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