Sunday, June 24, 2012


I received a few interesting emails about the Poetry Should Be Subversive article by Simon Armitage, and for those of you with a keen eye, you’ll be aware that he is heading up a week of non-competitive poetry related events at the Southbank as part of the Cultural Olympiad.  What he calls the Poetry Parnassus, or the ‘most democratic and ancient art-form.’ For those of us feeling slightly jaded by both the Jubilee celebrations and impending Olympic histrionics, it was a relief to read a comment by Armitage in this weeks Observer, in which he reiterates the role of the arts (poetry) not just as celebratory, but as giving voice to dissent.
“...when I watch the Olympics, it sickens me that people are gagged and labelled and everybody has to stand up, drape themselves in a flag and stamp to the national anthem in front of the official fizzy drink. That is not the way most people feel about their country. This is an opportunity to address some of those issues.’ 
Its almost heartening to note then, that the Westfield Shopping Centre in Stratford is to close its car-park for the duration of the Olympics. A big diddums to the poor bleating shoppers, who like to drive as close as humanly possible to get their fill of burgers, posh frocks and plasma screens. Your merchandise pushers and peddlers too, will have to use public transport for once. 

You can bet, that the shopping centre is going to be full of reading, dancing, sculpture and a million other Cultural Olympiad activities that will make for happy, passive shoppers.  As “...part of the £13.5 million high quality public realm project to improve Stratford Town Centre for residents and businesses and offer a unique visitor experience,” Mayor of Newham, Sir Robin Wales believes that work like the recently completed The Shoal will ‘...offer a unique visitor experience.’
The sculpture is made up of around 100 titanium clad, giant ‘leaves’, at between 15 and 19 meters high and is situated along the Great Eastern Road. David West, of the projects design team, Studio Egret West said:  ‘The Shoal was born of a desire to turn a negative into a positive. Instead of screening the back of house of the Stratford shopping centre, which now finds itself in the foreground, we have created a playful and dynamic edge that brings a moment of delight to those arriving in Newham. ‘ Mmm, you can judge the merits of the work for yourself by visiting e-architect. Does this 'art' inspire and revitalise communities? I'd like to know what you think.

Still, as a temple to the power of products, it’s a rip-roaring artistic and cultural legacy for the UK isn’t it? An Olympic sized gateway to the largest urban shopping centre in Europe. Makes you proud to fly the flag.

And as the Olympic Torch continues to gutter and wend its way through our rain-soaked and cobbled Northern climbs, its equally heartening to see that John Pillger has lost none of his forensic scrutiny of news that suspiciously falls below the radar.  

It’s with the Olympics in mind, and art in the public realm, that Pilger shines a torch on the decorators of the Olympic stadium facade, Dow Chemical Corporation, who are funding a £7m, 900m (0.56 miles) long by 20m (67ft) high, fabric wrap for the Olympic stadium. Not quite the Segregation Wall in length, but equally pernicious. 
I’d been aware of the connection between Dow and its purchase of Union Carbide "the company responsible for the Bhopal gas leak [in India in 1984] which killed 7,000 to 10,000 people immediately and 15,000 in the following twenty years", but what I wasn’t aware of was Dow’s long illustrious position in the development and sales of both Napalm and Agent Orange in the Vietnam War. Irrelevant to our proud games you might suggest? This short and sharp article by Pilger, persuades me otherwise. Read it by clicking on the image of one of the 4.8 million uncompensated child victims of Agent Orange below. If you are outraged, share this. 

I made a decision not to show a child's image, as it felt exploitative, so here is Black Square, 1915, by Kazimir Malevich. I urge you to simply type, Victim Agent Organge into google, or click on the Black Square.

I’ve had lots of enquiries about the Anne Basting event on the 10th July. Please note, I can’t answer all the email questions about the event just yet, but will post details on line asap. I will of course, confirm places with those who’ve expressed an interest, at least a week before the event. It will in all likelihood, take place in the early evening here at MMU on the 10th July. This will be a fantastic evening for all those interested in Dementia and the Arts and a pleasure to welcome Anne.

