Sunday, March 31, 2013

TRUTH & LIES: an Arts and Health NEWS FLASH

GOVERNMENT RETRACT PLANS TO PRIVATISE THE PUBLIC SECTOR. NHS in SAFE HANDS.
Thanks to one sharp-eyed reader for sending me their copy of the Sun for todays blog!


...and thanks too, for these words of support from our new project sponsor - George Clooney.



Manchester Arts Gallery closed after degenerate hooligans smash paintings!

The Guardian reports...
“...when Manchester Art Gallery was due to close and few people were about, an attendant heard ‘crackings of glass’ coming from one of the Galleries.

Two attendants ran into the Gallery and found three women, Lilian Forrester, Annie Briggs, Evelyn Manesta, running round, cracking the glass of the biggest and most valuable pictures in the collections. It had been well planned. Nowhere else in the Gallery were hung so many famous pictures, so close together.

The Gallery doors were shut by the doorkeeper and the three women were caught . The Chief Constable and a superintendent took the women to the Town Hall for questioning. They were charged under the Malicious Damage Act, 1861, and released on bail until the next morning when they appeared before the Stipendiary Magistrate.”



Click on the BURN poster above for the full story. Additionally Jeanette Winterson writes on suffrage, Pussy Riot and the battles that remain to be fought.

Did you know, that whilst the media seems keen to point the finger at countries like Saudi Arabia where women don’t have the right to vote - closer to our cosy western homes, women can’t vote in the state of the Vatican City! Ahh the liberty that monotheism brings. 

Music is BAD for your health and well-being: or State Sponsored Bigotry?


Following the publication last year of its pocket-size guide on the ‘symptoms of homosexuality’, (don’t forget that there are handy camps to ‘correct effeminate behaviour’ too) the Malaysian Government has invested in a musical (hmmm) to warn young people about the perils of being lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) But first, let’s remind ourselves, how do we spot ‘em? This is what the Malaysian Government advise...keep your eyes peeled:

For gays:
  • Muscular body and a fondness for showing off the body by wearing clothing, such as by wearing V-necks and sleeveless tops
  • A preference for tight and bright coloured clothes
  • An inclination to be attracted to men
  • A tendency to carry big handbags, similar to the kinds used by women
For lesbians:
  • Showing attraction to women
  • Distancing themselves from women other than their girlfriends
  • A preference for hanging out, sleeping and dining with women
  • Absence of feelings for men
Really helpful stuff - You couldn't script it, could you? Asmara Songsang (Abnormal Desire) follows the lives of three LGBT friends who throw loud parties, take drugs and have casual sex, thereby incurring the wrath of their pious neighbours, who attempt to reintroduce them to religion. Those who repent are spared, while those who don't are killed in a lightning storm.

Rahman Adam, 73, who wrote and directed the musical, commented, "Children need to recognise that men are for women, and women are for men. They [LGBT] are all out to have homosexual and lesbian sex, and although right now it is not so serious [in Malaysia], we need to act, to do something, to say something, to say that this is bad and not to follow it."



And when it comes to ‘curing’ homosexuality, the mantle seems to have been passed back to religion following the failure of science to iron out this unsavoury variance in what it is to be human. It was only this year that one of psychiatry's most influential figures, Dr Robert Spritzer, co-author of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) in the US, apologised to America's gay people for a scientific study looking at ‘reparative therapy’ supporting attempts to "cure" people of their homosexuality through medication and psychological treatments. Spitzer has since apologised, commenting, ‘I believe I owe the gay community an apology," his letter said. "I also apologise to any gay person who wasted time and energy undergoing some form of reparative therapy because they believed that I had proven that reparative therapy works.’ Click on Pray your Gay Away for more on the Spitzer story.


This bigoted perspective isn’t something confined to Malaysia or the hallowed halls of American psychiatry, or the scare-mongering diktats of religion, it might be wrapped up in other ideologies, but in some of the Baltic states of Europe, this doctrine based on ignorance and hate, is still upheld. This is why it’s great to see the work of South African photographer Zanele Muholi who’s spent the last 10 years creating a visual archive of black lesbian life in South Africa and challenging entrenched attitudes. Muholi describes the huge contrasts for gay people in South Africa: on the one hand it has been enormously progressive and in 1996 became the first country in the world to constitutionally prohibit discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation; on the other, there is a culture of fear if you are gay, and serious hate crime is a huge problem, including "corrective" rape to "straighten out" lesbians. In the last year, four women have been murdered because of their sexuality. Click on the photograph below to find out more about Zanele Muholi.


