Saturday, December 31, 2011

Fiction and poetry are doses, medicines. What they heal is the rupture reality makes on the imagination.

(If you’re looking for the manifesto, please scroll down the page and there’ll be more soon)

‘Fiction and poetry are doses, medicines. What they heal is the rupture reality makes on the imagination.’ Jeanette Winterson 

Looking through the newspapers over the last few days, I’ve been overwhelmed by the usual round up of ‘highlights’ of 2011: successes, failures, deaths and revelations. I’m still surprised how little is reported on the on-going crisis resulting from the tsunami in Japan in March.
How is the health and well-being of the displaced people around Fukushima, now that the Japanese government has increased the levels of radiation it is permissible and ‘safe’ for its citizens to be exposed to? Although barely noticeable in the printed media in the UK, counterpunch have provided some compelling detail, exposing the very real and enduring plight of people in Japan. What is particularly poignant, is the focus on women's voices, reminiscent of Greenham Common in the early 80’s, when 30,000 women held hands and formed a human fence around nine miles of the US nuclear missile base, and sung They Shall Not Pass
The women of Japan sing a traditional song of remembrance and longing, Furosato:

Someday when I have done what I set out to do,
I will return to where I used to have my home.
Lush and green are the mountains of my homeland.
Pure and clear is the water of my old country home.

This year has also seen societal unrest on a scale unseen in a generation. Whilst focus in the UK media has been on the ‘Arab Spring’ and the unfolding crisis in Syria, the voices of school girls unbalanced the political system across Chile, resulting in a number of government resignations and questioning wider social inequalities. The voices of the young women of Chile cannot be ignored.
Closer to home, and less apparently sensational, the small print in the Guardian on 30th December revealed that antidepressant use in the England has risen by more than a quarter over the last 3 years. Prescriptions for anti-depressants rose from 34m in 2007/08 to 43.4m in 2010/11: an increase of 28%. Furthermore, in the North West we have the highest antidepressant use over 2010/11, with 7.2m prescriptions dispensed.
I have no doubt at all, that antidepressants offer critical respite from serious and debilitating depression, but we mustn't lose sight of some of the factors that impact on our mental health, and the current economic crisis plays a real part in this. Whilst counselling and talking therapies can help turn lives around, it is significant that as the government have increased their support for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, this apparent treatment of choice is both time-limited and ‘measured’ in part, by the individuals’ ability to find employment/return to work. And we’re told that depression is costing the economy almost £11bn a year. I seem to remember the wonderful Dorothy Rowe telling the Un-Conference here at MMU in October, that guilt, blame and shame are all part of that complex baggage that erodes our well-being and can cause depression. (see Greenberg in recommended books for the big picture)

Doesn’t it seem like we’re in some horrible muddle, measuring our well-being...measuring our ‘happiness’ ad infinitum. The writer Jeanette Winterson sums it up perfectly, ‘...when money becomes the core value, then education drives towards utility...the life of the mind will not be counted as a good unless it produces measurable results.’
In her autobiography, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? Jeanette Winterson paints a picture of her life, originally fictionalised in Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit. It’s an enthralling read and one that I won’t spoil, but one in which we are given some very strong ideas about the potential impact of the arts on our well-being, and how as ‘meaning-seeking creatures’ in an increasingly secular world, we need to find ‘new ways of finding meaning.’ She also succeeds in blowing the myth, that poetry and prose are luxuries for the educated middle classes, suggesting ‘a tough life needs a tough language - and that is what poetry is. That is what literature offers - a language powerful enough to say how it is.’


In his report to HM Treasury, didn’t Derek Wanless suggest that evidence showed that one of the strongest determinants of health impact, wasn’t in fact, the reach of health services, but the female literacy rate?

I wonder how the people of Japan will describe this experience of being; will the actions of the young women of Chile go down in song, and how will we make sense of the here-and-now on our increasingly depressed little island?   C.P

Thanks to Dr Nick Shimmin for sharing counterpunch; Professor Chris Williams of Pace University for his essay; the inspirational young people of Chile and Jeanette Winterson.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Days

What are days for?
Days are where we live.
They come, they wake us
Time and time over.
They are to be happy in:
Where can we live but days?

Ah, solving that question
Brings the priest and the doctor
In their long coats
Running over the fields.

Philip Larkin 1964

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Best things...manifesto and first networking evening 2012

Just a couple of things for this last posting of 2011…

I want to give a big thanks to everyone who’s been supportive of Arts for Health over the last 12 months and wish you all the very best for whatever 2012 throws at us. On a personal note, it has been incredibly exciting to see people joining our supposedly ‘regional’ network from all areas of the globe! It’s wonderful to have lots of comments about the manifesto (part 1) too, some of which I will include in part 2 in January.
 
Work in progress from 1st session in Manchester...
If you haven’t sent thoughts or responses to me about the manifesto, but were involved in the process, I’d be really keen to hear your thoughts, or collect your comments before its next incarnation. So please send them to artsforhealth@mmu.ac.uk
I have collected some sharp, subtle and inspirational thoughts from people who were involved in the sessions, from those who weren’t but feel passionately, and from the wider world of Culture, Science, Politics and the Arts.

Dementia and Imagination evening
I’m thrilled that the artist Claire Ford will be sharing reflections of her Churchill Fellowship at our first network event of 2012 on Thursday January 26th between 6:00 and 8:00pm (venue to be confirmed at MMU). As usual the event is free to our members, and will be informal. Claire spent 10 weeks in the USA exploring different approaches to dementia and the arts, and will be sharing this experience, her findings and ideas about future developments in the field.


