What a week! I shall keep heroically quiet in the face of Olympic fever, only to say what a wonderful distraction Danny Boyle provided us with in times of swingeing austerity. Bravo, you volunteer dancing nurses. Was that art and health - was that Big Society in action, and do you have jobs to waltz back to? I had a funny feeling watching the opening ceremony - near emotional...in fact, it reminded me of how I was almost washed along in something similar after the people’s princess died: a rare coming together of people, in that case through a media-induced shared pseudo-grief, in this case, through a desperate clinging on to our fractured identity. Come to think of it, hasn’t D who shall not be named, been conspicuous in her absence from all things jubilant and olympic? All hail the puppet master - all hail our transient moments of civic delusion.
With the very generous contribution of our NHS staff entertaining us in mind, it is with thanks to a friend in New York, that I can share news of an event in Kingston (just north of NYC) in October. The O+ Festival brings health workers and artists together to exchange practice - bartering the art of medicine for the medicine of art. Admittedly this is from a country where many people can’t afford health care insurance, but the premiss is excellent and well worth exploring.
Did you know that across the NHS at the moment, there are over 100 different tools for monitoring your vital signs? In other words, the ways in which vital signs such as blood pressure and temperature are monitored in hospitals needs to be standardised across the NHS. Lack of a standardised process is causing confusion and sometimes delays in patients getting help. To find out more about this, click on the happy and valued nurse below. The excellent writer and surgeon, Dr Atul Gawande has written extensively on this in his fascinating book, The Checklist Manifesto. Just imagine for a moment, if airline pilots didn’t rigorously follow a systematic safety checklist before they took you off on your summer holidays! Well, imagine too, if the team preparing you for surgery hadn’t gathered your health information in a systematic and universally understood manner.
And following on from the opening ceremony of our ultimate national wellbeing campaign, it was with great honour, that I accepted the invitation to speak alongside Dr Malcolm Rigler at the Faculty of Public Health’s Annual Conference, rather suitably held at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff. Dr Rigler isn’t one to blow his own trumpet, but without hesitation, he can safely be described as one of the founding fathers of this thing we call arts and health. As a GP, he has never been shy in coming forward to expound the potential of the arts, and artists to influence both medical practice and civic society. He’s been supporting the ideas of the Peckham Experiment for many years and commissioned some of the arts/health greats from his GP Practice at Withymoor Village Surgery. Think Ali Jones (now Clough), John Angus and Mike White. Rigler ploughed this furrow, before others were brave enough to question the way in which medicine is delivered. The conference was packed to the roof with delegates, and although our hour session was very much quieter than the other parallels which focused on leadership, we were proud to have had the input and enthusiastic support from real innovators and giants from the field of medicine and public health. I extend my thanks to all of you that attended and particularly to John Wyn Owen, Prof John Ashton and the very inspirational Mark Gamsu. Dr Rigler and I will be writing an article that takes our thoughts further, entitled Imagination in 21st Century Public Health.
‘PUTIN IS SCARED OF US, CAN YOU IMAGINE? SCARED OF GIRLS.’
It seems that since we first broadcast the plight of Pussy Riot in February 2012, the band have gained much in the way of celebrity support. Lets hope that the growing media attention puts pressure on the Russian authorities, to release them, and listen to their voices. For an exclusive interview with three members of the collective, click on the video below.
It would be easy to smirk at Pussy Riot from a safe distance, but performing songs like, Putin Pissed Himself in front of the Kremlin is both courageous and dangerous. Ekaterina Degot, Russian art critic comments, "What you were doing was incredible. That it's going to change Russian history. That there is no question that what you are doing is art and that no Russian artist has brought about this much change, ever." Powerful stuff.
Finally, another pioneer of arts in health in Manchester: Chris Agnew, has died on 3 July after a long and courageous battle with cancer. Chris established puppetry and performance at Manchester's St Mary's Hospital in 1979, helped initiate arts activities at the Christie cancer hospital, developed performance work with elderly patients at Withington Hospital and, with textile artist Adrienne Brown, was joint coordinator of Stockport Arts and Health (SAH). For a fuller appreciation of Chris Agnew by her friend and colleague Langley Brown, please click on the image below.
‘To create a healthier nation we must start by encouraging inclusive and harmonious relationships in a society where so many find themselves socially excluded. The principal killers are not cancer and heart disease but lack of social support, poor education and stagnant economies.’ Dr Malcolm Rigler