Monday, April 30, 2012


A brand new project went live on the people fund it web site. Our idea is to create a very large chandelier using all the single earrings that linger in drawers after people have lost its matching pair. It will take over 5,000 earrings to complete the artwork. The project is a response to the feedback we have had from the staff at Manchester Central Hospital where we have been installing mini exhibitions in the Summerhouse (another artwork of ours). The chandelier will be dedicated to them and to the patients who view the work from the windows.

Over the last year or so Sharon and Lauren have been installing art in the Glass Summer House that they created for a commission in the Manchester Central Hospital Women’s Courtyard.

Sometimes funny, sometimes eccentric, sometimes plain pretty, the art has caused a stir and discussion. Staff and patients have watched us come and go. We have almost become part of the scenery.

So, in February we asked the hospital community what they thought of the exhibits. We listened, we heard and this artwork is our response to what people said. ‘We want colour, light, movement and to able to take part in the making’. This, then, is our gift to them; an antidote to the hospital experience.

Art in hospital is good for people. It is well researched and documented that it improves healing and recovery. Lauren and Sharon want to make sure that art is still made for the hospital environment so that is why we continue to put in these exhibitions.

The Chandelier of Lost Earrings will be our next installation and then we hope to continue to make more.

For all those of you familiar with the Invest to Save: Arts in Health research and the idea of Flow posited by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, you may be interested in this short film by film-maker David Bickerstaff and our friend and collegue Dr Victoria Tischler.This builds a very neat connection between what we in the arts reffer to as flow, but from a sporting perspective. Great work.


"I can't be the only one who's thinking that the present government are using the recession to push through policies that sew it all up for the privileged few. It's like they're kettling the rest of us in every way, closing us in and closing us down – shutting down libraries, restricting access to further education, hacking away at the NHS. I'm not a soapbox merchant but what defines a civilised society for me is that we look after the sick and the elderly, educate our kids, nourish and cherish the next generation and give them ideals that are worth sticking to."

Answer at the footer of next weeks BLOG.

Thanks as ever...C.P.
The Zone from David Bickerstaff on Vimeo.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Beyond Ötzi: European Evolutionary History and its Relevance to Diet. Part I

In the previous post, I explained that Otzi descended in large part from early adopters of agriculture in the Middle East or nearby.  What I'll explain in further posts is that Otzi was not a genetic anomaly: he was part of a wave of agricultural migrants that washed over Europe thousands of years ago, spreading their genes throughout.  Not only that, Otzi represents a halfway point in the evolutionary process that transformed Paleolithic humans into modern humans.

Did Agriculture in Europe Spread by Cultural Transmission or by Population Replacement?

There's a long-standing debate in the anthropology community over how agriculture spread throughout Europe.  One camp proposes that agriculture spread by a cultural route, and that European hunter-gatherers simply settled down and began planting grains.  The other camp suggests that European hunter-gatherers were replaced (totally or partially) by waves of agriculturalist immigrants from the Middle East that were culturally and genetically better adapted to the agricultural diet and lifestyle.  These are two extreme positions, and I think almost everyone would agree at this point that the truth lies somewhere in between: modern Europeans are a mix of genetic lineages, some of which originate from the earliest Middle Eastern agriculturalists who expanded into Europe, and some of which originate from indigenous hunter-gatherer groups including a small contribution from neanderthals.  We know that modern-day Europeans are not simply Paleolithic mammoth eaters who reluctantly settled down and began farming. 

Read more »

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Lessons From Ötzi, the Tyrolean Ice Man. Part III

There are two reasons why I chose this time to write about Otzi.  The first is that I've been looking for a good excuse to revisit human evolutionary history, particularly that of Europeans, and what it does and doesn't tell us about the "optimal" human diet.  The second is that Otzi's full genome was sequenced and described in a recent issue of Nature Communications (1).  A "genome" is the full complement of genes an organism carries.  So what that means is that researchers have sequenced almost all of his genes. 

