Saturday, December 29, 2012

“...the trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts.”

Shivering in my seasonal malaise, I can already feel the pessimistic tendencies rearing their heads (yes: heads - plural - think, Hydra for mental state, and what feels like Hendra for the viral state). All that forced new year jollity and promises fit for breaking. I know I’m supposed to be suffused with the spirit of the age and isn’t arts/health all happy-clappy? NO. I am constantly reminded that whilst of course, creativity, culture and the arts have the power to give us something of the numinous and take us out of ourselves: they also have the potential to help us express/make sense of our frustrations, anger and fear. When I am caught offguard  by grief and loss, nothing helps me more than the pain that song-writers and poets expose me too. Terrible for the heart at the time, but through all that murk and sorrow there’s a sense of being part of the world. Neither happy or in the remotest bit clappy, but cathartic and ultimately providing more than a dose of prescribed sedation ever could. 

So, with baited breath, I read that the Barbican and Wellcome Trust are working together on a series of events around science and the arts called; Wonder: Art & Science on the Brain. Will this be more illustrative art subserviently telling the genius stories of science, or else artists just using the palette that science offers them: a splash of DNA here, or a flickering neuron there? No, I’m being a little glib - this looks damn fine stuff: a series of events that explore this relationship in detail, through art and science.

But might the bright lights and big funding of neuroscience be both appealing and possibly reductive - stripping the essence of being human into a neat set of pulsing signals, or else a heady cocktail of chemical slush? I see science maintaining its place in the emerging coalition curriculum, as the arts get kicked into the long grass. It is very sweet of the Guardian to offer us a neat little box that asks What is Neuroscience, and provide us with answers in five handy bight-sized haikus? I wonder if they can answer, What is Art 
in such neat little packages? 

Neuroscience is the study of the nervous system and the understanding of thought, behaviour and emotion.
The discipline predates ancient Greece but came of age with the discovery of electrical nerve impulses in the 18th century.
Tools including supercomputers, brain dyes and magnetic resonance imaging scanners are regularly used by modern neuroscientists.
Neuroscientists aim to explain how the brain works and find ways to treat neurological and psychiatric disorders.
Their work could help tackle conditions including strokes, schizophrenia, Alzheimer's disease, brain injury and cerebral palsy.        

I notice that music artist and DJ James Holden has been commissioned to create a soundtrack “to engender a high state of consciousness in the audience” at the Barbican. Oh, it’s that powerful stuff music again and I have no doubt whatsoever, that this will be superb - perhaps almost profound as Jeremy Deller’s sublime Acid Brass from 2004 that conjoined the beauty of traditional brass band music (imagine, young men and women from working class communities creating, learning and loving music like this) with Acid House* anthems. 

There seems to be lots of arts/health research underway with our genteel older citizens, enjoying the benefits of communal singing - wouldn’t it be interesting to see some research around the long-term benefits of euphoria induced by the music of 808 State and the KLF?

Sooner than the Barbican events which take place in March, the National Theatre have a new play by writer of ENRON, Lucy Prebble, which explores the effects of chemicals on the brain taking into account the nature of love and authenticity of feeling, via the value of sadness and depression as important, everyday life-experiences. Perfect - is the thing we describe as love real, or just a chemical reaction?

I’ve quoted endlessly (for good reason) from both Jonah Lehrer in Proust was a Neuroscientist calling for a fourth culture, where science and the arts, (the twin pillars of society), learn from each other as oppose to just co-opting each others appearance: and Gary Greenberg in the illuminating Manufacturing Depression, telling the story of the pharmaceutical industries grip on our psychic terrain, far more eloquently than I ever could. (...and do remember, in all of this, I am not talking about crippling clinical depression) 

Oxford Professor of Mathematics, Marcus du Sautoy eloquently describes this constant pitching of artists and scientists as opposites, as a false dichotomy suggesting they are both ‘homing in on the same structure.’ I’d take it further than that and strip away what it is to be an artist or scientist, and just ask what is it to be human? To be curious, to love and be aware of mortality? All humans are concerned with these profound notions at certain points in their lives. All people. Artists and scientists can of course, offer us something to meditate on - sometimes these will be conjoined and profound and at other times, quite rightly, they’ll operate from their own unique spheres, but infected by what it means to be alive here and now. 

