lundstadt - 2015
Building Social Connections Through The Arts

A Live Well, Make Art event, Tuesday 22nd May 2018, 10am - 3pmThe Turnpike, Civic Square, Leigh WN7 1EB
Live Well Make Art (LWMA) is an informal network of arts professionals and activists, health professionals and activists, academics and people who care passionately about the health of Greater Manchester. We have been working together for two years as a social movement. We want a healthier Greater Manchester where all its people can share the benefits of engaging in and enjoying the arts and creative activities with each other, and we want to make our streets, neighbourhoods and communities better places to live. On 22nd May, at the Turnpike Art Gallery in Leigh, we will be holding the first Live Well Make Art event to happen as part of a programme funded through Greater Manchester Combined Authority’s 'Great Places' initiative. It will explore ways in which the arts can address the challenges of social isolation and loneliness through building stronger social connections. Want to come along? Click HERE for details.

Towards a Cultural Democracy
A short and lovely film from the School of Arts, Languages and Cultures at Manchester University. 

The National Alliance Of Musicians In Healthcare Conference
The second annual NAMIH conference, will be held at Alder Hey Children's Hospital in Liverpool on Monday June 4th, 11AM - 6PM. There'll be more on this very soon, but for now you can get details and tickets by clicking HERE.

What's with the Big Anxiety? 
Following on from the personal research project - dis/ordered  for Big Anxiety Festival which I embarked on over 2016/17 resulting in my perforative presentation at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney, I’m developing some work exploring suicide. At the moment it’s being scoped out with allies in the UK, Lithuania, Japan and Australia. It's essentially about humanising people who are affected by suicide in some way - and exploring a shared voice - of difference and similarity, and of what it is to be a fragile human being in extremis. 

On that note, I am thrilled to be welcoming Professor Jill Bennett - the director of The Big Anxiety Festival - to Manchester School of Art on the afternoon of the 5th June to share this huge event which saw 75 events across Sydney, with 140,000 visitors and 16 major commissions including large-scale collaborations like Parragirls, a ground-breaking 3D immersive experience created by survivors of institutional abuse at former Parramatta Girls Home. As someone who was fortunate to be commissioned by the festival, I can say it was a profound and exhilarating event to be part of - the most dynamic of its kind. You can read an interview between Jill and myself in the Artlink Journal HERE. On the 5th Jill will be sharing work from that first festival and exploring new research and collaborations, which includes key areas of action such as suicide. She’ll also be sharing her work with a new research lab using immersive technology to investigate experience and empathy in relation to ageing, neurodiversity and mental health. It will be part presentation, part an exploratory workshop - and with limited places - so book HERE now to find out more about our shared thinking and new work and explore T
he Big Anxiety - festival of arts + science + people. MMU 5th June - 2:00pm - 4:00pm. 

National Lottery Awards for All offers funding from £300 to £10,000 to support what matters to people and communities

National Lottery Awards for All has three funding priorities. Tell us in your application how you meet at least one of them. 
Our priorities are:

•bringing people together and building strong relationships in and across communities
•improving the places and spaces that matter to communities
•enabling more people to fulfil their potential by working to address issues at the earliest possible stage.

We encourage you to watch this short video as it may be helpful in explaining how to involve your community in the design, development and delivery of the activities you are planning. Click HERE.

Funding for LGBT projects run by young people 

vInspired, the Volunteering Charity, (England only) has announced that its Cashpoint grants scheme is has announced that its Loud and Proud grants programme is open for applications. These grants are accepting applications for LGBT+ projects. The Cashpoint grants scheme offers grants of up to £500 to give young people (aged 14-25) the opportunity to bring their ideas to life. The funding is available to individual young people (or small groups) who have developed a project idea and will run the project themselves. Projects must be run on a volunteer only basis and funded projects must create at least 2 new volunteering opportunities for 14-30 year olds (in addition to the applicant). vInspired cashpoint must be the only funder for the project.
There are no closing dates for applications and grants will be awarded on a continuous basis until all available monies are exhausted. Read more HERE. 


