Wednesday, September 28, 2011

An Un-Conference Event...The Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival and a Film from 1939

I am thrilled to be hosting this event alongside Anne Crabtree and the Greater Manchester Arts Health Network and we have four very different and very exciting sessions planned...
An Un-Conference at MMU
20th October
Four seperate sessions focusing on:
8.45 – 11am
Changing Mindsets – the realities of artists engagement for mental health and wellbeing
Dr Langley Brown and Phil Burgess
An interactive ‘how to’ for artists to stimulate enquiry into the underlying skills and knowledge required to work within the health sector and raise awareness of best practice in mental health
For: artists, local authority arts, mental health promotion, charitable mental health or arts organisations, cultural organisations.
For more information or to register for this session only go to:

11.15am – 1.15pm
Understanding and Evidencing Transformative Practice
Professor Lynn Froggett, UCLan, with Alistair Roy and Robert Little
A research based psychosocial approach to understanding how the arts can change individuals and communities followed by interactive workshops to explore how practitioners and organisations can evidence this.
For: individuals and organisations working in arts, health, voluntary sectors, cultural or arts and health organisations with some existing experience of developing or commissioning arts and health.
For more information or to register for this session only go to:

1.45 - 3.45pm
Depression and Imagination
Dorothy Rowe
A talk and discussion exploring the myths surrounding depression , looking at how using your imagination can challenge negative inner beliefs.
For more information about Dorothy Rowe please visit  or
For: strategic leads, politicians, GP’s, managers and staff from public health , mental health, health improvement, local authorities, arts organisations, voluntary sector organisations
For more information or to register for this session only go to:

4.00 - 6pm
Cultural Attendance and Public Mental Health
Mark O’Neill, Glasgow Life
Looking at the evidence for the health impacts of cultural attendance and participation and how it can be promoted as part of a public mental health strategy.
Leisa Gray from Manchester City Galleries will lead a practical example of an object handling session.
For: public health and local authority strategic leads, museums and galleries, LA arts teams, arts organisations, mental health and health promotion leads, arts and health organisations, artists
For more information or to register for this session only go to:

If you have any booking queries please contact Events Northern Ltd on 01772 336639 or

The Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival ( is now one of the largest arts and health events in the world with tens of thousands of attenders expected at almost 300 events taking place between 1-24 October. This year we have 10 provocative and entertaining learning events taking mental health and memory as their starting point.

In venues including The Citizens Theatre, Kelvingrove, CCA and Filmhouse, contributors include activists and community groups such as Oor Mad History and Voices of Experience, celebrities such as Elaine C Smith, former and current Chief Medical Officers Kenneth Calman and Harry Burns - and 10 universities, most are FREE, culminating in our international mental health film awards. The full event and booking details are in the document attached and it would be very helpful if you could promote these to your networks and members.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Humans on a Cafeteria Diet

In the 1970s, as the modern obesity epidemic was just getting started, investigators were searching for new animal models of diet-induced obesity.  They tried all sorts of things, from sugar to various types of fats, but none of them caused obesity as rapidly and reproducibly as desired*.  1976, Anthony Sclafani tried something new, and disarmingly simple, which he called the "supermarket diet": he gave his rats access to a variety of palatable human foods, in addition to standard rodent chow.  They immediately ignored the chow, instead gorging on the palatable food and rapidly becoming obese (1).  Later renamed the "cafeteria diet", it remains the most rapid and effective way of producing dietary obesity and metabolic syndrome in rodents using solid food (2).

Read more »

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Labour and Conservative Party Conferences; Networking; Dementia and Imagination and Some Thoughts on SOLIDARITY/αλληλεγγύη

Over in the Red Corner; over in the Blue
Over the next few weeks, the North West will be hosting the Labour and Conservative Party conferences: in Liverpool and Manchester respectively.

So, what of it? These are days of knee-jerk politics, photo-opportunities and sound-bites. But, we’re also in the middle of a period of fundamental change which will see the NHS; Education; Culture and the Arts, and of course Public Sector reforms altered beyond recognition. Amidst this bleak landscape, we also see smart u-turns at the sight of public dissent. So when middle-England takes to the streets to demand continued access to forests and woods, they are offered compromise and salve. The NHS and public pensions are an altogether bigger beast, and whilst the looters who took to the streets this summer to stock up on their designer brands are accused of being vermin, those who oversold sub-prime mortgages and played the markets, remain invisible and very much, still in control. And those of us left competing for work and mortgaged up to the hilt with our keenly sold credit-cards and higher purchase lifestyles, are told we’ve been living beyond our means...a mainline drip-feed diet of temporal consumer caffeine.