Group music sessions 'may boost empathy in children'
Judith Burns, Education reporter for the BBC News reports that regularly playing music in groups may improve children's ability to empathise with others. Researchers from Cambridge University compared empathy skills in children who played weekly music-based games for a year with those who did not. The musical group scored higher in end-of-year tests of how well they recognised other people's emotions. Click on the drumming babies for more.

Wellcome Trust – Peoples Awards (UK) 
Awards of up to £30,000 are available under the Wellcome Trust's Peoples Awards for projects that encourage public debate and understanding of biomedical science. Projects can be funded for up to three years and can include activities such as:
  • Workshops and seminars
  • Arts projects
  • Teaching materials or techniques to encourage wider discussions
  • Projects that utilise the collections of the Wellcome Library and the Wellcome Collection at the Science Museum. 
The next applications deadline is the 27th July 2012. Click on the Visualisation of a Protein below!

BBC Children in Need (UK)
BBC Children in Need provides grants for up to three years to organisations (including schools) working with disadvantaged young people aged 18 or under. Within the BBC Children in Need grants programme, organisations can apply for Small Grants of £10,000 or less per year for up to three years and for Main Grants of over £10,000 per year for up to three years. Funding is available to organisations that work with young people who are suffering from:
  • Illness
  • Distress
  • Abuse or neglect
  • Are disabled
  • Have behavioural or psychological difficulties
  • Are living in poverty or situations of deprivation.
The next closing date for applications is the 15th July 2012. Read more by clicking on the Rabbit or Tiger below:

(Or, Being Mentored by a Higher-Inteligence)
I’ve had some correspondence from people asking me, just what was all that Huge Ever Growing Pulsating Brain That Rules from the Centre of the Ultraworld, all about? Thank you for being curious...and more will emerge very shortly.

In short, its a ‘developing’ story about how those of us in this arts/health movement feel that creativity/culture/arts offer so much more than selfish individualism, and that those of us working in any kind of advocacy role, must genuinely represent and support the communities of interest we claim to represent. 

Moreover, if the failed ‘market’ model is imposed on the arts, we will be awash with the corporate, insipid and irrelevant. Deluded self-belief and arrogant brand placement, run the risk of reducing this emerging sector to some panacea, or worse still, a placebo for all societal ills.  Much, much more to follow...

Thank you as ever...C.P.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Poetry should be subversive...

Arts for Health are out of the office and on the road with Musique et Sante. So, in place of the usual weekly blog, here are two articles of interest. The first is by poet, Simon Armitage who writes eloquently in response to the Education Secretary’s policy plans for English. This was first published in the Guardian on Tuesday 12th June 2012. The second is an interview with Grayson Perry, and is self-explanatory. Back to normal service soon...C.P.

If Michael Gove's plan for English means reciting Tennyson in posh accents, it's nothing to celebrate

If businessman and philanthropist Scott Griffin committed a misdemeanour as a young boy, he was sent to his room and not allowed out until he had read and remembered some piece of classical poetry. Scott now presides over what is sometimes described as the world's richest poetry award, the Griffin prize, with prize money totalling 200,000 tax-free Canadian dollars.
The psychology by which an intended punishment became a lifelong passion might only be explained by a close analysis of that particular father and son relationship; but in any event, poetry (or at least a few poets each year) is certainly better off because of it. Yet I've also seen the reverse happen. In fact it's more common that a well-meaning elder, often a teacher, has instilled in a child a lifelong abhorrence of verse by drooling over an unfathomable passage from Chaucer – or, worse still, insisting that a pupil "explain" a poem, as if it were a riddle to which an answer should be provided.
Where I found refuge in poetry, and thought of it as an alternative to the mainstream, many of my former classmates felt either humbled or humiliated by it, and came to view it as something for clever dicks and posers. It's for those reasons that I'm nervous about the noises currently being made by the Department for Education about returning to "traditional values" in schools – values which would see children as young as five being expected to learn and recite poetry "by heart". My concerns are mainly about labelling poetry as something solid, traditional and worthy, something belonging to the establishment, a yardstick against which most people won't measure up. I'm also worried that by poetry, what the government might really mean is "poetry", or POETRY – that is, grist for the spoken English competition, in which students at my school were expected to stand on a stage and chew their way through The Lady of Shalott in a feigned and foreign RP accent.