Read more »

Monday, April 23, 2012

WOMEN ARE HEROES, Art in the Public Realm and a Free Conference

Thank you for the responses to the ‘Olympic’ themed Richard Creme competition. I’m pleased to say that the winers will be notified by email this week, and disconcertingly, a certain Lord Coe won one (hmmm, be interesting to see if he turns up!) Next weeks blog will be a Richard Creme special to coincide with the opening of his show at MMU.
For those of you who have commented on FCnK a big thank you, and its interesting to note a few things that link into it from the popular press and the streets of Liverpool this week.

Zoe Williams in her ‘saturday sketch’ further expands on Olympic histrionics and in particular takes the bell theme further. Here’s a snippet of her conversation with Loughborough resident, John Stevens. "Have you heard about the Olympic bell?" he asks. Nope. "So there's a giant bell, and the (local) Taylor Bell Foundry put in a tender to make it. But instead they gave it to a firm in London, who subcontracted it to a firm in the Netherlands. Now," he finishes darkly, "we all call it the Dutch bell". Oh yes – moaning, in an anti-authoritarian, not entirely serious but not exactly joking, way – that's another thing we're really good at.

The streets of Liverpool have been filled with teary eyed spectators, watching the progress of the Royal de Luxe produced, Sea Odyssey. An Olympic sized extravaganza, but polarizing opinions. Lynn Gardner in the Guardian commenting that, ‘...the result is inclusive theatre where young and old rub shoulders with the giants. We walk together in their footsteps, and we walk taller because they are with us.’ Chris Bradley in the online Liverpool Click is more scathing, noting the huge expense of the performance, suggesting the event cost around £2 million, and focusing on the Little Girl Giant urinating! The horror and outrage at the urinating has produced some blisteringly funny responses and in both the Gardner and Bradley articles, it's worth scrolling through the readers comments to get a balance of views, including the role and place of the local arts communities, comparisons to Notting Hill Carnival (or not) and of course, relieving yourself in public. 

I can see the thrill in this kind of event. People being together, technical skill, pathos etc - but I do think Gardner is perhaps over egging it a little suggesting ‘we walk taller because they are with us’ - how so, and what’s the long term impact? I’d like to know if anyone has been undertaking any research on the impact of this kind of street theatre, and once the carnival is gone and the streets have been scrubbed up and the Little Girl Giant, her dog and her uncle and packed off to the next city, what’s the legacy? Each year the firework shows just get bigger and I for one, love them (I think its in our nature), but just how big and spectacular can all these events get, and don’t they leave us unable to be satisfied by smaller moments and greedy for increasingly larger helpings - moving towards a super-morbid cultural obesity? 

This BLOG has shared a number of street artists over the years in an attempt to show that the work of people like Banksy is a bit more than a superficial tag. Recently images of spray-painted walls in Afghanistan, Russia and now Bahrain have taken this potency much, much further. French artist JR takes a different perspective on participatory art, that he explains as simply, ‘Raising questions...’ That said, he did win the TED 11 prize and his work really resonates when thinking about art in the public realm. I’m mindful of comments made by Mike White on the publication of the Derek Wanless report to the Treasury in 2004: Securing Good Health for the Whole Population. Mike drew from this report and other work he’d been scrutinizing, that it is women's health and particularly women's education, that has the greatest impact on society. More than that - female literacy rates are the most significant indicator of mortality.

So, Women are Heroes is a book and a film by JR - but more than that, its an artist illuminating something of the world beyond the narrow confines of individual experience.

Here is an interesting quote from an article reviewing the book. When one onlooker in Monrovia didn't know what an art exhibition was, another person explained it thus: "You have been here for a moment looking at the portraits, asking questions, trying to understand. During that time, you haven't thought about what you will eat tomorrow. This is art."