Whilst we see an incredible expression of frustration and anger at political dominance and abuse across North Africa; neatly coined the Arab Spring, it seems this unrest is acceptable, because its happening under some outmoded dictatorship; somewhere hot and ‘other’. This sort of uprising in England’s Green and Promised Land would never happen, because we live in a democracy...and when we see Monsieurs Sarkosy and Cameron heroically shaking the hands of the free people of Libya; it reassures us, doesn’t it?
Anyway, we have these events; we have simmering civic unrest and we have our agenda for arts, health and well-being. Having some experience of pitching questions to MP’s, I wonder, what are the questions we would ask of the party leaders, if we had the opportunity? I’d very much like to hear your thoughts either online or emailed.

A starter might be around the widening inequalities gap and the potential of the arts bringing communities together: it could be around the broader social impact of the arts, perhaps as a vehicle for giving voice to potential (but apathetic) voters: what about non-pharmacological approaches to mental ill-health or dementia: it could be around social prescribing and social return on investment…or it might simply be about the value of the arts at the heart of 21st century life.

Go on…give it some thought and get back to me.

Networking evening
The next free event will take place here at MMU next Thursday 29th between 6 and 8. I’ll confirm details of the venue once I’ve had an indication if people will be attending or not and I’ll email this out next Tuesday only if you get in touch. I have no agenda for the evening and it will be free-and-easy and led by YOU.

Anyway, if you’re interested in sharing something and want to attend, please email me at
Dementia and Imagination
This is an exciting and growing field, and following ongoing work in Derbyshire, I am working with colleagues across the UK to develop a very exciting research programme around the impact of the arts on the sentience of people living with dementia and the communities they live in. More of that soon.

Time Slips
For now, I’d like to make an unashamed plug for the work of Dr Anne Basting from the University of Wisconsin, who I’d suggest, is delivering some of the finest work around the areas of healthy aging and dementia. Her new website Time Slips, comes on line this weekend and along with the other free resources she has made available, this must be some of the most groundbreaking work out there. The three links below are inspiring and quite unique:

From our own Correspondent
A big thanks to Anne too for her support of Arts for Health intern Claire Ford who has been awarded a Churchill Fellowship to learn more about arts based dementia activity in Milwauke and Washington and to Carrie McGee at MoMA. You can find out about Claire’s ongoing work at her blog:

Word of the Week


Solidarity is the integration, and degree and type of integration, shown by a society or group with people and their neighbors. It refers to the ties in a society - social relations - that bind people to one another. The term is generally employed in sociology and the other social sciences. What forms the basis of solidarity varies between societies. In simple societies it may be mainly based around kinship and shared values.

International solidarity is ''not an act of charity but an act of unity between allies fighting on different terrains toward the same objectives.''
- Samora Machel

''Unlike solidarity, which is horizontal and takes place between equals, charity is top-down, humiliating those who receive it and never challenging the implicit power relations.'' - Eduardo Galeano

''Solidarity is not a matter of altruism. Solidarity comes from the inability to tolerate the affront to our own integrity of passive or active collaboration in the oppression of others, and from the deep recognition of our most expansive self-interest. From the recognition that, like it or not, our liberation is bound up with that of every other being on the planet, and that politically, spiritually, in our heart of hearts we know anything else is unaffordable.''
- Aurora Levins Morales

''Solidarity does not assume that our struggles are the same struggles, or that our pain is the same pain, or that our hope is for the same future. Solidarity involves commitment, and work, as well as the recognition that even if we do not have the same feelings, or the same lives, or the same bodies, we do live on common ground.'' - Sarah Ahmed

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Primal Docs

Chris Armstrong, creator of the website Celiac Handbook, has designed a new non-commercial website called Primal Docs to help people connect with ancestral health-oriented physicians.  It's currently fairly small, but as more physicians join, it will become more useful.  If you are a patient looking for such a physician in your area, or an ancestral health-oriented physician looking for more exposure, it's worth having a look at his site:

Primal Docs

Update 9/22: apparently there is already another website that serves a similar purpose and has many more physicians enrolled: Paleo Physicians Network.

Friday, September 16, 2011

More on Placebos for Art; the 'Love Arts Festival'; m a n i f e s t o and Enabling: Inclusive Arts Practice, for Public Health and Well-Being

Enabling: Inclusive Arts Practice, for Public Health and Well-Being
11th October, Bolton Central Museum
Bolton Council Arts Development Service invite you to an event to promote inclusive arts practice for public health and wellbeing and to inform your future decision-making and development in this growing area of work.

In the current changing economic climate, with a move to the big society, localism bill, shared services, personalisation and opening up of services for commissioning opportunities, there is a need to equip organisations in the third sector, arts and creative industries with the knowledge needed to ensure they are able to keep up and exploit new opportunities to their fullest. The day will cover inclusive arts practice, how to be tender ready and win contracts in health and social care and how to navigate the emerging health commissioning process. Details and booking:

Placebos for Art...
The Behring Institute for Medical Research has been collecting placebos for Art.