If those are the values being pursued, and if in Michael Gove's master plan English literature is actually a byword for Englishness, or learning "by heart" might actually mean learning by rote, then I'd prefer poetry to have no part in it. If, on the other hand, children are allowed to find the poems that fit their voices or appeal to their imaginations and their cultural inclinations, then I'm on board. It's a well-established fact that poems learned at an early stage in the form of nursery rhymes stay with us for life, and that people suffering with Alzheimer's and other forms of memory loss, who struggle in later life to remember their address or the names of their children, can often recite nursery rhymes without any difficulty. The brain is always keen to seize on pattern and structure, and the growing brain seems to instill poetry at its core.
The mind too, as it expands, needs forms of language that go beyond the rational and the prosaic, and which mirror our fragmented, highly metaphorical and moment-to-moment perception of life itself. My granddad could recite huge chunks of Shakespeare, to the point where he seemed to have a quote for every given situation. He'd worked in the mill, as a hospital porter and as a fireman, and was virtually self-taught in terms of literature. Sure, the quoting was something of a party piece, but I also felt that he was processing or validating his own life experiences, not to mention sharing those experiences with the planet's greatest ever wordsmith.

At school I had to learn passages from Goldsmith's The Deserted Village, Wordsworth's Michael and several Ted Hughes poems, to regurgitate in exams. I should have resented it, (was it an English exam or a memory test?) but in fact I never properly understood those lines until I had committed them to memory, as if remembering them were a further part of the analytical process. In fact they've stayed with me to such an extent that I'm still finding new meaning in them even today.

In a lot of the work I've done with prisoners or with people who've missed out on a decent education, I've found a whole section of society who have plenty to say but no way of saying it. They've never been exposed to language at its most ingenious, have no models to draw on and no mechanism for expressing their interior lives to the outside world, and when people can't articulate how they feel, problems follow.
Isn't it also the case, on a very basic level, that if we are going to remember language (and we are going to remember language) then we might as well remember the good stuff? I say this as someone who can still quote the whole of the Hoseason's boating brochure advertisement. It was implanted in my head sometime in the early 70s via ITV, has stayed there until this day, and has never once been of any value to me whatsoever. If only I'd been watching the BBC, where I assume they were broadcasting Chaucer instead.


The lowest-mortality BMI: What is its relationship with fat-free mass?

Do overweight folks live longer? It is not uncommon to see graphs like the one below, from the Med Journal Watch blog (), suggesting that, at least as far as body mass index (BMI) is concerned (), overweight folks (25 < BMI < 30) seem to live longer. The graph shows BMI measured at a certain age, and risk of death within a certain time period (e.g., 20 years) following the measurement. The lowest-mortality BMI is about 26, which is in the overweight area of the BMI chart.

Note that relative age-adjusted mortality risk (i.e., relative to the mortality risk of people in the same age group), increases less steeply in response to weight variations as one becomes older. An older person increases the risk of dying to a lesser extent by weighing more or less than does a younger person. This seems to be particularly true for weight gain (as opposed to weight loss).

The table below is from a widely cited 2002 article by Allison and colleagues (), where they describe a study of 10,169 males aged 25-75. Almost all of the participants, ninety-eight percent, were followed up for many years after measurement; a total of 3,722 deaths were recorded.

Take a look at the two numbers circled in red. The one on the left is the lowest-mortality BMI not adjusting for fat mass or fat-free mass: a reasonably high 27.4. The one on the right is the lowest-mortality BMI adjusting for fat mass and fat-free mass: a much lower 21.6.

