Sunday, September 30, 2012

কলা + সংস্কৃতি = শক্তি

This week, overwhelmed by work and all that life throws at us, I felt on the brink of something dark - but that’s best avoided. On Thursday evening, I’d pulled together a small networking event and felt a degree of trepidation about it - it was informal, but that kind of makes me over-compensate. Of course, everyone who came along was full of life and so deeply involved and enthusiastic about their work, it was the tonic that I needed. More of that in a moment.

Thanks Holly ar the RNCM
It emerged this week that former Home Secretary and MP for Blackburn, Jack Straw has experienced his fair share of mental distress, and spoke eloquently on the Today Programme about his experience of serious depression. Apart from delivering a glib, ‘you have to be mad to be a politician’ one-liner, he did stress the normality of mental ill health and like Alistair Campbell, emphasised that the prejudice that surrounds mental illness is harder to overcome than physical ill-health. I’d like to see more of the politicians and public figures admitting to their vulnerabilities when they are in office. For me, (and its a mantra I often repeat) the statistics about 1 in 4 of us experiencing mental health problems, is useful when we think about slumping into a clinical crisis; but the truth is, we’re all on that spectrum of what it is to be human and its the strangest things that can lift us out of it, or push us deeper into it. 

Last weeks blog posting on Ben Goldacre’s, Bad Medicine got a lot of hits, and I’m particularly thankful to one keen-eyed reader for pointing out my subtle medicinal error! Did no one else notice? All sorted, thanks to the observations of a forensic scholar. So, that networking evening - a small group of intelligent, articulate and passionate people. We met because we believe in something - something essential about the human condition and how this thing we call arts/health might just be part of the way we address some of the inequalities in life.

Inequalities: they sound dull don’t they, but they are interesting! Do you know that access to this blog and the billion other opportunities that the internet offers in the UK, is restricted by vast numbers of people who have no access to the web. This digital divide is an extension of the inequalities we all know about, but that further strips away opportunities that should be available to all of us. ‘While the majority of people in  the UK have access to the  internet, there are still 10 million people who do not. Of these people, 4 million are are the most socially and economically disadvantaged in the country.’ For those of us who use the web to read, catch up with friends, buy and sell, ask questions, give answers, or even find love - the thought of not having this incredible resource is completely shocking. How bereft would you feel without the world at your fingertips. So it’s an outrage, that those of us marginalised by poverty and issues like our age, are yet again isolated by our lack of internet connectedness. Click on the image below for more 21st Century Challanges.

Over a third of older people feel lonely, says new research...

Following a recent poll by AgeUK and YouthNet, that was published this thursday, a tiny little article by Yvonne Roberts in the Observer highlights the need to move beyond just asking the questions that we surely all know the  answers to, to addressing the issues. The work, which is focused on thinking about how younger people can teach older people the skills of social media, isn’t under criticism, but it is reiterating what’s blindingly obvious. Roberts’ focus is very much on the social and emotional divides of loneliness and takes our diversity and our introvert/extrovert natures into account. She call’s for ‘fewer polls and more imaginative support’, and critically for us to think about how throughout life, we might make ourselves resilient against loneliness in later life.

Talking of ‘imaginative support’, some of you will have met Claire Ford when she presented her research from her Churchill Fellowship at a networking event in January. Her work bringing some of these IT skills and creative passion to people experiencing dementia, is flourishing and if you go to her blog, you’ll be able to catch up with some exciting developments in her ongoing iPad engAGE project. Brilliant stuff Claire - and like the ongoing work of Anne Basting, great leaps can be made in human flourishing by focusing on imagination and new possibilities, over reductionism and pathologising. Click on the iPad for more info and Claire's latest newsletter.

So at that networking event, that I was overcompensating at, bringing along ideas to share...well, it was a doddle. People were lovely and had so much to share. I took along a copy of the latest incarnation of the manifesto and shared some of the key points. I also took the National Charter for Arts, Health and Wellbeing, which the National Alliance for Arts, Health & Wellbeing will publish in October. Of course, our manifesto with all its allusions to the troubles that life can bring - the lows as well as the highs, resonates deeply. For all of you who contributed to manifesto part one, a lovely hard copy of part two will wing its way to you in the post, free of charge, once I take delivery. More of that in a couple of weeks.

I was thrilled to share news of a new and incredibly exciting arts/health opportunity that is emerging in Greater Manchester. I hope to be able to share something that we can all be involved in, very, very soon.

So my malaise has lifted. I can feel it lurking somewhere, but a mix of friendship and seeing the possibilities of what life throws at us, has restarted and gently lifted me upwards.*
Hey ho.      

Tesco Charity Trust Community Awards 
(UK) - Autumn Deadline
Charitable groups who are working locally across the UK to support elderly people and adults and children with disabilities have until the end of this month to submit their application for funding. The Tesco Charity Trust offers its Community Awards scheme four times a year to registered charities and not-for-profit organisations working on local projects that benefit communities close to Tesco stores in the UK.