The Effect
Love is double blind.
A clinical romance that explores questions of sanity, neurology and the limits of medicine. Director Rupert Goold reunites with designer Miriam Buether following their production of Earthquakes in London to deliver a vibrant theatrical exploration into the human brain via the heart. To learn more about the science and the inspiration behind The Effect go to

Keep Breathing 

For those of you lucky enough to be able to see this show, I'm sure you'll enjoy all its elements. If you can't make it, I hope you'll enjoy this song from the performance. 

Infected by both melancholia and some seasonal bug, I discovered a peaty-highland drink, that offered me a level of sedation and a degree of physical warmth! With a modest prescription, I took myself off to see the 1962 ‘epic’ Lawrence of Arabia at the cinema. I wasn’t sure what I’d make of it. Was it jingoistic? Offensive? Not exactly a teenager, I was probably the youngest there - and there were some very dubious stereotypes on screen. But the story was compelling and the landscapes' were utterly, utterly beautiful. It was full of some wonderful T.E. Lawrence quotes too, not least, in not minding that something hurts. Psychic as well as physical I wonder? Isn't a degree of emotional pain a healthy part of our evolution?

As the guilty host reservoir of some vile germ and a seasonal miserabilist, I sat far away from the other humans present and periodically decanted a slug of this peaty-stuff and was taken away into a less self-pitying place and memories of my first exposure to extreme wilderness in the form of the Australian interior and memories of heat and dust.

Now, as my bleary eyes cast a glance over the feudal honours list that bestows fake grandeur on the great and good of our dear little Albion, I notice Tracey Emin (wasn’t she threatening to leave these shores on account of tax rises for the filthy rich?) has been awarded some ghastly gong for her services to culture, alongside Olympians Coe, Wiggins et al. For Queen and Empire eh? Fellow cynics: shall we keep our eyes peeled on the legacy of the Olympic Games over 2013? I will be curious to see the ruddy cheeked young athletes of the future, throwing away their ham burgers and french fries and vaulting into a golden dawn of athleticism. So too, the Cultural Olympiad legacy - will we witness more jubilant dancing in our streets: a slump in high-street (tax avoiding) coffee consumption and a resurgence of bakers, florists and potters? Will all hate-crime against people with disabilities fade into a pre-olympian history? 

When organiser of the Olympic opening ceremony, Danny Boyle was asked on Front Row, if he’d like a knighthood for his work, he replied: "I'm very proud to be an equal citizen and I think that's what the opening ceremony was actually about."

Now that’s what I’d call honour.

*Ghastly eh? Acid House - isn’t that all about DRUGS! But are the self prescribed e’s of club culture any more sinister than the wholesale prescription of sedatives to the disenfranchised and discontented masses? As an e-virgin I have no idea, but I am aware of the ongoing educational campaigns of people like Professor David Nutt to clarify the issues and of course the blindingly obvious fact that you can’t tax the street vendor - but oh boy, you can the big pharma

My only hope is that you are well, happy and enjoying life. I wish you nothing but lovely things for 2013 and all it brings. Thank you for visiting this wintery place...C.P

Monday, December 24, 2012

The 2012 Atherosclerosis egg study: More smoking is associated with more plaque, unless you eat more eggs

I blogged before about the study by David Spence and colleagues, published online in July 2012 in the journal Atherosclerosis (). This study attracted a lot of media attention (e.g., ). The article is titled: “Egg yolk consumption and carotid plaque”. The study argues that “regular consumption of egg yolk should be avoided by persons at risk of cardiovascular disease”. It hints at egg yolks being unhealthy in general, possibly even more so than cigarettes.