Final details of the venue and confirmation of places will be sent out one week prior to the event, but please drop an expression of interest in attending to artsforhealth@mmu.ac.uk before Thursday 19th January. Please enter Dementia and Imagination in the subject line of the email.

For now, my very best things to you...Clive

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Sign of the Times

Every now and then, I venture out to go shopping at mainstream chain clothing stores.  Although I find it onerous, there are certain things I can't get at thrift stores.  For example, I can never find nice jeans.

The last time I set foot in these stores was about two years ago.  It was tough to find pants my size at that time-- many stores simply didn't sell pants with a 30 inch waist.  This year, it was even harder, since some of the stores that formerly carried 30W pants no longer did.  I managed to find my usual 30W 30L size in two stores, but I had a bizarre experience in both cases.   I put them on, and they were falling off my waist.  Since my waist size hasn't changed in two years, and my old 30W 30L pants of the same brand still fit the same as they did when I bought them two years ago, I have to conclude that both stores have changed their definition of "30 inches".  My new size is 28W 30L, which is tough to find these days.
Read more »

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

M A N I F E S T O and more...

M A N I F E S T O  Part ONE
Our manifesto is just as much about education as it is health; the arts as it is science, communities as it is the individual. Well-being is central to our vision. The arts are central to fulfilling our fundamental human rights.

  • this is not a quick fix
  • this is not about benign lumps of municipal sculpture
  • this is not about reducing the arts to a cost-effective prescription
  • this is about well-being
  • this is about democracy
  • this is about human flourishing
  • this is about new ways of understanding impact and value
  • this is about solidarity

Click on the image above to access full-colour, black and white and podcast versions. I'll be collating all comments and thoughts over the new-year.

NETWORKING EVENINGS at MMU
Please keep your eye on the blog for updates on three very special networking events over winter/spring 2012:
  • Stroke and the Arts
  • Dementia and Imagination
  • Fourth Culture
Response to the European Review Consultation
For those of you who were interested in the response to the European Review Consultation lead by Sir Michael Marmot for the World Health Organisation, emphasising the importance of creativity, culture and the arts in relationship to social determinants of health and health inequalities, please see the co-ordinated response from Stephen Clift, to whom I extend my thanks.
(Click on image below)

 Experience of Creativity Questionnaire
Elaine McNeill from Liverpool John Moores University is undertaking a study that network members may want to contribute to.
The purpose of the study
This study is part of MSc in Consciousness and transpersonal Psychology and will look toward developing an understanding of personal transformation as an outcome of creative practice.  As a participant you may benefit by gaining a deeper understanding of your creative practice. 
Taking part
It is entirely up to you to decide whether or not to take part. If you do you will be asked to complete a 10-15min questionnaire online. You are still free to withdraw at any time and without giving a reason. A decision to withdraw will not affect your rights. The online questionnaire requires you to consider a time when you were being creative. The questionnaire should take approx 10-15mins. You may be asked to take part in an in-depth interview which will take 20-30mins, please leave a contact email address at the end of the survey. The interview will be exploring the aspects of the creative process discussed in the questionnaire.
The possible benefits include:
A greater understanding of creativity which could inform your studies/practice.
Confidentiality
As a participant you will have access to the final report and you may be quoted verbatim in future publications. However, your participation and contribution to this research will be kept confidential as you will remain anonymous in all information/data. 
Please click on this link to access the questionnaire:  http://www.survey.ljmu.ac.uk/ecq

The Two Wheeled Key to Better Health and a Better World
Thanks again to Cheryl G for another excellent info-graphic. Click on the graphic to go to the full document.

Friday, December 9, 2011

60 Minutes Report on the Flavorist Industry

A reader sent me a link to a recent CBS documentary titled "Tweaking Tastes and Creating Cravings", reported by Morley Safer.

Safer describes the "flavorist" industry, entirely dedicated to crafting irresistible odors for the purpose of selling processed and restaurant food.  They focused on the company Givaudin.  Dr. David Kessler, author of The End of Overeating, makes an appearance near the end.

Here are a few notable quotes:

Read more »

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Is a Pizza a vegetable?

Thank you SO MUCH for all the thoughts and comments on the manifesto part 1. Everything is valid and will be thrown in the mix for part 2. Sorry for my slow response if you've emailed me whilst I've been in Australia. I am back in the UK now and will be updating this blog in the manner in which you are accustomed to.

So for now, and to get us in the mood for all that 2012 offers, a question.
IS A PIZZA A VEGETABLE?
It appears that congress thinks so. Read on by clicking on the pizza!
Best things, Clive

Friday, December 2, 2011

New Review Papers on Food Reward

As research on the role of reward/palatability in obesity continues to accelerate, interesting new papers are appearing weekly.  Here is a roundup of review papers I've encountered in the last three months.  These range from somewhat technical to very technical, but I think they should be mostly accessible to people with a background in the biological sciences. 

Food and Drug Reward: Overlapping Circuits in Human Obesity and Addiction
Written by Dr. Nora D. Volkow and colleagues.  This paper describes the similarities between the mechanisms of obesity and addiction, with a focus on human brain imaging studies.  Most researchers don't think obesity is an addiction per se, but the mechanisms (e.g., brain areas important for reward) do seem to overlap considerably.  This paper is well composed and got a lot of media attention.  Dr. Volkow is the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a branch of the National Institutes of Health.  The NIH is the main source of biomedical research funding in the US, and also conducts its own research.

Here's a quote from the paper:

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