Midway through the course of this project, a special monitoring committee will examine the research for any significant discrepancies. In this type of research, the differences between the control group and the study group become visible only after post-study analysis. All participating patients must give their consent prior to participation; the study will comply with Dutch legislation for academic medical research on human beings and will be carried out according to the applicable international guidelines.

The Behring Institute has published the preliminary results of the Call for Placebos for Art in early 2011. This consists of a first attempt at grouping, categorizing, and defining the pieces, projects, paintings, pills, and installations.

Download the report by clicking on the image above...and make of it, what you will.
“Theatre and other art forms are a fantastic way to explore our complex responses to mental health issues and to encourage people to talk more openly. That’s why I’m supporting the Love Arts festival in Leeds”
Stephen Fry
Love Arts Festival in Leeds
27th September to the 16th November
Bring the arts and mental health together
With Ruby Wax, Phil Hammond, Jon Ronson, Arthur Smith and so much more.

But nearer to home, the  m a n i f e s t o  part one, nears completion...

A lovely piece of music for the weekend

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Fat Tissue Insulin Sensitivity and Obesity

In this post, I'll discuss a few more facts pertaining to the idea that elevated insulin promotes the accumulation of fat mass.  

Insulin Action on Fat Cells Over the Course of Fat Gain

The idea that insulin acts on fat cells to promote obesity requires that insulin suppress fat release in people with more fat (or people who are gaining fat) to a greater extent than in lean people.  As I have written before, this is not the case, and in fact the reverse is true.  The fat tissue of obese people fails to normally suppress fatty acid release in response to an increase in insulin caused by a meal or an insulin injection, indicating that insulin's ability to suppress fat release is impaired in obesity (1, 2, 3).  The reason for that is simple: the fat tissue of obese people is insulin resistant.

There has been some question around the blogosphere about when insulin resistance in fat tissue occurs.  Is it only observed in obese people, or does it occur to a lesser extent in people who carry less excess fat mass and are perhaps on a trajectory of fat gain?  To answer this question, let's turn the clocks back to 1968, a year before Neil Armstrong first set foot on the moon. 

Read more »

Four Funding Opportunities; Theatre Submissions: Ai Weiwei in Salford and Startling Health Statistics from the USA

Heart Research UK Healthy Heart Grants
Heart Research UK Healthy Heart Grants support innovative projects designed to promote heart health and to prevent or reduce the risks of heart disease in specific groups or communities. Grants of up to £10,000 are available to community groups, voluntary organisations and researchers who are spreading the healthy heart message.

Winston Churchill Memorial Trust
The Trust provides funding for British citizens to travel anywhere in the world for between four and eight weeks, with the aim of gaining knowledge and experience that will enhance effectiveness at work and contribution to the community. Travel Fellowships are to enable men and women from all walks of life to acquire knowledge and experience abroad. In the process, they gain a better understanding of the lives and different cultures of people overseas and, on their return, their effectiveness at work and their contribution to the community is enhanced greatly. For more information visit:

First Light Movies
First Light Movies, which provides grants to projects that enable young people to participate in all aspects of film production, has announced that its Young Film Fund has re-opened for applications. Since launching in 2001, First Light Movies have enabled over 40,000 young filmmakers to write, act, shoot, light, direct and produce over 1000 films and media projects. The funding is available to organisations such as; schools; youth services; community and voluntary groups that work with young people aged between 5 and 18.
The closing date for applications is 2pm on the 12th October2011. For more information visit:

Graphic Thought Facility
The Wellcome Trust Arts Awards
The Wellcome Trust is inviting organisations and individuals to apply for funding through its Arts Awards. The Arts Awards support projects that engage the public with biomedical science through the arts including dance, drama, performance arts, visual arts, music, film, craft, photography, creative writing or digital media. Applications are invited for projects of up to £30,000 through their small & medium-sized grant programme. The aim of the awards is to support arts projects that reach new audiences which may not traditionally be interested in science and provide new ways of thinking about the social, cultural and ethical issues around contemporary science. The next application deadline for small & medium sized projects is the 28th October 2011. For more information visit:

Laced Banana
Laced Banana are accepting submissions for a new regular night dedicated to your NUTS*. Within the theme of mental health you have the chance to have your own writing performed on November 3rd at the Lass O’ Gowrie.
More information including guidelines and topics can be found on our website *New Undiscovered Theatre Shorts

Ai Weiwei in Salford
If you're easily offended, look away now and thanks to CsI for this photo.

Startling Facts from the USA
...and finally thanks to Cheryl G for this link to another creative commons gem

Click on the image to go to the amazing (and disturbing) website...

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

...a few events on the horizon

Hello again and welcome back to a very damp autumn. Just a few advance notices of events on the horizon.