Sunday, 22 April 2018

“nice and new and ‘smart!’”

Where do I begin..?
It’s been a few weeks since your erstwhile blogger appeared online, and now I come back at you with a bumper edition! But like I say - where to begin? A film from Arts for Health’s Champion, Maxine Peake: Chemical Attacks; the PM’s husband; a Dementia & Imagination road-trip and oodles more things. So, first things first - why the absence from blogging? Simple answer - work, and in particular finishing off a large and all-consuming monster, but which joyfully builds on the paper I wrote for Artlands 2017 - Weapons of Mass Happiness - which never felt more relevant to be honest.

And what with the chemical attack in Salisbury - on dear old Albion's soil! To be honest, being so close to Porton Down (which has featured here before) it makes me want to shout: 

‘What about the monkeys?’ 

Well to be more accurate, the thousands of mice, guinea pigs, rats, pigs, ferrets, sheep, and non-human primates who reside in Porton Down's bed and breakfast facilities! In a bleak and troubling feature, using data obtained under the Freedom of Information Act to explore the mind boggling amount of cash from the Land of the Free, who fund unseemly experiments on marmosets - Dilyana Gaytandzhieva writing exclusively for SouthFront - presents troubling data. Just don’t read the section on the experiments undertaken on the London Underground if you’re easily disturbed!

As they scrub up the town, I see Banksy is being “encouraged by council officials to make a cloak-and-dagger visit to Salisbury to brighten up the barriers being placed around sites contaminated in the nerve agent attack.” Yes - I’m sure that’s just the kind of thing he’d like to take on - decorating your hoardings! But hey - something he may be more interested in, are the screaming primates down the road. Now - some intervention around Porton Down would be interesting. Maybe if he digs a bit deeper, he might want to take on the husband and wife double act doing the comedy circuit - and I’m talking about real decision makers - not vaudeville arts and health horrors! 

Tom D. Rogers
writes online about Theresa May’s husband Philip, “who is a Senior Executive at a £1.4Tn investment firm [and] stands to benefit financially from the decisions his wife, the Prime Minister, makes.” Curious eh? Rogers astutely points out the huge conflict of interest this represents, particularly as the company Mr May is a Senior Executive of, is “Capital Group, an Investment Firm who buy shares in all sorts of companies across the globe – including thousands of shares in the world’s biggest Defence Firm, Lockheed Martin”. 

Rogers points to Investopedia, which suggests that “Philip May’s Capital Group owned around 7.09% of Lockheed Martin in March 2018 – a stake said to be worth more than £7Tn at this time”.

 We all know that Theresa May took the decision to take military action on Syria without wider parliamentary consultation in response to an apparent chemical attack on the city of Douma. Remember Turmp’s tweet: “…because they will be coming, nice and new and “smart!”, well Rogers suggests that the air strikes, “saw the debut of a new type of Cruise Missile, the JASSM, produced exclusively by the Lockheed Martin Corporation,” with every JASSM used, costing more than $1,000,000. Rogers point is simple, the air strikes on Syria have “hugely boosted Lockheed Martin’s share price when markets reopened on Monday, Philip May’s firm subsequently made a fortune from their investment in the Defence giant”. Talk about an immoral conflict of interest!
As Steven Poole points out in his critique of May’s use of the word ‘normalise’:

“Like everything else in the world, our own bombs are also made of chemicals, and they blow human beings up, but they are defined as “conventional” weapons and therefore unobjectionable. Only the worst kind of cynic, indeed, would suggest that the only weapons allowed to be “normalised” are those we sell to other countries.”

Perhaps a Banksy has never been more needed - but not for some dim-witted decorative effect - but to give vent to our seemingly impotent anger at such appalling day-to-day outrages.