I used the numbers in Table 2 of the article (only 5 rows of data, one per quintile; i.e., N=5) to conduct a type of analysis that is rarely if ever conducted in health studies – a moderating effects analysis. A previous blog post summarizes the results of one such analysis using WarpPLS (). It looked into the effect of the number of eggs consumed per week on the association between blood LDL cholesterol and plaque (carotid plaque). The conclusion, which is admittedly tentative due to the small sample (N=5), was that plaque decreased as LDL cholesterol increased with consumption of 2.3 eggs per week or more ().

Recently I ran an analysis on the moderating effect of number of eggs consumed per week on the association between cumulative smoking (measured in “pack years”) and plaque. As it turns out, if you fit a 3D surface to the five data points that you get for these three variables from Table 2 of the article, you end up with a relatively smooth surface. Below is a 3D plot of the 5 data points, followed by a best-fitting 3D surface (developed using an experimental algorithm).

Based on this best-fitting surface you could then generate a contour graph, shown below. The “lines” are called “isolines”. Each isoline refers to plaque values that are constant for a set of eggs per week and cumulative smoking combinations. Next to the isolines are the corresponding plaque values. The first impression is indeed that both egg consumption and smoking are causing plaque buildup, as plaque clearly increases as one moves toward the top-right corner of the graph.

But focus your attention on each individual isoline, one at a time. It is clear that plaque remains constant for increases in cumulative smoking, as long as egg consumption increases. Take for example the isoline that refers to 120 mm2 of plaque area. An increase in cumulative smoking from about 14.5 to 16 pack years leads to no increase in plaque if egg consumption goes up from about 2 to 2.3 eggs per week.

These within-isoline trends, which are fairly stable across isolines (they are all slanted to the right), clearly contradict the idea that eggs cause plaque buildup. So, why does plaque buildup seem to clearly increase with egg consumption? Here is a good reason: egg consumption is very strongly correlated with age, and plaque increases with age. The correlation is a whopping 0.916. And I am not talking about cumulative egg consumption, which the authors also measure, through a variable called “egg-yolk years”. No, I am talking about eggs per week. In this dataset, older folks were eating more eggs, period.

The correlation between plaque and age is even higher: 0.977. Given this, it makes sense to look at individual isolines. This would be analogous to what biostatisticians often call “adjusting for age”, or analyzing the effect of egg consumption on plaque buildup “keeping age constant”. A different technique is to “control for age”; this technique would be preferable had the correlations been lower (say, lower than 0.7), as collinearity levels might have been below acceptable thresholds.

The underlying logic of the “keeping age constant” technique is fairly sound in the face of such a high correlation, which would make “controlling for age” very difficult due to collinearity. When we “keep age constant”, the results point at egg consumption being protective among smokers.

But diehard fans of the idea that eggs are unhealthy could explain the results differently. Maybe egg consumption causes plaque to go up, but smoking has a protective effect. Again taking the isoline that refers to 120 mm2 of plaque area, these diehard fans could say that an increase in egg consumption from 2 to 2.3 eggs per week leads to no increase in plaque if cumulative smoking goes up from about 14.5 to 16 pack years.

Not too long ago I also blogged about a medical case study of a man who ate approximately 25 eggs (20 to 30) per day for over 15 years (probably well over), was almost 90 years old (88) when the case was published in the prestigious The New England Journal of Medicine, and was in surprisingly good health (). This man was not a smoker.

Perhaps if this man smoked 25 cigarettes per day, and ate no eggs, he would be in even better health eh!?

Friday, December 21, 2012


The last few days have seen a flurry of email into the arts and health inbox. Lots of correspondents have been rounding up their successes of 2012; some have been more despondent, the political climate having swept away their jobs and I’ve had a few responses to last weeks posting on the arts/health conference planned in Israel in 2013: some encouraging and insightful, others more critical - but all welcome and received with thanks.

So this ‘last post’ won’t round up any of Arts for Health successes' of 2012 - it will instead offer just a few more opportunities and a few season tidbits. 