Панк-молебен Богородица, 
Путина прогони PUSSY RIOT в храме 
Discerning readers may be picking up on how art in the public realm may have an impact that reachers wider than narrow sensationalism and potentially has political implications, that in turn, have clear implications on well-being. Since February three women from the punk-rock collective, Pussy Riot have been held in detention in Moscow, for performing a protest song against president elect Putin and what they see as the Russian Orthodox Church collaborating in politics. 13 more people were arrested over the weekend for demonstrating outside the Moscow courthouse, where the band members face up to seven years in jail.

“Five masked members of Pussy Riot performed a protest song entitled “Holy Shit” at the altar of the Christ the Savior Cathedral in downtown Moscow on February 21. The lyrics included lines such as “Holy Mother, Blessed Virgin, chase Putin out!”
Pussy Riot said the performance was a response to Orthodox Church head Patriarch Kirill’s backing of President-elect Vladimir Putin in the run-up to his landslide March 4 election victory. The patriarch called the 12 years of Putin's rule a "miracle of God" in a televised meeting. Putin’s press secretary said the president-elect reacted “negatively” when told of Pussy Riot’s protest.”

10 + 11 May 2012
Music in Healthcare Settings Seminar
Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester

RNCM Music for Health is pleased to invite people working in the cultural and health sectors to attend a FREE 2-day seminar about music in healthcare.

The seminar will
1. present the experience and learning from the EC funded ‘Music in Healthcare Settings: Training Trainers project’ (Leonardo Transfer of Innovation) at a local, national and European level;
2. highlight the importance of working in partnerships across the cultural and health sectors;
3. compare and discuss policy frameworks in the UK and France;
4. present case studies of musical interactions in healthcare settings and outline the training offered by RNCM, including the Medical Notes project funded by Youth Music;
5. present evaluation and research findings from the RNCM Music for Health programme.

The seminar is FREE, but booking is essential as places are limited.
To reserve your place for either one or both days, please fill in the booking form attached and return by email to no later than 1 May 2012.

For info on the project and seminars in our partner countries, go to

Women Make Music Opens for Applications (UK)

The Performing Right Society (PRS) has announced that its Women Make Music grant scheme is now open for applications.  The second year of Women Make Music comes after a successful pilot programme in 2011.  Through the programme, financial support of up to £5000 is available to women musicians; and new music in any genre is welcome, from classical, jazz and experimental, to urban, electronica and pop. 

The aims of Women Make Music are:
  • Break down assumptions and stereotypes within the music industry by encouraging role models for future generations
  • Raise awareness of the gender gap and to ensure that women are aware that support for new music is available to them
  • Increase the profile of women who are creating new music in the UK
  • Stimulate new collaborations between organisations and female music creators

There are two funding rounds in 2012 and the application deadlines are the 17th May 2012 and the 10th October 2012. For information visit: 
As ever, thanks for looking...C.P

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Lessons From Ötzi, the Tyrolean Ice Man. Part II

Otzi's Diet

Otzi's digestive tract contains the remains of three meals.  They were composed of cooked grains (wheat bread and wheat grains), meat, roots, fruit and seeds (1, 2).  The meat came from three different animals-- chamois, red deer and ibex.  The "wheat" was actually not what we would think of as modern wheat, but an ancestral variety called einkorn.

Isotope analysis indicates that Otzi's habitual diet was primarily centered around plant foods, likely heavily dependent on grains but also incorporating a variety of other plants (3).  He died in the spring with a belly full of einkorn wheat.  Since wheat is harvested in the fall, this suggests that his culture stored grain and was dependent on it for most if not all of the year.  However, he also clearly ate meat and used leather made from his prey.  Researchers are still debating the quantity of meat in his diet, but it was probably secondary to grains and other plant foods. It isn't known whether or not he consumed dairy.

Read more »

Monday, April 16, 2012

Exercise and Food Intake

The New York Times just published an article reviewing some of the recent research on exercise, food intake and food reward, titled "Does Exercise Make You Overeat?".  I was planning to write about this at some point, but I don't know when I'd be able to get around to it, and the NYT article is a fair treatment of the subject, so I'll just point you to the article.