New data protection laws and our North West Arts & Health Network
Over the years that I’ve been facilitating events and keeping up this blog in the name of a loose  collective of like minded people across the region, the size of the database which I maintain is groaning under the weight of its membership. With just under 5000 people signed up, but at the very least, 20% bounce-back from my round-robins (both out of office and people moving on) it’s becoming untenable to mange and time to change. So over the next month, all those people on the database will receive an email from me asking to confirm that you still want to receive regular updates. Bounce-backs and non-replies will be removed from the list. Of course, all of you who live further afield are more than welcome to be part of this community, but just be sure to respond to the email. Many thanks. The newly formed Culture, Health & Wellbeing Alliance will be appointing its new director shortly, and this will be a welcome addition to our arts and health community of interest. 

The Manchester Institute for Arts, Health & Social Change
I am very excited that in June we will be formally launching The Manchester Institute for Arts, Health & Social Change, and bucketloads of information will be shared over the next couple of months. For those of you who were involved in earlier events at Manchester School of Art and particularly at Culture & the Arts as Social Determinants of Health in February, I am pleased that Maxine Peake will be the cultural champion of The Manchester Institute for Arts, Health & Social Change. Below is an edit of the longer film she recorded for us. Enjoy.

Dementia & Imagination goes on the road...
Over the next few months some of us involved in the Dementia & Imagination research project will be going on the road sharing learning and offering some artist training for people wanting to develop their practice. Our first port of call with The Imagination Cafe, will be in Llandudno this week at the Mostyn, with training led by Chris Lewis-Jones. I'll post details of the London and Edinburgh events on this blog soon.I'll be at the Mostyn on Tuesday 24th April helping frame Chris' work through the Yellow Book, so if you're living and working in North Wales and are interested, do come along.

Please send events, opportunities, conferences and work opportunities for inclusion on this blog to:  

The next posting will include details of the next Live Well, make Art event in Wigan (22 May); the next Culture, Health & Wellbeing Alliance meeting (9th May); A Life More Ordinary (17/18 May); The National Alliance of Musicians in Healthcare Conference (4th June) and a very special guest at the Manchester School of Arts to explore ideas around The Big Anxiety Festival on 6th June.

Youth Music's grants programme
Arts Council England is to invest £38.6 million of funding into Youth Music, a national charity investing in music-making projects for children and young people in challenging circumstances, between 2018 and 2022. Each year, Youth Music funds around 350 music-making projects nationwide, reaching more than 75,000 children and young people. This work supports the musical, personal and social development of children and young people, as well as developing positive outcomes for the organisations it invests in and their workforce by funding diverse, creative and inclusive music-making projects wherever they’re needed most. Youth Making's funding programme is made up of three separate funds:
Fund A offers small grants (£2,000 to £30,000) for high quality music-making projects.
Fund B offers medium-sized grants (30,001 - £100,000 per year for up to two years) for larger programmes of work.
Fund C offers grants (£100,000 to £160,000) for strategic programmes to help embed sustainable, inclusive music-making across a local area.
Click HERE.

Innovate UK supporting game-changing ideas 
Innovate UK has up to £15 million to invest in great ideas for new innovations in a range of technology and business areas. Projects must work on disruptive ideas that could lead to new products, processes or services that are significantly ahead of others in the field. They can range from short feasibility studies to longer industrial research or experimental development projects. There must be a potential for commercialisation or economic impact.
 Click HERE.

Zadie Smith on Shame, Rage & Writing

Pink Ribbon Foundation Grants 2018 
Grants of up to £5,000 to UK charities which relieve the needs of people who are suffering from, or who have been affected by breast cancer or who work to advance the understanding of breast cancer, its early detection and treatment. Higher grants may be awarded if the trustees feel there is a special reason to do so. Any charity working in the field of breast cancer can apply for a grant. The funding is being provided by the Pink Ribbon Foundations. Applications from general cancer charities must demonstrate that the grants requested will be applied to benefit those affected by breast cancer. Where applications relate to general services, details must be given of how many (and what proportion) of the total number benefiting from the charity's work are affected by breast cancer. The closing date for applications is the 31st May 2018. Read more HERE.