The Guardian this week are offering free seasonal screen-savers designed by some prominent artists, and as a gentle echo to last weeks posting and a meditation on healthcare inequalities in Haifa and Gaza, here is one of those images by Cornelia Parker called a bright light over Jerusalem. She comments: 'This naked light shines in the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. I thought celebrating this Christmas with the symbol of a bright idea, the light bulb, was appropriate – a bit of cold cheer in the darkness'

Artists and cultural commentators have also been rallying against the governments proposals to marginalise the arts in the national curriculum, and I was moved by some of the personal testimonies to teachers and arts educators that these figureheads cite. You can read them all by clicking on the Bob and Roberta Smith image below. Here’s a snippet from the wonderful playwright April de Angelis:
“Drama at school was the key that unlocked me with its premium on curiosity and inventiveness; the joy of working in groups yet feeling your individual input was integral. Being inside the complex world of a play with its debates, strategies, motivations and allegiances was brilliant for confidence and developing a love of language. I wasn't a kid who was taken to the theatre, so school was the place. In the school mag at the time I said the cast felt like family. Drama creates engaged, articulate beings who are attuned to their connection with others – which is why it's been suppressed – it's a political act.”

Just a reminder too, that the NHS Commissioning Board (NHS CB) and the Department of Health have published their detailed agreement showing how the NHS CB will drive improvements in the health of England’s population through its commissioning of certain public health services. Please read this as it represents significant new opportunities fro the cultural sector. click on the dedicated nurse below for more details...

Getting On
This year saw another series of the excellent hard-hitting NHS drama, Getting On. You may have seen it - may love or loath it, but it beats Casualty hands down. Gritty realism and blissful social commentary. I particularly enjoyed the final episode (6) on 8th December in which artist Dylan Schwarz and his assistant Elke arrive on the ward to set up a kids art project. This has to be the ultimate arts and health TV moment of 2012? If you’ve not seen it - search it out, or talk to me about it in January - I have a copy!

Early Career Researcher at Arts for Health
Arts for Health at MIRIAD, the Manchester Institute for Research and Innovation in Art and Design at Manchester Metropolitan University, and Lime Arts of Central Manchester Foundation NHS Trust, wish to appoint a highly motivated early career researcher (ECR) on a short-term contract from February to April 2013 to make an important contribution to the consolidation and development of archives relating to the arts and well-being. 
For more information regarding the requirements of the role please email  

New Community Services Fund for British Pubs The rural pub services and community champions, Pub is The Hub, has announced the launch of The New Community Services Fund to help UK pubs to diversify into new services provision for their own communities. Pub is The Hub wants to raise £1 million over the next two years.  The Government has kick-started the fund with a £150,000 donation to the Community Services project. In addition the drinks company Diageo plc, has donated £50,000 and is urging other companies to follow suit.  Pub is the Hub has advised and supported small scale diversification schemes and community acquisitions all over England, Wales and Scotland; from the installation of libraries and production of school meals in pubs through to larger capital projects such as farm shops and post offices. Read more at: 

Austin & Hope Pilkington Trust (UK)
The Austin and Hope Pilkington Trust which awards grants to charitable organisations in the United Kingdom  has announced that  the next closing date for applications is the 1st June 2013. During 2013, the Trust is seeking to fund projects that help children and young people.  Grants are usually between £1,000 and £3,000 and are awarded for one year.
Previous grants awarded include:
A grant towards a resource centre providing advice and training for workers dealing with mental health in rural areas and
Funding towards a project aimed at behavioural programme for persistent young offenders. 
Read more at: 

Swearing, Christmas and Happiness
...and finally, here is a lovely video (be warned, it has swearing, so don’t complain - you’ve been warned) for the new Martin Crimp play; In the Republic of Happiness which is playing at the Royal Court Theatre until 19th January. Seasonal and so much more. Enjoy - Oh and Happy Christmas...

Thanks as ever for stopping by. What a year...C.P.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Sunday, December 16, 2012 the spirit of the season

Last week, I shared some of my reflections on my time in Australia, not least my occasional observations of the abuse of displaced indigenous people. This week I received a round-robin. Not the usual festive cheer, but an invitation to submit a 'virtual' paper to  the Arch of Arts in Health conference in Israel. The agenda has been set and they are soliciting contributions which might get printed up in the conference papers, if they like it and you pay the conference registration fee up front! Anyway, I notice it’s supported by the good old Society for the Arts in Healthcare now rebranded you might remember, as the pioneering Global Alliance for Arts and Health, and I guess this is one of its new incarnation's first forays into arts/health foreign policy. Like I say, the agenda's been set - so I don't think you've an opportunity to present in real time around any of their themes, which includes one dear to my heart - Using the Arts to Address Stress and Trauma in the Community.