I know this may sound confusing, but due to possible statistical distortions this does not mean that you should try to bring your BMI to 21.6 if you want to reduce your risk of dying. What this means is that fat mass and fat-free mass matter. Moreover, all of the participants in this study were men. The authors concluded that: “…marked leanness (as opposed to thinness) has beneficial effects.”

Then we have an interesting 2003 article by Bigaard and colleagues () reporting on a study of 27,178 men and 29,875 women born in Denmark, 50 to 64 years of age. The table below summarizes deaths in this study, grouping them by BMI and waist circumference.

These are raw numbers; no complex statistics here. Circled in green is the area with samples that appear to be large enough to avoid “funny” results. Circled in red are the lowest-mortality percentages; I left out the 0.8 percentage because it is based on a very small sample.

As you can see, they refer to men and women with BMIs in the 25-29.9 range (overweight), but with waist circumferences in the lower-middle range: 90-96 cm for men and 74-82 cm for women; or approximately 35-38 inches for men and 29-32 inches for women.

Women with BMIs in the 18.5-24.9 range (normal) and the same or lower waists also died in small numbers. Underweight men and women had the highest mortality percentages.

A relatively small waist (not a wasp waist), together with a normal or high BMI, is an indication of more fat-free mass, which is retained together with some body fat. It is also an indication of less visceral body fat accumulation.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Changes in genetic expression during weight loss and weight maintenance

by Amanda Jensen* 

ResearchBlogging.orgLosing weight is an ambition with no end. To get fit, live longer, reduce injury, look better, feel better and sleep better will pave the road toward your skinny. Yes, losing weight is known to help the heart and boost insulin sensitivity, but the question still asked is: how?

There are differences between losing weight and keeping it off. From the Department of Clinical Sciences Malmo in Sweden, researchers found seven key genes expressed in adipose tissue (fat tissue) that change with weight loss and weight maintenance—a finding that brings science one step closer to understanding how the body responds to and regulates fat loss.

This randomized controlled trial shows that the genes expressed by adipose tissue change when an obese person trims down, and stays down. "For most people," the authors report, "maintaining a reduced weight is a difficult but important task to fully obtain the beneficial effects of weight loss."
Researchers placed 12 obese adults on a low-calorie diet for three months. After subjects lost 10 percent of their body weight, they embarked on a weight-maintenance program for an additional six months. The researchers took biopsies of adipose and blood samples at baseline, immediately following weight loss, and after the period of weight maintenance.

The participants had an average reduction of almost 19 percent of body weight, the researchers report. If trimming down wasn’t news enough, immediately following the weight-loss phase, insulin sensitivity and blood triglycerides improved. Improvements to HDL (the "good" cholesterol) were realized after weight loss had been sustained.

Gene Interactions

In total, the researchers reported 2,163 genes were affected during weight loss and 1,877 different genes were modified during weight maintenance. Two genes that were among the most strongly expressed, CETP and ABCG1, are likely responsible for the improvements to HDL observed after sustained weight loss. A high HDL gives the body has a greater capacity to clear cholesterol from the tissues and send it back to the liver to be recycled or excreted. Both genes code for enzymes that promote cholesterol transfer to HDL—lowering cholesterol is a way that weight loss may be effective for bolstering heart health.

Most dieters have found that the body really resists weight change. Researchers found that expression of the weight-guarding gene CIDEA was higher when the subjects were working to maintain their weight loss. In mice, blocking expression of CIDEA prevents weight gain during over-feeding. The increased expression of CIDEA in individuals trying to maintain weight loss supports the notion that the body defies shedding pounds by dropping metabolic rate.

A person carrying too much weight is also carrying too much stress for their body. Many of the problems linked with obesity occurs because the body to trying to cope. The researchers focused on two genes; MMP9 and TNMD, which were down-regulated as a result of weight loss and weight maintenance. MMP9 and TNMD are genes that may be responsible for adaptations in conditions like obesity and metabolic syndrome.