CAN is seeking to recruit an Executive PA
Salary: £18,000-£22,000 per annum depending on experience. A company pension scheme is available after the six month probation period.
Deadline: 30th April
Community Arts North West (CAN) is a leading national organisation in the field of participatory arts, migration and social change. CAN’s work aims to create expression and visibility for the diverse people and artists based in the region through dynamic partnerships and inspirational programmes of work. CAN is an Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation and a Manchester City Council Cultural Partner. We’re looking to recruit an Executive PA to join our talented team at our city-centre base, in the thriving Northern Quarter of Manchester city centre. As a new full-time post, this is an exciting opportunity for a highly-organised individual to work closely with CAN’s Executive Director to ensure smooth running of many aspects of the company’s business. This will include: responsibility for office management; monitoring of the company’s work and data collection; maintaining and updating the CAN website and social-media; as well as various elements of company administration including supporting event-management and reporting to our core funders.
 Deadline 30th April. Click HERE.


Thursday, 15 March 2018

...enter the void

This last week I have had the great pleasure of being the guest of the artist, Professor Yutaka Moriguchi in the Department of Cultural Design at Kindai University in Osaka. It’s been my first visit to Japan and not without some deep fascination at a culture so rich in tradition - quite alien to my own - I have been quite hypnotised. With the generous support of The Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation we are establishing an exchange programme between Japanese and UK art and design undergraduates exploring health and wellbeing, alongside the preparation of a large-scale research programme between the two countries. I have been very honoured to be invited to be part of this work and will be reporting back on the Arts for Health website in due course. Thank you to all of you who made my time in Japan so rich, and your generous hospitality.

Whilst I’ve been away, the formal launch of the Culture, Health & Wellbeing Alliance took place in Birmingham. This alliance brings together the National Alliance for Arts, Health and Wellbeing with the National Alliance for Museums, Health and Wellbeing and involves 50 leading organisations. The Culture, Health and Wellbeing Alliance is a new national English organisation that will advocate for the work, provide training, resources and events, and develop understanding of how participating in cultural activities can help individual and community health and wellbeing.

As a free membership organisation it will work closely with the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing to bring about a step change in policy and delivery and aims to focus on a strong regional infrastructure to support development and progress in the field. The Culture, Health and Wellbeing Alliance is an Arts Council Sector Support Organisation, joining the National Portfolio of Organisations. To find out more about this work (and apply for the director position) please click on the new logo above. For those of you already engaged in the North West Arts & Health Network, please note that the new alliance aims to complement and support our agenda.

As the arts and health landscape evolves and grows in the UK, things in Finland are changing too, but then, the Finns have been doing extraordinary work in the field for years. It seems like only yesterday that I welcomed both Kirsi Lajunen and her colleagues from Arts Promotion Centre Finland, alongside Yutaka Moriguchi and a contingent of fifteen people from Japan, and my friends Ieva Petkute and Simona Karpavicute from Lithuania- all to to be part of 2020+ one of our free North West Arts and Health events. Subsequently Dr Kat Taylor was awarded a Churchill Travelling Fellowship and has spent some serious time in Finland exploring the arts and mental health, and you can read about some of her extraordinary work on her blog HERE.

Director of LIME Arts Dawn Prescott will be guest of Kirsi Lajunen speaking at an event about her work in healthcare environments at the Hospital of Espoo in Finland very shortly, and of course, as reported previously the connections between Arthur & Martha and their collaborative project with Ieva and Simona, exploring homelessness and called Sing Me to Sleep remains one of the most profound examples of social arts practice I’ve experienced, particularly as this work culminated in two exhibitions and people affected by homelessness travelling between Lithuania and the UK. So too, we’ve seen Julie McCarthy from 42nd Street and Stuart Webster from BlueSCI sharing their practice in Vilnius. Unexpected and surprising relationships form from these free events, some local, some international, but all exploring the fruitful possibilities of collaboration, learning and human exchange.

The heart of arts, culture and well-being in Finland
Taikusydän is a multisectoral coordination and communication center for activities and research among the broad field of arts, culture and well-being. Its aim is to make arts and culture a permanent part of well-being services.