The whole area of community stress and trauma is an interesting one to me and the setting of the sunny seaside town of Haifa, with its rich cultural history, is one in which it would be intriguing to expanded on some of the themes I’ve been developing with colleagues in the field over the last few years. I’d like to think that I’ve already incrementally explored some of the ideas that I could have developed. This year in Great Expectations in Fremantle, I touched on globalisation and singular world views (even in arts/health: surprise!), calling for an exploration of diverse practice, especially from the rich examples of non-English speaking countries. I’d explored the idea of the arts being more than some soporific prescription for subduing disquiet in A Brightly Coloured Bell-Jar, and through the ongoing manifesto work, we’ve all been discussing inequalities and how the arts, creativity and cultural engagement might just give the most marginalized people a voice beyond their day-to-day existence.

But harking back even further, in Port Macquarie in 2009 I gave a paper which explored health inequalities alongside cultural inequalities. Isn’t it obvious that the two sit side by side? In this paper I discussed the snobbery of art critics, particularly Brian Sewell’s reflections on the graffiti artist Banksy and his sell-out exhibition in Bristol that year. He remarked, "The two words 'graffiti' and 'art' should never be put together...the public doesn't know good from bad... It doesn't matter if they [the public] like it. It will result in a proliferation of entirely random decoration.” Oh how wrong - how very wrong. Art emerges from the heart and guts of a community - just look at the compelling Tarzan and Arab (see below) - I wonder if they’ve submitted an abstract?

Inequalities span all aspects of life and are perpetuated by those in positions of authority. I also quoted an excellent dialogue between a design critic Nathan Edelson and web designer and co-founder of the website Electronic Intifada, Nigel Parry. The conversation discusses making the segregation wall that divides the West Bank, more aesthetically pleasing. I’m sure you’re all familiar with this wall, which stands at three times the height of the Berlin wall, will eventually run for 700 kilometers and which the “international Court of Justice in 2004 has ruled as illegal. It essentially turns Palestine into the world’s largest open-air prison.” You can read this article here, and not least, about the remarkable intervention of Banksy that has elevated street art to an entirely new level and inspired a new generation of artists like Shamsia Hassani. 

Above all, its been interesting to talk with people about notions of health beyond the individual and tentatively looking to how our arts/health agenda is expanding and evolving beyond morbidity and towards healthy communities. So what might healthy communities look like? Well, not all identical, I’d suggest. What I consider a healthy community from my white, western mindset might be very different to someone in another country where access to water or a roof over your head, might be of a more pressing concern. In fact, in East Jerusalem, the two are poignantly conflated in the black water towers on the roof-tops of the Palestinian suburbs, where it's necessary to store water in this way, just in case the powers-that-be decide to cut off the water supply in the Arab areas. An artist like Taysir Batniji subverting the signature water towers of Bernd and Hilla Becher, captures something of this in his forensic study of the military watchtowers that observe the inhabitants of the West Bank.

So, just what might my abstract have looked like for this conference? Mmmm - good question. 350 words max and around the theme of using the arts to address stress and trauma in the community. Well, there are lots of interesting ideas on the notion of ‘using’ the arts. Is that in the totalitarian sense? Then there are very different ideas of what constitutes a community. Could it be the people of a district or country considered collectively in the context of social values and responsibilities?  Are the arts a simple distraction in the face of pain and discomfort? The sticky plaster during a painful procedure? 

Or could it be that in ‘addressing’ stress and trauma, we might explore new and creative methodologies in delivering stress and trauma? Remember the bulldozing of Rachel Whiteread’s House (1993) demolished by the Tower Hamlets, London Borough Council on 11 January 1994 to the anger and disappointment of local residents? The bulldozing. Anyone remember poor Rachel Corrie? 