MMP9 codes for a matrix metallopeptidase. The structure of a cell is often referred to as a matrix, think of the scaffolding in building that can be moved, modified, or degraded. These metallopeptidases are the contractors for cells. Fewer MMPs means that fewer cells are broken down and fewer are built up. The result is perhaps more, but smaller fat cells.

TNMD codes for a protein tenomodulin: the contractor (or modulator) of the blood vessels. TNMD is higher in obese individuals and has been linked to fat mass as well as poor blood sugar control. The authors write that "taken together, low amounts of tenomodulin and matrix metallopeptidase 9 or related proteins may be important for the beneficial effects of weight loss."

Keeping the Weight Off

Adipose tissue, once thought to be a dormant receptacle of energy stores and an extra layer of insulation, is a metabolically active organ. Yes, fat cells do function and perform work. According to these researchers, they contain genes that affect immune response, hormonal balance, and even metabolism—all involved in creating a "set point" for weight.

Weight loss is no easy feat, especially when the body finds security in fat. Losing weight can feel like an uphill battle, the yo-yo dieting, and perpetual cycles of weight loss and weight gain do not do anyone any favors. With weight loss the body begins to fight for its fat stores; hormones change, satiety is impaired, and metabolic rate shifts. This resilience, according to researchers, is largely a product of the genes being expressed.

"Future research on the beneficial effect of weight loss should focus on long-term effects assessed after a period of weight stability" recommend the researchers. These results provide exciting insights into the physiology of fat and its genetic adaptations. Anyone can lose weight but, according to the authors, sustaining it is the true battle with true benefit.


Johansson, L., Danielsson, A., Parikh, H., Klintenberg, M., Norstrom, F., Groop, L., & Ridderstrale, M. (2012). Differential gene expression in adipose tissue from obese human subjects during weight loss and weight maintenance American Journal of Clinical Nutrition DOI: 10.3945/ajcn.111.020578

*Introducing the wicked-smart Amanda Jensen, in her first guest appearance on the Evolving Health blog. She enjoys science, writing, Indian food, traveling to all sorts of places, and playing tennis. She's also a good friend to have in case you're ever in need of in-depth conversation about lipid metabolism. She's also a recent graduate of Arizona State University's nutrition program. Congrats!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

EXCLUSIVE EVENT: Anne Basting - Forget memory and more...

Who are these artists and what links them? Answers at the foot of this BLOG post...


The North West Arts and Health Network is pleased to give you advanced notice of a one-off event. Author of the seminal book, Forget Memory, Anne Basting will share her thoughts on the arts and dementia. Anne has a vast experience in this emerging field and brings fresh perspectives to understanding of dementia and imagination. I’ve had the pleasure of hearing Anne in conversation with neuro-scientists and skeptics; people with dementia and artists - she is refreshing and exciting. This is an exclusive treat for us, will be as informal as possible and give us all the opportunity to hear from one of the true innovators of arts and health.

As ever, this is a free event and places are strictly limitedThe event is scheduled for July 10th and will probably take place early evening, but the timings and venue will be announced over the next two weeks. To register your interest in attending, email (this does not guarantee a place). 
To find out more about Anne’s work, here are some links:
Forget Memory 

Clockwise from top left: Antonin Artaud, Frida Kahlo, Barbara Hepworth and William Scott...
They all feature in The Healing Presence of Art, by Richard Cork. His free public talk and discussion is this Wednesday evening at MMU. Get all the details of the event by clicking on the good old Star Spangled Banner below.

Japanese artist Isao Hashimoto has created a time-lapse map of the 2053 nuclear explosions which have taken place between 1945 and 1998, beginning with the Manhattan Project's "Trinity" test near Los Alamos and concluding with Pakistan's nuclear tests in May of 1998. Remember Arts & Health is about more than the individual...

