Sunday, March 18, 2012

Women's Health Choices, Loneliness, Binge Drinking, 2 Dance Opportunities and more...

Thinking about the reach of the arts on public health, often results in ‘nanny state’ productions that often leave the target audience feeling either patronised, or humiliated. Popular culture however, has the power to engage with hot political issues and reach huge numbers of people. Amid heated debate about pre-termination ultrasound laws in the USA, cartoonist, Garry Trudeau has decided to take on the abortion wars head-on in his cartoon strip Doonesbury, which, because of its contentious subject matter for Americans in election year, has been pulled from several newspapers. In an interview with the Washington Post, Trudeau commented:
‘I chose the topic of compulsory sonograms because it was in the news and because of its relevance to the broader battle over women's health currently being waged in several states. For some reason, the GOP has chosen 2012 to re-litigate reproductive freedom, an issue that was resolved decades ago. Why [Rick] Santorum, [Rush] Limbaugh et al. thought this would be a good time to declare war on half the electorate, I cannot say. But to ignore it would have been comedy malpractice.’
To read more of this interview with Trudeau, click on the cartoon below. To see some of the  cartoon strips, click on the cartoon above!

Loneliness is as big a killer as smoking, obesity and alcohol, campaigners warned as they held the first major summit on loneliness last week.

Care Services Minister Paul Burstow announced that councils, responsible for public health from April 2013, will be urged to conduct an audit of health and care services and identify how they can help reduce levels of isolation. Mr Burstow said: 

"Loneliness is the great unspoken public health issue. Research suggests it is more harmful to health than obesity and that there is a 50 per cent reduction in mortality if you have a strong social network. Research has shown that loneliness can be as harmful to your health as alcohol and tobacco, but we also know that people who have day- to-day contact live longer and healthier lives. The Government is working with the Campaign to End Loneliness to raise awareness about just how important even a simple phone call or visit can be to someone's health." Read the full article here.
Research published in 2006 from the American Sociological Review and based on surveys of 1,531 people in 1985 and 1,467 in 2004 show that in 1985, the average American had three people to whom they could confide matters that were important to them, but in 2004, that number dropped to two, and one in four had no close confidants at all. The same research illustrated the percentage of people who confide only in family increased from 57% to 80%, and the number of people who depend exclusively on a spouse is up from 5% to 9%. (Thanks CMG)

‘Americans have a third fewer close friends and confidants than just two decades ago — a sign that people may be living lonelier, more isolated lives than in the past.’'

For those of involved in the arts/health field, we know just how true this is and that engagement with culture and the arts can have a profound impact on anyone who is socially isolated. Of course the pleasure of friendship and solidarity is wonderful, but so to is the challenge and stimulation that the participatory arts offer. We mustn’t lose sight of the ever-changing political and social climate that we currently inhabit and if politicians are identifying the burgeoning issues associated with isolation, particularly amongst our older citizens, it’s an area we should be clear to assert both our role, and our potency.

And if you missed this in the weekend papers, there's an interesting piece of research that points to the 'dark side' of Facebook linking it and other social media platforms to socially aggressive narcissism, obsession with self-image and shallow friendships. Read it and weep, or laugh maniacally. (Thanks Dr S)

This week, the comment on manifesto part one, and the power of the arts for giving voice, comes from a friend and colleague in Kabul, artist Shamsia Hassani.
‘There are some unknown words in my mind: some unclear feeling in my heart which is removing me to an unknown world, the world that everyone is writing with their own inside alphabet. I call this world ART.’

Ommolbanin - Shamsia Hassani, Artist

To find out more about Ommolbanin and Freedom to Create, click on the image above.

Fri, 23 Mar 2012
12.00 PM - 3.00 PM
Dance Conversations presents a free opportunity for Merseyside Dance artists and companies working in the field of dance and health and professionals from the health and social care to network and share ideas and practice and information on existing or future projects and research.

This is an amazing opportunity for 12 North West Graduates and Artists.
Auditions for the FIRST EVER North West Graduate Dance Company

INFO - Supported by Arts Council England, NWGDC will create original and exciting work to tour the region and will offer training in Teaching and Learning as well as develop Business and Entrepreneurial skills to support a career in dance.

AUDITION DATES - Auditions are Saturday 14 April 2012 at Edge Hill University, Ormskirk and Sunday 15 April at The Lowry, Salford Quays.
Applicants will be required from 10.00am until 6.00pm DEVISING - Based at Edge Hill University, the first devising process to create new work with  Alesandra Seutin begins  Monday 28 May until Sunday 10 June  2012.  The second devising with Gary Clarke and Antonia Grove begins Monday 20 August until Saturday 25 August 2012. 

TOURING - Rehearsals and tour begin September 2012 and run until beginning of December  2012. Please note that successful applicants will be required for additional rehearsal dates which will be confirmed before the audition.

INTERNSHIPS - Internships are scheduled for Spring 2013. These will provide company members with work based learning opportunities.

WHO CAN APPLY? - Anyone who has graduated since 2007 with a degree in Dance
or an appropriate degree in Performing Arts .   All applicants must live in
the North West of England. All applicants MUST be available during the above periods for devising, touring and internships.

DEADLINE - Deadline for applications is 12.00 mid-day, Friday 23 March 2012

WHAT TO DO NEXT - For more information and an application pack please contact Gil Wilson-Graystone, Project Manager at 

VOCAB dance video  


Did stone age cave women and men talk to each other in symbols? This is a fascinating article bringing together research around the symbols that adorn many cave paintings. Click on the image for more. Beautiful and resonating across time.

An excellent article by Alice Jones in the Independent exploring alcohol in contemporary culture, and how two theatre companies have used the arts to tell an all to familiar story.
‘Last summer, the performance artist Bryony Kimmings locked herself in a warehouse in Bethnal Green, east London and got drunk for a week. Not for fun, you understand, but in the name of art: her aim was to explore the links between intoxication and creativity, or to find out whether she was a better artist when she was drunk.’ (7 Day Drunk)
‘The Paper Birds trawled the pubs and clubs of London and Leeds to find the raw material for their latest show, Thirsty. They set up a hotline, printed up business cards with the words "Are you drunk? Call this number" and used the voicemails they received as the inspiration for their play about young women and binge drinking, performed to a shouty soundtrack of karaoke classics on a set made out of toilet cubicles.’ (Thirsty)

'Thirsty', touring to 2 April (; '7 Day Drunk', to 31 March, Soho Theatre, London, then touring to 26 May (

...and finally, in a spirit of high self-esteem and Facebook-induced, deluded, dance-flavoured blogging, here is Gene Kelly tap dancing on roller-skates. What better start to our week? Life is good...C.P.