And aren’t there sound artists developing wild and wonderful technologies, exploring the assault potential of noise? A performer like Marco Fusinato bombarding visitors to an exhibition with a light and noise attack, reminding us that city councils in the UK can adapt this approach into ‘acoustic weapons’, emitting high frequency noises that only poor little ‘hoodies’ can hear. It apparently makes them stop congregating in packs and move on. 

This emerging technology has been used in the cells of Guantanamo Bay and on the streets of Israel too. If only this 21st century Milgram Experiment could be used on larger communities of people. After all, we’re all in this together - a mutual sense of morality eh? Grind them down, displace them, marginalize them, push them to the invisible borders of civil society - then silence them when they scream - bang them up, or worse. Still, if you’re in a refugee camp under that Christmas star this winter, the wall can become your canvas.

But I mustn’t confuse things. The arts are all about passive consumption; soporific joy; global happiness and the blind acceptance of a well-oiled market trend. The very idea that art gives voice to frustration, anger and dissent just isn’t a part of the arts and health field. Or is it?

Here is a short film I began as a contribution to the conference, but for some reason - my heart just wasn’t in it.

It seems crude to go into the jobs, funding and prospecting section of the blog straight away, so here is Bill Callahan and America.

Hidden Histories: Artist Commission at Tatton Park
Deadline: December 31, 2012
Tatton Park would like to invite two artists to create site-specific artworks or performances in response to the rich history of life at Tatton. The research project will give scope and material for two arts based projects to interpret the findings in imaginative ways which can be shared with visitors, either through art works or performances, film or other media. Each of the two placements attracts a fee capped at £2,500 in return for two separate, fully researched and designed proposals, to be delivered by 31st March 2013. If you have any questions please contact Caroline Eadsforth on 01625 378063 or Caroline Schofield on 01625 374408. 

Public Art Commission, Sefton Council
Deadline: January 4, 2013
Public Art Commission, Sefton Council, Sefton Coast Landscape Partnership, Heritage Lottery Fund
Commission fee: £4,000
Sefton MBC’s Coast & Countryside Service seeks an experienced artist to develop and deliver public art within an ecologically varied and sensitive area of Crosby Coastal Park of north Merseyside. The site is a thriving wetland habitat to birds, insects and wildlife and is a recreational and educational resource for local communities. Within the available fee, the artist will be required to undertake a number of community engagement and consultation workshops in addition to the design, fabrication and siting of a number of art features sympathetic to the nature of the site. The scope and number of workshops and art features will be agreed in consultation between the artist and commissioner for delivery within the available budget. The artist will be required to work to a mutually agreed action plan and timeline to deliver community workshops. The resulting feedback from these workshops will help influence the form of the public artworks which may be a bespoke sculpture, installation or park furniture to complement the site. The ambition for the commission is in two phases:
Phase One: Within the £4,000 fee, the artist will engage local community groups through workshops prior to the delivery of an agreed public art feature. This fee is inclusive of all artist fees and costs. Phase Two: The Commissioner will work in partnership with the artist to identify additional funding streams to extend the project and further promote art in the park. All applicants should send an expression of interest letter, including a recent CV containing images of previous work and a suggestion of what may be delivered within the fee of £4K by Friday 4th January 2013. A shortlist of applicants will be selected for interview. To apply or to request for further information, a site plan or full commission brief contact - Jayne Foat: address: Sefton Coast & Countryside Service, Ainsdale Discovery Centre, The Promenade, Ainsdale, Southport PR8 2QB.