Friday, June 8, 2012

Videos from the EB2012 Sugar Showdown and a Few Comments from Dr. Lustig

If you've been following this blog, then you're probably aware that back in April I blogged about a highly attended debate at Experimental Biology 2012 in San Diego (dubbed the #sugarshowdown in a hashtag on Twitter; here's the Storify story in case you missed it). The event was sponsored by the Corn Refiners Association.  

In that symposium, Dr. Robert Lustig, of University of California, San Francisco, who is famed for sensationalizing the position that sugar is "toxic" in media coverage and the scientific literature, was seriously challenged by not only speakers, but also by fellow scientists (from industry and non-industry alike) in the crowd during the question-and-answer period.

One of those scientists was Dr. John Sievenpiper, of St. Michael's Hospital, University of Toronto, who told me in an interview after the event, "Having both sides better represented was far more balanced than what came out of his two-million hit sensation on YouTube and a lot of the media coverage."

I wrote about one of the unbalanced media reports here.

The Sugar Showdown videos are now published online. Now, you can check out each of the talks for yourself and make your own judgment on the state of the research. Here are the talks in order of appearance:
Perhaps you'll agree with Dr. Sievenpiper that the symposium presented a "far more balanced" view on the subjects of sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, and fructose than what has been seen lately in media coverage.

One more thing I'll add is that last weekend I had a discussion with Dr. Lustig at the National Lipids Association annual meeting held in Scottsdale. We discussed Dr. Sievenpiper's views on the debate on sugar and where they may differ in their views.

After speaking with him, I gathered that Dr. Lustig and Dr. Sievenpieper actually do tend to agree more than disagree on the data. For example, Dr. Lustig told me that he understood full well that the animal data and ecological analyses shouldn't be used for arguing his position that fructose is a unique metabolic danger. He also agreed that answers needed to come from randomized controlled feeding trials in humans, which is really what Dr. Sievenpiper's research has been about.

So far, the meta-analyses and systematic reviews on randomized, placebo-controlled feeding trials comparing fructose to other carbohydrates have not revealed to have any quantitatively meaningful metabolic effects. That is, fructose has demonstrated no significant effect on body weight, blood pressure, or uric acid in calorie-controlled trials. On the other hand, fructose demonstrated improvement of glycemic control at levels comparable to that obtained in fruit.

What Dr. Lustig and Dr. Sievenpiper obviously do disagree on is in their choice of rhetoric. Dr. Lustig's uses with words like "toxic," "addictive," and purposely compares the fruit sugar's metabolism to that of alcohol. Dr. Sievenpiper is more reserved, suggesting that fructose (like anything else) can be beneficial at some levels, such as in amounts found in fruit, and harmful only at extremely high levels (even then, not any different than other sources of carbohydrate).

In response, Dr. Lustig reported at the Scottsdale event that he would be following up with some more research. He mentioned, in fact, that he would be involved at UCSF in conducting controlled feeding trials of his own. Stay tuned!

Monday, June 4, 2012

How to make white rice nutritious

One of the problems often pointed out about rice, and particularly about white rice, is that its nutrition content is fairly low. It is basically carbohydrates with some trace amounts of protein. A 100-g portion of cooked white rice will typically deliver 28 g of carbohydrates, with zero fiber, and 3 g of protein. The micronutrient content of such a portion leaves a lot to be desired when compared with fruits and vegetables, as you can see below (from Keep in mind that this is for 100 g of “enriched” white rice; the nutrients you see there, such as manganese, are added.

White rice is rice that has had its husk, bran, and germ removed. This prevents spoilage and thus significantly increases its shelf life. As it happens, it also significantly reduces both its nutrition and toxin content. White rice is one of the refined foods with the lowest toxin content.

Another interesting property of white rice is that it absorbs moisture to the tune of about 2.5 times its weight. That is, a 100-g portion of dry white rice will lead to a 250-g portion of edible white rice after cooking. This does not only dramatically decrease white rice’s glycemic load () compared with wheat-based products in general (with some exceptions, such as pasta), but also allows for white rice to be made into a highly nutritious dish.