Basically, burning calories through exercise causes some people to eat more, but not everyone does, and a few people actually eat less.  Alex Hutchinson discussed this point recently on his blog (1).  Part of it depends on how much fat you carry-- if you're already lean, the body is more likely to increase hunger because it very much dislikes going too low in body fat.  Most overweight/obese people do not totally make up for the calories they burn through exercise by eating more, so they lose fat.  There is a lot of individual variability here.  The average obese person won't lose a substantial amount of fat through exercise alone.  However, everyone knows someone who lost 50+ pounds through exercise alone, and the controlled trials support that it happens in a minority of people.  On the other side of the spectrum, I have a friend who gained fat while training for a marathon, and lost it afterward. 

Read more »
The Richard Creme exhibition will be open to the public at the Link Gallery at MMU from 2nd May until 11th May. You can find out more about this show by clicking on the image by international fashion photographer, Richard Burbridge below. More details of the show will be announced next week.

Four members of the North West Arts and Health Network have the opportunity to attend a private party on 1st May with Richard and his special guests...! This is a very, very special event and the nearest the network gets to exclusivity. To have your name entered into the prize draw, simply think about your answer and email it to before 2:00 on 25th April.
1. Which multinational and Olympic Partner do you associate with image 1

2. Which multinational and Olympic Partner do you associate with image 2

3. Which multinational and Olympic Partner do you associate with image 3


Originally set up as an informal regional network for people living and working in the North West Region, The North West Arts and Health Network has members in a range of countries including amongst others Afghanistan, Canada, India, Lithuania, Mexico and Sweden. Once in a while, its good to share some of the work that’s happening in other countries. One; because its just good to learn more about what we’re all up to and two; because we can be a little myopic in the UK. So, please feel free to get in touch if you are outside the UK and want to share your work, and once in a while we can share. Today, I’d like to introduce some of the work of Debasmita Dasgupta who creates graphic novels for children, and here is her ‘mini fish tale’ published as a blog, which she’s also developed as a free android app for children, with the not-for-profit grassroots organisation; the Bakul Foundation in India. Click on the photo to go to the story-blog.

This work has also been recently developed this into a free android app for children
A few years ago I had the pleasure of meeting Molly Carlile at the First Art of Good Health and Wellbeing, International Conference in Australia. Molly describes herself as a Death Talker: someone who through her professional nursing career, has expended her perspectives around how we live and die. Molly Carlile lives her motto ‘The more we talk, the less we fear’, by encouraging informed conversations about death and grief in order to demystify and de-stigmatise these experiences.  Molly has initiated a number of projects to engage and empower communities to deal more openly with terminal illness. Particularly interested in how the arts can play a part in peoples dying, she is a strong and charismatic voice in rethinking, how we approach are own, and others death. I quote:

“We don’t talk about death because we think of ourselves as immortal. We have faith that no matter what is wrong with us, there will be a treatment that will fix it. We tell our kids that death is something that happens to old people. And so we live in a bubble of denial, hoping that if we don’t think or talk about death, we can avoid it. So when death happens we are poorly informed, badly prepared and often suffer our grief in isolation because we have no one to talk to about how we are feeling.

The time has come for us to face death, to inform ourselves and to build our ability to show compassion to the people around us who suffer in silence and isolation.”
I recently nominated Molly for the 2012 International Journal of Palliative Nursing Awards, Educator of the Year Award. I am thrilled to say - she won it! Well done Molly - and justly deserved. Click on her photo above to see her website.
I’ve been trying not to join the ‘viral’ world, but after Claire Ford shared her work in the USA with us at the last networking event, it would be silly not to share this video that has had almost 5,000,000 hits since we last shared it!!! You can find out lots more about this work and more at  

Here’s another story about he Tricycle Theatre, Improvisation and Dementia. Just click on the photo below.

And finally on the dementia front, here’s yet another feature from the Guardian about music and dementia. 

An opportunity for a fully-funded PhD scholarship studying the effects of music making on the health and well-being of young disadvantaged people. Click on the crumhorn above, or link below, for details.