In THIS Moment: Evaluation
Cheshire Dance is inviting proposals for the evaluation and measurement of an exciting dance and older people project.  A fee of £5k inc VAT is available for this role.  Contract runs Feb 2013 to Sept 2014. Cheshire Dance has successfully secured funding from the Baring Foundation to run ‘In THIS Moment’ in collaboration with Wearpurple Arts at Age UK Cheshire. The Baring Foundations ‘Arts and Older People’ grants programme, is focusing on ’Creative Homes in Creative Communities’, supporting work to link residential care settings to their local communities through the arts. Applicants must have experience of working in the fields of Arts and Health and Older people in their role as an evaluator.  For further information please request the brief from Cheshire Dance Deadline for proposals 5pm on 4 January 2013

The Sylvia Waddilove Foundation (UK)
The Sylvia Waddilove Foundation provides grants to charities for education projects (organic farming, animal husbandry, veterinary science, animal welfare and animal surgery)  the visual and performing arts; the preservation of buildings of architectural or historical significance; the accommodation of those in need; the skills based training of young people; medical research and disability. Grants of up to £25,000 are available to registered charities. The Foundation favours supporting small charities that will carry out the project themselves (except in the case of medical research), who rely on volunteers and who can demonstrate a successful history of projects.

The next funding round will open on the 10th December 2012 and will close on the 4th January 2013.Read more at: 

Music Grants for Older People (England & Wales)
The registered charity, Concertina makes grants to charitable bodies which provide musical entertainment and related activities for the elderly. The charity is particular keen to support smaller organisations which might otherwise find it difficult to gain funding. Since its inception in 2004, it has made grants to a wide range of charitable organisations nationwide in England and Wales. These include funds to many care homes for the elderly to provide musical entertainment for their residents. The next deadline for applications is the 30th April 2013. Read more at:

Idlewild Trust (UK)
The Idlewild Trust has announced that the next closing date for applications to its grant making programme is the 22nd February 2013.  The Idlewild Trust is a grant making trust that supports registered charities concerned with the encouragement of the performing and fine arts and crafts, the advancement of education within the arts and the preservation for the benefit of the public of lands, buildings and other objects of beauty or historic interest in the United Kingdom.  During the last financial year to 31 December, 2010, the Trust received 373 applications and awarded 65 grants totalling £129,305. Read more at:

...thank you as ever for reading this blog...C.P.                            

Monday, December 10, 2012


Some first Australian thoughts
Sorry for the break in transmission. I’ve been lucky too have been invited to take part in events in beautiful Western Australia, where as a guest of the Department of Culture and the Arts, I spoke at the 4th Art of Good Health and Wellbeing Conference in Fremantle. As ever, Australia is bursting with emergent possibilities in arts and health and the conference exposed me yet again, to a diverse field of practice and research where arts and health is thriving. I have to say a big thanks to Margret Meagher, David Doyle and Simone Flavelle for making me so welcome and continuing to inspire me. I recommend the work of DADAA to anyone interested in seeing how the participatory arts not only give people access to high quality arts experiences, but how we can learn from the rich expressions and perspectives of people often outside the arts-world loop. Brilliant work. Then there is the immanent transformation of Arts and Health Australia into the Australian Centre for Arts and Health in which Margret Meagher will further develop the learning from her work over these last years into a not-for-profit organisation with some key partners. Alongside the emerging National Framework for Arts and Health in Australia, this is a critical time for the field. 

I gave an opening address to the conference that for me at least, marks a transformation in my relationship to the arts and health, moving away from individualism towards some of the broader communal and environmental notions of our work, exploring how we learn our way into the future, and embrace non-English speaking approaches to the arts and public health, in relation to some of the World Health Organisation priorities for addressing the social determinants of health. But of course, you can never say all the things you want to in such a short paper, so I’ve been writing up the work in a more substantial form for the new year and I hope to be able to share it here at the same time I publish it. You can hear an abridged version by clicking on this image.

After I’d given my presentation and felt a little relief that it was over, the Aboriginal elder  who had welcomed delegates to country, approached me and told me he ‘got it’. My presentation made sense to him. He kind of captured it for me in an almost haiku-like form - reduced all my blarney to a few succinct sentences. Raping the earth of natural resources; dominated by greed and subservient to market forces...and all those inequalities in the face of dominant ideologies. Brilliant. I felt quite thrilled. Of course, we both compared notes about how we were conspicuous consumers anyway, with our phones, laptops and TV’s - passive by-products of the global market.