If you slow cook almost anything in water, many of its nutrients will seep into the water. All you have to do is to then use that water (often called broth) to cook white rice in it, and you will end up with highly nutritious rice. Typically you will need twice as much broth as rice, cooked for about 15 minutes – e.g., 2 cups of broth for 1 cup of rice.

You can add meats to the white rice, such as pulled chicken or shrimp; add some tomato sauce to that and you’ll make it a chicken or shrimp risotto. You can also add vegetables to the rice. If you want your rice to have something like an al dente consistency, I recommend doing these after the rice is ready; i.e., after you cooked it in the broth.

For the white rice-based dish below I used a broth from about two hours of slow cooking of diced vegetables; namely red bell peppers, carrots, celery, onions, and cabbage. After cooking the rice for 15 minutes, and letting it "sit" for a while (another 15 minutes with the pan covered), I also added the vegetables to it.

As a side note, the cabbage and onion tend to completely dissolve after 1 h or so of slow cooking. The added vegetables give the dish quite a nutritional punch. For example, the cabbage alone seems to be a great source of vitamin C (which is not completely destroyed by the slow cooking), the anti-inflammatory amino acid glutamine, and the DNA repair-promoting substance known as indole-3-carbinol ().

The good folks over at the Highbrow Paleo group on Facebook () had a few other great ideas posted in response to my previous post on the low glycemic load of white rice (), such as cooking white rice in bone broth (thanks Derrick!).

Sunday, June 3, 2012

A Huge Ever-Growing Pulsating Brain That Rules from the Centre of the Ultraworld

There’s always been a bit of a disconnect between science and the arts; between hypothesis and fantasy – reality and delusion, but surely it’s this divergence and convergence that are at the heart of human imagination.

This week a friend at DADAA sent an interesting article about former MASH surgeon, Dr Richard Satava, who bridges the world of the science-fiction of his childhood reading, with the potential of surgical interventions that take the possibility of telemedicine to new heights. In his work on Outrageous Medicine, Satava dares to conjoin his florid imagination to explore the possibility of surviving previously unsurvivable illness or injury, and extending human life. Whilst Satava’s focus seems to be very much based on combat troop survival, (and this is a far-cry from our interest in quality of life and the participatory arts), it is nevertheless an interesting and provocative article.  

Bearing inequalities in mind: can you imagine suggesting we send art-troops into conflict zones and take sides with an oppressive military regime? Whilst this would be a sure-fire way of investing in your own blood-diamond, it would possibly be the most isolating and divisive course of action for arts/health. I’m often reminded of the way graffiti artist Banksy, elevated the status and our understanding of street art through his tagging of the 760 kilometer long Israeli, West Bank segregation wall – something I discussed in my paper, The Arts, Popular Culture and Inequalities. In this, I quoted at length the excellent article by Nigel Parry which illustrates the point far more eloquently than I ever could...

Before the month is through, part two of the manifesto for arts, health and well-being will be available in hard-copy and online and this time, I’m taking it on the road. Like some haggard and less romantic version of a 50’s beat poet, I will be taking the manifesto to the remotest corners of our land and provoking some more debate about what it is we do;  who we are and where we’re going. All wrapped up in the idea of possible scenarios and what the future might look like for us, and that next generation of free-thinkers, who are interested in art and culture in relation to society and well-being.  So, you can wait till the manifesto is published, or you can ask me for a date now!