A one-day conference on
Spirituality and Psychosis
at Liverpool John Moores University on the 10th November 2011

This conference will focus on psychosis and its relationship to spirituality, altered states of consciousness and unusual experiences and how these can be used constructively to facilitate recovery in people given a mental health diagnosis. Contributors are experienced in clinical practice and research, neuroscience and spiritual practices. The day will thereby provide a groundbreaking combination of practical ideas, new psychological understanding, opportunities for experiential work and lively discussion. This conference will appeal to mental health professionals, services users, carers and anyone seeking greater understanding in this rapidly developing area.

Arts 4 Dementia - Best Practice Conference
Royal Albert Hall, 14 November 2011

The Arts 4 Dementia Best Practice Conference will outline the constructive value and discuss the most effective means to bring artistic stimulation to people living with dementia in the community, to enable them to live better and longer in their own homes.

2 interesting dementia-related pieces of work from Collective Encounters

Now and Then (2010)
Now and Then was an innovative project which explored the impact of dementia on carers. The project involved substantial research with people with dementia and their carers in Merseyside and resulted in our Third Age Theatre company producing a 40 minute interactive theatre piece which was performed to health care professionals, health and social care students, at PSS’s Carers Convention and at the National Pensioners Parliament. The piece raised awareness of the challenging situation facing family carers and highlighted significant problems in relation to the health care profession.

Live and Learn (2011 – 2014)
Live and Learn was developed arising from those findings, and through wider research internationally into the impact and value of creative work with people with dementia. This is a three year project funded mostly through Baring Foundation.Live and Learn will bring together third age volunteers with professional artists and dementia specialists to develop new models of creative reminscence to engage people with dementia. Crucially, these models will be ones that can be used by carers in their daily routines. Working both in care homes and in the community we will test new ideas and draw on international best practice; providing creative interventions for people with dementia and on-the-job training for professional and family carers. The project will also involve some performance work, with our Third Age Theatre company producing theatre to highlight the issues and articulate the stories they encounter through the process. We will also have a series of stakeholder events at which we disseminate our findings, share our ideas and facilitated debate with the wider community. The first event will be held on 2nd November and will involve presentations by David Clegg (whose work Ancient Mysteries was recently heard on Radio 4) and Karen Hayes, a poet-in-residence in several care homes and consultant on Live and Learn. The event will also launch Live and Learn and involve discussion around arts and dementia with stakeholders from the health, arts and social care sectors. If you would like further information please email

And last, but not least:

Arts for Health at MMU
Greater Manchester Arts Health Network
An Un-Conference event
four separate sessions on 20th October 2011

Guest Speaker at the Un Conference Event, Dorothy Rowe

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Hyperinsulinemia: Cause or Effect of Obesity?

Is Elevated Insulin the Cause or Effect of Obesity?

The carbohydrate hypothesis, in its most popular current incarnation, states that elevated insulin acts on fat cells to cause fat storage, leading to obesity.  This is due to its ability to increase the activity of lipoprotein lipase and decrease the activity of hormone-sensitive lipase, thus creating a net flux of fat into fat cells.  I'm still not sure why this would be the case, considering that fat tissue becomes more insulin resistant as body fat accumulates, therefore insulin action on it is not necessarily increased.  Total fat release from fat tissue increases with total fat mass (1), demonstrating that insulin is not able to do its job of suppressing fat release as effectively in people who carry excess fat.  But let's put that problem aside for the moment and keep trucking.

Read more »

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Catered Paleo Dinner with Yours Truly

Gil Butler, organizer of the Western Washington Paleo Enthusiasts group, has organized a catered "paleo" dinner on Sunday, October 9th.  He will be screening the first episode of "Primal Chef", Featuring Robb Wolf and others.  He invited me to give a short (20 minute) presentation, which I accepted.  There are still roughly 30 spots remaining [update 9/21-- the event is full].

The event will be in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle and the price is $15.76 per person.  I will not be paid for this talk, it's just an opportunity to share ideas and meet people. 

Click here to register.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Book Review: The End of Overeating

The End of Overeating was written based on the personal journey of Dr. David A. Kessler (MD) to understand the obesity epidemic, and treat his own obesity in the process.  Dr. Kessler was the FDA commissioner under presidents George HW Bush and Bill Clinton.  He is known for his efforts to regulate cigarettes, and his involvement in modernizing Nutrition Facts labels on packaged food.  He was also the dean of Yale medical school for six years-- a very accomplished person. 

Dr. Kessler's book focuses on 1) the ability of food with a high palatability/reward value to cause overeating and obesity, 2) the systematic efforts of the food industry to maximize food palatability/reward to increase sales in a competitive market, and 3) what to do about it.  He has not only done a lot of reading on the subject, but has also participated directly in food reward research himself, so he has real credibility.  The End of Overeating is not the usual diet book. 
Read more »