Taikusydän encourages different actors to cooperate with each other. It launches a researchers´ network, joining together research in universities and other institutes. Taikusydän promotes proposals for actions suggested in the closing report of the national Art and Culture for Well-being programme 2010–2014. Over recent years, there has been increasing recognition that arts and culture have an important part to play in improving the health and wellbeing of people. Several studies have shown that experiencing the arts and culture may increase a sense of wellbeing and transform the quality of life for both individuals and communities. The unique role of the arts promoting, for example, social welfare, community engagement, participation in civic life, and improving living environments has been acknowledged. Research evidence has been gained to show the effectiveness of arts interventions in hospitals and other healthcare settings. By supplementing medicine and care, the arts can improve the health and welfare of people who experience mental or physical health problems. To find out much more, click on the wonderful image above.

As a young chap, I undertook a night class in my home town of Lancaster, and got an A-Level in sociology. It was quite revelatory for me, to insert some academic discipline into my otherwise empty head. This was where I was first introduced to sage figures like Durkheim (suicide) and the experiments of Rosenhan (THUD) that would go on an influence my thinking around what I do today. An essay I wrote at the time, was concerned with the British pub - not as some boozed up sleaze pit - but as the last bastion of working class community cohesion. 

Seems old hat now I’m sure, but as the gentrification of pubs, cafes and accommodation seems to move apace, wouldn’t it be a good idea to do something different in one of these dying places? Might people in a community whose pub is dying a slow death, reimagine one of these places, by doing something profound - and beyond my limited imagination. But does it need to be beer on tap, or something altogether more novel - some social glue.

Funding for communities to purchase their local pub (England)
Communities in England looking to take responsibility for and ownership of their local pub, through purchase or long-term lease can now apply for financial support through the Community Pub Business Support Programme. A total of £3.62 million is available over two years and the support package includes business development support, advice and loan and grant funding. The financial support includes flexible bursary awards of up to £2,500 to fund pre-feasibility costs such as public consultation and valuations and combined loan and grant funding up to £100,000. The programme has been extended and is now open for applications until the end of March 2019. Read more by clicking on Bet or Rita below. 

Manchester Museum appoints Esme Ward as its Director
Esme Ward, who is currently the Head of Learning & Engagement at Manchester Museum and the Whitworth, said: “I am thrilled to be appointed the new Director of Manchester Museum. The vision to use its collections to promote understanding between cultures and a sustainable world could not be more timely or relevant.”
Esme will take up her new role at the Museum, the largest of its kind in the UK, on Monday 9 April, succeeding Nick Merriman. She says her career has been driven by a social purpose and longstanding commitment to make museums even more inclusive and relevant to a wider audience. These range from babies to people living with dementia.

It is something Esme wants to explore even further in her new role, adding: “I am hugely excited to lead the Museum at this critical time, build upon its excellent work to date and realise its potential as the UK’s most inclusive, imaginative and caring museum.”

Esme joined the Whitworth as its Education Officer in 1998 before becoming Head of Learning & Engagement across the Whitworth and Manchester Museum in 2010. In recent years she also worked alongside Maria Balshaw to transform the Whitworth and help it win Art Fund Museum of the Year in 2015. Esme also recently completed a year-long Clore Cultural Leadership Fellowship, including a placement with the Heritage Lottery Fund. Read more HERE.

I extend my personal congratulations to Esme who I am thrilled to be working with co-curating the arts/health strands of the World Healthcare Congress - 2019 and 2020. She is a great asset to Greater Manchester and the UK’s heritage and cultural sectors and has some strong values that we should all aspire to share. Superb news.
Arts Council England announces new £14.4 million fund to cultivate individual talent
ACE has launched Developing your Creative Practice, a new £14.4m fund specifically designed to support independent creative practitioners. The programme is unlike any other current Arts Council fund, because it will give practitioners time to work on ambitious and innovative projects, without the immediate pressure of showing their work publicly. Recipients will be able to use the funding to support periods of research, to develop new work and ideas, work internationally, and for training, networking or mentoring.

£3.6 million will be available annually for four years for Developing your Creative Practice. Applicants will be able to apply for grants from £2, 000 to £10,000 from 12 April 2018. Application guidance will be published on Tuesday 13 March, more information is available HERE.