Last week I read a small book by Tom Lubbock who was the arts critic for the Independent and who died last year. It’s a book about his dying and as such, is a wonderful account of what it is to be confronted by your mortality and is neither mawkish or sentimental. What is particularly strong is his account of losing his own word-finding and word-making and how ultimately, for me, this makes the book beautifully considered and nigh-on poetic. He also makes me realise what a bloody wonderful thing the NHS is.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Next Primal Chef Event Sunday 5/20

Gil Butler has been working on a television show called Primal Chef, where he invites local chefs to make creative dishes from a list of Paleo ingredients, in a designated amount of time.  The format is reminiscent of Iron Chef.  The food is judged afterward by figures in the Paleo community.  Robb Wolf was a judge on the first episode.

Gil has invited me to be a judge on the next show, along with Sara Fragoso and Dr. Tim Gerstmar.  The next day, Sunday April 20th, Gil is organizing a catered Primal Chef event in Seattle, with Paleo dinner, speakers, entertainment, prizes, and a screening of part of Paleo Chef episode 1.  You can read the details and sign up here.  I won't be speaking because I don't have time to put together another talk right now, but I will be attending the event. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Lessons From Ötzi, the Tyrolean Ice Man. Part I

This is Otzi, or at least a reconstruction of what he might have looked like.  5,300 years ago, he laid down on a glacier near the border between modern-day Italy and Austria, under unpleasant circumstances.  He was quickly frozen into the glacier.  In 1991, his slumber was rudely interrupted by two German tourists, which eventually landed him in the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology in Italy. 

Otzi is Europe's oldest natural human mummy, and as such, he's an important window into the history of the human species in Europe.  His genome has been sequenced, and it offers us clues about the genetic history of modern Europeans.

Otzi's Story

Read more »

The Arts: Medicine or Duty?

Increasingly our conversations about the arts/health/well-being agenda have to take into account broader issues - and I know I’m like a stuck-record here, but isn’t this what art is: where the arts excite, provoke and influence (or incite) social change? 

On the ground - face to face, working around health and well-being, we know that the participatory arts have the potential to impact on individuals and small groups, but in a wider context, do we have ways of understanding the impact of art beyond the individual and on a societal level? On behavior and policy?

This week amidst escalating Olympic histrionics and the launch of the bizarre commemorative, Titanic centenary cruise to Newfoundland, two stories, not unrelated to our spectrum of arts/individual/society, have been in the press: the artist Louise Bourgeois (who died in 2010) has an interesting exhibition, and the writer Gunter Grass has been barred from Israel for publishing a poem.

Firstly, the exhibition: Louise Bourgeois: The Return of the Repressed runs until 27 May at the Freud Museum and explores the artists own experience of psychotherapy over 30 years alongside her art. It’s an interesting juxtaposition as the details of her own psychoanalysis only really emerged after her death, but the detailed writings reveal a 30 year, four times a week therapeutic relationship. These free-association writings and doodles are exhibited alongside her work at the Freud Museum - writing that she was encouraged to undertake by art critic Peter Frank, not her therapist, and which she described as ‘...not either my medicine nor my duty."

This is an incredibly interesting exhibition when we think about the relationship between the individual artist, Therapy and the broader Arts/Health movement and one I’d recommend that we continue to discuss. There is an interesting review in the Guardian which you’ll find by clicking on the photograph below.

German polymath, Gunter Grass provides another powerful voice, but where the voice of Bourgeoise was very much focused inwards, and I quote,  "In the 20th century the best work has been produced by those people whose exclusive concern was themselves..." Grass vociferously projects outwards and towards Benjamin Netanyahu and what he calls ‘western hypocrisy over Israel's own suspected nuclear programme amid speculation it might engage in military action against Iran to stop it building an atomic bomb.’ Israel has of course, banned him from entering the country and labeled him anti-semitic. So, what is this poem, and is any criticism of Israeli policy seen as anti-semitism?