I’m really pleased to have been working with colleagues from around the UK to develop a National Charter that underpins the idea of our National Alliance for Arts, Health and Wellbeing.  The charter has been developed separately, but in parallel with the manifesto and will be launched in September this year. Those of us involved in the National Alliance have sought to work with as many people as possible from the field in informing our direction, so that, as an alliance, it really has got representation from as many regions and localities as possible. Like the manifesto which had the active involvement of over 500 people across the North West (and many more further afield), the charter has involved all sorts of people and organisations and, like the manifesto, is about democracy and voice from our ever-growing sector. Quite often this is hard work, because diverse ideas make for challenging conversations, not least in a time of economic constraint. This process reflects a more ego-less development, that could so easily be destroyed by more traditionally power-hungry models. What is reassuring about the approach in the UK, is that it’s grown from the true principle of  an alliance: of co-operation, mutuality, friendship and partnership. This in turn, has emerged from the local and regional, to advance the bigger picture, and has not been imposed from a national, or (perish the thought), international perspective, which through outmoded arrogance, could only be seen as a soulless dictatorship, facile and devoid of relevance in the 21st Century. I can almost imagine an inter-stellar arts/health movement governed by a Huge Ever Growing Pulsating Brain That Rules from the Centre of the Ultraworld: not good... fact, I COULD SCREAM
I’ve been reading Richard Cork’s book, which charts the relationship between the arts and health over the centuries, and have just concluded the excellent chapter on Edvard Munch which focuses on his precarious mental state, institutional care and a gunshot would to his hand: all things I never knew about the artist.  Adding to this, I was interested to read in the Guardian, that when the artist was 66 he contracted an intraocular haemorrhage in his right eye, leading to shapes, spots and smudges superimposed onto everything he saw. Professor of Ophthalmology at Stanford University, Michael Marmor has claimed that the semi-abstract watercolours Munch painted while suffering from the disease, reveal the symptoms of his illness.  Mamor comments that Munch's pictures differed in one important aspect from those by other artists with damaged eyesight. "Although the effects of ophthalmic problems such as cataracts can be seen in the works of artists such as Degas and Monet, Munch was unique because he gave us scenes from within the eye itself." Marmor’s new research will be published by the Tate, which will dedicate a room to a series of rarely displayed images in an exhibition which opens at Tate Modern on 28 June.
Richard Cork will give his free public lecture and answer questions about his book on Wed 13th June here at MMU. For full details click on the SCREAM below.

The Royal Society for Public Health Arts and Health Awards 2012
The Royal Society for Public Health awards marking significant contributions to research and practice in the field of Arts and Health are now in their fifth year. This year, the awards will focus on the role of the creative arts in the promoting the health and wellbeing of children and/or young people. Nominations are invited for individuals, teams or organisations whose work has furthered the contribution of the creative arts in fostering the health and wellbeing of children and/or young people in one or more of the following ways: 
  1. Through the development of innovative programmes of creative activity in healthcare or community contexts in the interests of promoting the health and wellbeing of children and/or young people 
  2. Through the development of conceptual and theoretical perspectives on the linkages between creative arts and the promotion of health and wellbeing of children and/or young people 
  3. Through conducting significant research or evaluation studies that contribute to a developing evidence base of the contribution of the creative arts in promoting the health and wellbeing of children and/or young people
Please click on the Sex Pistols, God Save the Queen cover below for details.

So we’ve all dutifully observed our dear old monarchs flotilla, bobbing up and down on the Thames to the bleary-eyed subservience of her loyal subjects. Here is a tonic to refresh the palate.

I had the pleasure of meeting and working with Dr Thom Ferrier this week - a graphic artist of exquisite skill.  If you aren’t sure of what Graphic Medicine is or the potency it has in the medical humanities, I urge you to visit and I note that there looks to be an excellent conference in Canada at the end of July. Please click on the link below for details.

A Huge Ever Growing Pulsating Brain That Rules from the Centre of the Ultraworld

Some possible definitions:

A solar, radiant entity at the heart of all things - timeless and weightless - an all seeing eye

A super-ego, pulsing with unfettered rage, its veins coursing with crude oil, its vision - total domination of all matter

An inter-stellar arts and health movement governed on the tradition of panning for gold and drilling for oil; of exciting free-markets; the claiming of new territories and removing of all obstacles at any cost

Thank you...C.P.