Grants of up to £10,000 for projects helping disadvantaged & neglected children 
Not for profit organisations such as schools; registered charities; voluntary organisations; churches; and community interest groups; etc. can apply for grants of up to £10,000 per year for up to 3 years for projects that help children and young people overcome the effects of:
Illness, distress, abuse or neglect
Behavioural or psychological difficulties
Poverty and deprivation.
The closing date for applications is the 13th May 2018. Read more HERE.

Funding for library innovators re-opens for applications

The Carnegie UK Trust has launched the third funding round of the ‘Carnegie Library Lab' programme. The Library Lab programme is designed to support and develop innovation and leadership in the public library sector across the UK and Ireland. The Trust are looking for applications from individual library staff working in early and mid-management roles across the UK and Ireland. Successful applicants will work with the Trust as Carnegie Partners for 18 months (June 2018 and September 2019). Carnegie Library Lab offers participants financial support of between £5,000 and £15,000 for participants to:
Develop and deliver an innovative, practical project in their local library service
Exclusive access to a bespoke online learning programme to support innovation, leadership and skills development
Access to an external mentor to assist with project management and personal development
Networking events including face-to-face meetings and online platform
An external evaluation.
The closing date for applications is 5pm on the 5th April 2018. Read more HERE.  

...foot note! Whilst I'm away I see Doddy has died!! The man did five hour shows in his 80's for goodness sakes. Just to think, I was going to ask him to be a special guest speaker at the Arts and Health Suitcase/Exchange & Mart on 19th April. Hey Ho.


Sunday, 4 March 2018

The Space Between

Don't forget to put the Big Arts and Health Suitcase or EXCHANGE & MART in your diary for April 19th. I've had a lot of interest in people attending and contributing, so I'll set up a dedicated page for this very soon.
The blog posting prior to this one has the basic gist of it for you.

For those of you interested in the machinations of the National Alliance for Arts, Health & Wellbeing here are two pieces of news - one, its imminent metamorphosis and two, as a consequence of this, a cracking job for the right person! Read on below the little film...

Future Culture, Health and Wellbeing Alliance announced
The National Alliance for Museums, Health and Wellbeing and the National Alliance for Arts, Health and Wellbeing are pleased to announce that from April 2018 we will be merging to become a new Sector Support Organisation, the Culture, Health and Wellbeing Alliance (CHWA). Funded by Arts Council England as part of the National Portfolio Fund 2018-2022, the new organisation will be led by Arts & Health South West. For further information see the press release HERE.

Evening launch event for Culture, Health and Wellbeing Alliance

On 13 March between 5.30-7.30pm there will be an evening event to launch the new Culture, Health and Wellbeing Alliance at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. Please note separate bookings will need to be made for this event and the conference. For more information and to book visit Launch invite 13th March. Click on the invite below.

DIRECTOR of the Culture, Health and Wellbeing Alliance

The Director of the Culture, Health and Wellbeing Alliance will be responsible for developing the organisation over the next four years, from its launch as a new Arts Council National Portfolio Sector Support Organisation to its establishment as an independent charity. Deadline: Midnight 25th March 

Hours: Part time, 3 days per week
Salary: £40,000 per annum pro rata
Deadline for applications: Sunday 25th March 2018

Interviews: Wednesday 25th April 2018, The Thackray Museum, Leeds.

The Culture, Health and Wellbeing Alliance represents the merger of the National Alliance for Arts, Health and Wellbeing and the National Alliance for Museums, Health and Wellbeing to create a dynamic new sector support organisation that will build on our combined strengths.

The Director of the Culture, Health and Wellbeing Alliance will be an inspirational leader responsible for developing the organisation over the next four years, from its launch as a new Arts Council National Portfolio Sector Support Organisation to its establishment as an independent charity. 

The Director will have a strong track record of work in the cultural sector and experience of working successfully with health and social care. They will have passion, drive, commitment and integrity with a creative approach to problem solving and high level communication and negotiation skills. They will be enthusiastic about engaging with the many challenges that cross-sector working presents and be a passionate advocate for the benefits of the arts and culture for health and wellbeing. 