The scheme has two strands: one which supports elderly people and adults and children with disabilities and a second which supports children and their education and welfare. There are two funding rounds per strand per year. Last year, the Trust distributed nearly £700,000 to local community charities through the scheme.

Groups can apply for one-off awards of between £500 and £4,000 which will support practical things such as equipment and resources. Projects previously supported include luncheon clubs, specialist equipment for disabled people, day trips and social trips for elderly or disabled people.

Decisions are normally made about three months after the closing date by the regional Community Co-ordinators who are based in Tesco stores across the UK. The closing date for applications for the current round for Elderly People and/or People with Disabilities is 30 September 2012. Full details can be found on the Tesco Charity Trust website. 

People’s Lottery Dream Fund
Deadline 31st October 2012
Now in its third year, the Dream Fund has already helped to transform communities across the country. The £400,000 funding pot offers charities and organisations the chance to work together and apply for up to £100,000 for an innovative 12 month project that will enhance the local community. Registered charities and community organisations in Scotland, Merseyside or Greater Manchester can apply. This year, they are encouraging applications from projects seeking to: 
  • Encourage active living
  • Bring communities together
  • Tackle climate change
  • Expand life opportunities

Heritage Lottery Fund Announces New Funding Programmes (UK)
The Heritage Lottery Fund has announced that the “Your Heritage” grants programme will be replaced by two new funding programmes.  The new Sharing Heritage programme will make grants of up to £10,000 to not-for-profit group wanting to explore, share and celebrate their community’s heritage. This can include:
  • Events
  • Exhibitions
  • Festivals and celebrations
  • Producing local history publications
  • Conservation of individual heritage items
  • Volunteer training and support. 
The new Our Heritage programme will make grants of up to £100,000 to all types of heritage projects. For example:
Smaller parks and green spaces
Community buildings
Museum collections and archives as well as activity projects exploring languages
Cultures and memories. 

Both new programmes will open for applications in February 2013. Read more at: 

Arts Council Launches Creative People & Places Fund Round II (England)
The Arts Council England has launched the second funding round of its Creative People and Places Fund. This is a new £37 million fund to help people living in places where involvement in the arts is significantly below the national average to participate in the arts. The Creative People and Places Fund will operate over three years.  It will invest in around 15 programmes of activity that use radical new approaches to developing excellent, inspiring and sustainable arts experiences for communities not currently engaging with the arts.  The Arts Council is keen to encourage long-term collaborations between local communities and arts organisations, museums, libraries and local authorities.  The Arts Council anticipate that the majority of funds awarded will be for between £500,000 and £3 million over three years. Projects supported during round 1 include:
  • Transforming lorries and vans into flexible artwork and arts spaces
  • Touring to local festivals
  • Schools
  • Workplaces
  • Towns and villages
  • Providing opportunities for people to get involved with art on their doorstep.  
The closing date for applications is the 12th December 2012. Read more at:

Two footnotes:

1. *After torrential rain, the sun emerged and walking out away from the city, I saw a stunted and windswept old oak that I know, bathed in a moments sunlight. The sight of its little shivering leaves turning golden, shocked me. Within the hour, the sun had set and a beautiful old full-moon rose over the eastern sky. did you see the moon that night?

2. A glib and slightly offensive Andy Williams anecdote.
When I was a small boy, my parents had an Andy Williams single - Almost There. The b-side was On a Street Where You Live. I always claimed it was naff, but secretly loved it - both sides. Years past and I covertly collected ‘Andy’ albums. Velvety crooner, all nostalgia, and discreetly camp. Of course, I inherited the single too.

I went to see him at the Bridgewater Hall a few years ago, and it was great. I was thrilled to be one of the youngest people in the audience too, which after being one of the oldest at Grimes recently; was a real treat. Anyway, after the show in which he sang Almost There and reduced me to a gibbering wreck, I decided, I had to meet the man, and at the very least, get my program signed. Sycophantic? You bet.

At the stage door, I asked the bouncers if he would be coming out to the fans. A rather large man  told me that under no circumstances would Mr Williams be signing autographs - he doesn’t do that any more! Shocked, and not one to be put off, I went with a friend to where the tour-bus waited. It was a wonderful moment. There were at least 8 people in wheelchairs waiting, who like me, wanted to meet their idol. After what seemed an interminable length of time, he appeared - small, bronzed and perfectly preserved - better, he was accompanied by that very same bouncer. Immediately, Andy was there, bending down to the massed, adoring fans, signing photos, shaking hands. seeing the opportunity, I rushed forwards, knowing it was now or never. ‘Andy,’ I shouted, moving closer program held high, but that bouncing brute had seen me, and with a cuff of the back of his hand, screamed, ‘Mr Williams only does the disabled.’ I fell to the floor - horrified, dazed and confused. Shocking eh? And I am sorry if it causes offence, but here is my souvenir photograph of said incident, captured by the ‘paparazzi.’ (this is a sanitised version)

Thank you so much...C.P.