I was rather proud too, to see so much representation from the England at this international event, particularly with so many members of the North West Arts and Health Network present!!! There were people from Manchester, Lancashire, Yorkshire, Cumbria, Durham and London and I’m sure others too that my jet-lagged mind forgets, not least the émigrés. It reinforced the breadth of work taking place here from the arts, academia, health settings, museums and galleries, community groups and advocates. What a great feeling of solidarity.

A Critical Ally to Arts and Public Health
Whilst I was away, I had the rather exciting news that Professor John Ashton has been elected as President of the UK Faculty of Public Health. Big congratulations are in order to him. I can’t stress enough, what an excellent opportunity this is for our field of endeavor. Not only has John got a wide expertise in the field of Public Health (he was chief Medical Officer and Regional Director of Public Health for the North West), but he employed me twice! Once as a mental health promotion specialist, the second time as the lead on the Invest to Save research project, where he was the projects Department of Health sponsor. I would go one step further and say, not only has he been one of the unsung pioneers of what I describe as participatory arts and public health, but he is one of the few people I’ve worked with who regardless of his position, has the the confidence to confront mindless bureaucracy; the political savvy to question elected officials and the capacity to re-imagine what constitutes public health. As the very heart of public health is being transplanted into the community, and the NHS is arguably undergoing piecemeal privatisation, he is the advocate that both the public health AND the arts and cultural sector needs. I am thrilled he has agreed to support my work over the next few years.

Some more Australian thoughts
After the work, I took a weeks holiday with a friend and embarked on a 4000km road trip between Perth and Eucla crossing part of the Nullarbor Plain and staying in roadhouse donga’s. I could be very self indulgent here and bore you rigid, but for now here are some key thoughts that I’ve censored to fit into the day job! 

Reading about zoonosis and the excellent David Quammen - thus Hendra, Ebola and human/viral evolution. John Wyndham conjoined with ash dieback! Marlinga, gold mining and the impact of gold. The veranda of the Australia Hotel in Kalgoorlie observing dispossessed people seemingly, wandering aimlessly (to me at least) - harangued by some drunken fly-in-fly-out guys in their high-vis-kit - hugged drunkenly and lovingly by others.

Beautiful expanses of nothing - endless, repetitive, always different! The South Australian coast looking towards Antarctica, closing my eyes and throwing a beautiful stone into the sea.

Beyond a manifesto: Networking Events 2013
In January I will be advertising some new networking events for 2013 and crucially the next iteration of manifesto will be unfurling. As a taster, it would be good if you’d start thinking if you, or your organisation would like to host a networking session in your locality? If I’ve worked with you in Greater Manchester, Merseyside, Lancashire, Cumbria...or further afield, and you’d like to host a session - just get in touch. I’ll do all the rest and there’ll be no cost.

Here’s the stimulus for the sessions:

It’s 2040 and wait - there’s been a shift in thinking: of doing: of being. This arts and health thing that we do, has become established - not normalised, not standardised - but established. Let’s take a leap of imagination and explore how we got there. Did it all go wrong in the big bad world, was there a crisis that forced the change? Perhaps all those riots in ‘distant’ lands took hold somewhere closer - the dissatisfied took to the streets. Perhaps people got fed up of being given pills for everyday maladies and thought about making changes to their lives and enabled others to make changes too. Perhaps people realized that their wellbeing stretched beyond a quick-fix.

The possibility of imagination and conversations for generational change.
SCENARIOS - a different timetable in arts and health - towards flourishing societies...towards genuine cultural diversity.

"Depression gives me the advantage..."

I see so may articles about singing and health, most of theme great and inspiring - think about that viral video of a man with dementia listening to his iPod - the community choirs - the music in hospitals. All great, all exciting, but just occasionally, a little bit bland and perhaps erring towards a safe middle ground. today I have read the account of Pete Cashmore who has found 'battle-off' through rap, far more potent than any of the usual prescriptions for his depression. This is real and relevant stuff. Suicide in men is a constant and present danger and I'm often told, men can't communicate and are emotionally illiterate. This kind of approach makes common sense. Thank you Pete for sharing this. Read the full article by clicking on the image above, or watch the video below, with its smut and gentle filth. Spot on.

Thank you as ever for visiting this blog...C.P.