When poetry sees you barred from a country, shouldn’t we pause and reflect on the potency of the arts beyond the individual and the power of the arts as non-violent protest? 

I made reference to Percy Shelley’s response to the Peterloo Massacre in my paper Fur Coat and No Knickers, and how when up to 80,000 people gathered at St Peter’s Field in Manchester in 1819 to demand the reform of parliament, the government sent in the cavalry resulting in 15 deaths and 650 injuries.This Massacre provoked Shelley to write what is widely seen as the first statement of the principle of non-violent resistance in The Masque of Anarchy.

“...Rise like Lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number,
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you-
Ye are many — they are few.”

Retiring Artistic Director of the Tricycle Theatre, Nicolas Kent’s final work, The BOMB, was a mix of plays, films, exhibitions and discussions about the Nuclear Bomb and its proliferation from the 1940’s to today. What a shame the Grass poem wasn’t published a month earlier, because which ever side of the fence you sit (or is that segregation wall?), we need to animate public discussion about some of the most important issues of the 21st Century. Theatre critic Michael Billington described Kent’s work as ‘ astonishing achievement that puts the nuclear issue back at the centre of public debate. The Tricycle has once again started a debate that our politicians would prefer to suppress.’ I’d suggest that Grass has upped the ante, and around such a poisonous issue that is clearly related to global health and well-being, and that expands the issues, way beyond benign sloganeering.

I’ve been involved in some interesting discussions with colleagues from the cultural sector about the ‘value’ of the arts and how we understand reach and impact, and details of that work will be published soon by the RSA, but listening to Grass, and yet feeling impotent as the politicians maneuver with oily dexterity around the biggest issues, I’m reminded that the value of the arts and artists lies beyond the ‘market’. Through their illumination and challenge to our own supine acceptance of the status quo, the true value of the arts, continues to be immeasurable.
Here is an unofficial translation of the Grass poem courtesy of Breon Mitchell and the Guardian, although I’ve seen variations out there. I’d be interested in your thoughts.

What must be said
Why have I kept silent, held back so long,
on something openly practiced in
war games, at the end of which those of us
who survive will at best be footnotes?
It's the alleged right to a first strike
that could destroy an Iranian people
subjugated by a loudmouth
and gathered in organized rallies,
because an atom bomb may be being
developed within his arc of power.
Yet why do I hesitate to name
that other land in which
for years—although kept secret—
a growing nuclear power has existed
beyond supervision or verification,
subject to no inspection of any kind?
This general silence on the facts,
before which my own silence has bowed,
seems to me a troubling lie, and compels
me toward a likely punishment
the moment it's flouted:
the verdict "Anti-semitism" falls easily.
But now that my own country,
brought in time after time
for questioning about its own crimes,
profound and beyond compare,
is said to be the departure point,
(on what is merely business,
though easily declared an act of reparation)
for yet another submarine equipped
to transport nuclear warheads
to Israel, where not a single atom bomb
has yet been proved to exist, with fear alone
the only evidence, I'll say what must be said.
But why have I kept silent till now?
Because I thought my own origins,
Tarnished by a stain that can never be removed,
meant I could not expect Israel, a land
to which I am, and always will be, attached,
to accept this open declaration of the truth.
Why only now, grown old,
and with what ink remains, do I say:
Israel's atomic power endangers
an already fragile world peace?
Because what must be said
may be too late tomorrow;
and because—burdened enough as Germans—
we may be providing material for a crime
that is foreseeable, so that our complicity
will not be expunged by any
of the usual excuses.
And granted: I've broken my silence
because I'm sick of the West's hypocrisy;
and I hope too that many may be freed
from their silence, may demand
that those responsible for the open danger
we face renounce the use of force,
may insist that the governments of
both Iran and Israel allow an international authority
free and open inspection of
the nuclear potential and capability of both.
No other course offers help
to Israelis and Palestinians alike,
to all those living side by side in enmity
in this region occupied by illusions,
and ultimately, to all of us.
Gunter Grass