The Culture, Health and Wellbeing Alliance and its alliance partners are committed to being an inclusive employer that welcomes staff members from a wide variety of backgrounds. Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people, as well as disabled people, are currently underrepresented in leadership roles in the field of arts and health. We welcome and encourage BAME and disabled candidates to apply for this post. In compliance with the Equality Act, we offer a guaranteed interview scheme for disabled applicants who meet all the essential criteria. 
To obtain a copy of the latest version of the business plan email Alex Coulter, Director of Arts & Health South West, at 

Please submit a CV and letter of application explaining how you meet the person specification (maximum 1000 words) to Alex Coulter at by midnight on Sunday 25th March 2018. 
We welcome any general queries about the application process and would be pleased to provide the application pack in a different format. Please contact Alex Coulter at or on 07973 345967. Full details HERE.

Report on the benefits of music for people living with dementia
New research by ILC-UK’s Commission on Dementia and Music, ‘What would life be – without a song or a dance what are we?  examines the existing offer and the future potential for using therapeutic music with dementia. The findings indicate that listening to music helps tackle anxiety, depression and agitation among people living with dementia.  Whilst recognising the budgetary constraints of local authorities and clinical commissioning groups, given the number of people living with dementia is expected to reach one million by 2025, the report recommends increased funding and more research into the cost effectiveness of such programmes.  The report also calls for a dedicated music and dementia task force, a campaign to raise awareness of the value of music interventions and a national database of local provision for people living with dementia. Download full report HERE.

SpareParts 2018 Jobs & Artist Call

Are you passionate about helping to transform the cultural landscape in the North of England? SpareParts is an outdoor arts festival dedicated to all things transport, travel and motion, and who are seeking an experienced Programme Manager, Participation Manager and a range of Artists to join the team that delivers 3 festivals in Sandbach (22nd April), Crewe (7th July) and Fleetwood (15th July). 

Programme Manager 
Deadline 28th February

Participation Officer 
Deadline 2nd March.

Artist call out 
Deadline 28th February.

Richard Creme
Some of you might have attended the opening of Richard Creme's solo show at Manchester School of Art in May 2012. This week, it is with much sadness that I hear Richard has passed away. My very best thoughts to his close family and I very much hope we will be able to mark Richard's incredible life, his huge contribution to Manchester cultural life and fashion, and of course his extraordinary and beautiful art that he only started to produce in the years since he had a stroke. For now, below there's a taste of the exhibition in this little film made by the Stroke Association, and hopefully there'll be something more substantial to celebrate his life, very soon.  

Funding to support artists & bands (England)
PRS for Music Foundation has announced that the next application deadline for the Momentum Music Fund is 6pm on the 29th May 2018. Artists or bands at a crucial tipping point in their careers who are showing current progression and growth can apply for a grant of £5,000-£15,000 to significantly develop their careers over the next two years. Activities eligible for support include recording, touring and marketing. Applications can be submitted by the artists themselves or those who are working on their behalf, for example, a manager, an independent label or publisher.

Priority will be given to those that haven't been funded by PRS for Music Foundation in the previous 12 months. Read more HERE. 


Sunday, 18 February 2018

Arts and Health - Exchange & Mart

Hold on to your hats, here's another completely free North West Arts & Health Network event!

What's all this? - another free event - and with a 100% genuine guarantee that there'll be no - absolutely no - arts and health free-marketeers taking your hard-earned cash. This is all about the people that drive social change, those who work in the field - artists, health and social care workers, volunteers and people who 'use' services. In short - the people who are part of this arts and health community because of their commitment and vision - those who see the bigger picture from a place of experience.

Arts for Health is partnering with Greggs* and the University of Life to present the umpteenth North West Arts and Health Suitcase! It will take place on Thursday 19 April 2018 at the Manchester School of Art. But just what's in the suitcase? - well, let's wait and see!

For now - and still keeping hold of your hats - let's think what we might be able to offer each other, and maybe what we need. What skills we have, what passions we are pursuing and even what resources we could share, or need. You might be bursting with ideas, that others could support you with. Individually and collectively - we've so much to learn from each other - and even more potential.

And this isn't about us trying to do things 'on the cheap' - on the contrary - it's about us thinking and doing things differently, gathering momentum and nurturing new possibilities.

Booking and much, much more very soon...

*denotes gibberish, but you must admit it got you hungry and kept you reading! Alas, there'll be no food, but I may push the boat out and get us some drinks! Plus I've tried to fit this event in at the end of the day, so most people that have daytime commitments, might be able to come along...

Liberace's first all singing and dancing music & health celebrity showtime

Grants to engage young people & adults in science & arts in the North West of England
Organisations (preferably with charitable status) based in the north-west of England are invited to approach the Granada Foundation with imaginative proposals for projects that will encourage and promote the study, practice and appreciation of science and the arts. The Foundation aims to make the region a richer and more attractive place in which to live and work. Currently, applications from projects that will engage and inspire people of all ages to take an interest in science are particularly welcome. Preference is given to new projects; festivals and other annual events are supported but there is no guarantee of year on year support. The Advisory Council of the Foundation meets to consider applications three times a year and the next closing date for applications is the 29th March 2018. Read more HERE.  

Grants to help new, innovative visual arts projects 
The Elephant Trust has announced the next deadline for applications is the 3rd April 2018. The Trust offers grants to artists and for new, innovative visual arts projects. It aims to make it possible for artists and those presenting their work to undertake and complete projects when confronted by lack of funds. The Trust supports projects that develop and improve the knowledge, understanding and appreciation of the fine arts. Priority is given to artists and small organisations and galleries making or producing new work or exhibitions. The Trust normally awards grants of up to £2,000, but larger grants of up to £5,000 may be considered. Read more HERE. 

Masonic Charitable Foundation Community Support Grants 
Registered charities in England and Wales can apply for funding to the Masonic Charitable Foundation's Community Support Grants Scheme. Funding is available for projects to:
Tackle financial hardship
Improve the lives of those affected by poor physical and/or mental health and wellbeing
Provide educational and employment opportunities for disadvantaged children and young people
Tackle social exclusion and disadvantage.
Charities can apply for large grants of £5,000 and above or for small grants of between £500 and £5,000. The next closing date for applications to the small grants programme is the 23rd February 2018. For large grants programme it is the 25th May 2018. If applying for a Large Grant, applicants must first submit a Grant Enquiry Form.  The deadline for submitting the Grant Enquiry form is the 4th May 2018. Read more HERE, or by clicking on those Masonic Women above!

What A Life!

And in our series of occasional films to mark the the 70th anniversary of the NHS, this week we present: What A Life!

British Public Information Films (1949)
Director: Michael Law
Sponsor: Central Office of Information

"This Richard Massingham film is a bizarre contribution from the Crown Film Unit, and addresses the challenges Britain faced in the austere post-war era. Wartime enthusiasm and self-confidence had become seriously eroded by the crisis-laden year of 1947.  Domestically, the continuation of rationing, including for the first time bread (between 1946-48) and the fuel and economic crises, together with Indian independence, 1947 was largely a year that dented the immediate post war assurances.

Although the wartime Lend-Lease agreement had enabled Britain to continue its struggle against the Axis Powers alone, it gave the misleading appearance of the nation as a first-rank power. In the immediate post war years it gradually became hard to understand how as a winning power, head of a great empire, second only to USA in influence, became so austere and destitute.

The film has no obvious point beyond, as the British Film Institute pointed out, displaying Massingham's fondness for black humour and parodying along the way that familiar complaint, "the country is going to the dogs!" In fact this film caused some controversy in Parliament.  On 15 February 1949, the Conservative MP for Twickenham, Edward Keeling asked the President of the Board of Trade in the House of Commons. "Has the Lord President seen this film? Does he know that it shows two men so depressed by the conditions of life the in England today that they try to drown themselves, but make a mess of it? Does he really think that this is the sort of film on which £9,000 of taxpayers' money should be spent?" "