The city that BANNED MUSIC 
hosts a music festival
Somalia’s capital  Mogadishu, held its first music festival in 25 years this week with Waayaha Cusub headlining. The collective, whose Shiine Akhyaar Ali was shot and left for dead by militants in 2007 are among artists from several countries playing the Mogadishu Festival, whose tour then moves on to Dadaab in north-eastern Kenya: the biggest refugee camp in the world. 



The things we could learn from other countries in the world eh? Do we need a Randomised Control Trial to understand how music might make people feel in a refugee camp like this? What a ridiculous thought. The people in these camps want safety, shelter, food, access to health care, education and some political stability - fundamental human rights. Music is in all our blood though - taking it away only makes the passion to create far, far stronger.


At the last count, there were 426,000 people living in Dadaab - can you imagine  the festival happening there? Powerful stuff and growing from the ground up. 

創造 = creation  想像 = imagination
OK...last comment for today. Souzou is an exhibition at the Wellcome Collection, that I’ve not seen yet, but that looks stunning.

The above are two meanings of the Japanese word souzou that allude to a force by which new ideas are born and take shape in the world. In the context of exhibition, Souzou refers to the practise of 46 self-taught artists living and working within social welfare facilities across Japan. In short, it’s an exhibition of what we now know as ‘outsider art,’ commonly used to describe work made by artists who have received little or no tuition but produce work for the sake of creation alone, without an audience in mind, and who are perceived to inhabit the margins of mainstream society. The artists in this exhibition have been diagnosed with a variety of different cognitive, behavioural and developmental disorders or mental illnesses, and are residents or day attendees of specialist care institutions.  
Nobuo Onishi
You can read all about it on their web pages and if you see the work before me, let me know what you think. I love that we talk about our mental health and wellbeing more and more. I love it that stigma around ill health is slowly being chipped away at. I also love to see art that is fresh and different, and that emerges from people outside the ‘market’ - but I wonder how much we exoticise ‘the marginalized’ like caged birds. I wonder how many of the people whose work is on show really wanted to exhibit their work and I wonder do we run the risk of using it as some apotropaic fetish?     

I for one, always enjoy the curation of the Wellcome exhibitions and I’m sure this will be a beautiful and informative show. Lets just hope it adds to our understanding of the diversity and similarity of what it is to be human - and how art helps us make sense of this one experience of life. 

Funding for International Youth Partnerships (UK)
Public and other not-for-profit organisations active in the field of youth services are being invited to apply for funding of up to €100,000 for projects promoting cooperation in the youth sector with eligible partner countries other than the neighbouring countries of the European Union (Latin America, Africa, the Caribbean, the Pacific and Asia, etc). The funding is being made available through Action 3.2 of the EU’s Youth in Action programme. Preference will be given to those projects which best reflect the permanent priorities of the ‘Youth in Action’ programme, these are:
·  The participation of young people
·  Cultural diversity
·  European citizenship
·  Inclusion of young people with fewer opportunities.
Projects must involve partners from at least four different countries (including the applicant organisation), including at least two programme countries, of which at least one is a Member State of the European Union, and two partner countries. The closing date for applications is the 14th May 2013. Read more at:

Santander Community Plus Fund (UK)
The Santander Foundation has launched a new £1.23 million Community Plus fund to support charities helping local disadvantaged people across the UK. UK registered charities can apply for a grant of up to £5,000. The funding must be for a specific project that helps disadvantaged people. For example this could be for a piece of equipment or to pay for the costs of a part time sessional worker.

The only criteria for the Community Plus grants are:
·  The applicant must be a UK registered charity
·  The applicant must be a local charity or local project of a larger charity
·  The grant must benefit local disadvantaged people

To apply, just visit any Santander branch and complete a nomination form. The completed form should be dropped into the box provided in your local There are no closing dates and entries will be regularly considered by a panel of staff drawn from across the region.

Successful charities will be notified within 2 months of submitting their nomination. Read more at
I send invisible waves of thanks to you for bothering to read this infernal gibberish and apologies in advance if next weeks blog just doesn't materialise...C.P.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Neuronal Control of Appetite, Metabolism and Weight

Last week, I attended a Keystone conference, "Neuronal Control of Appetite, Metabolism and Weight", in Banff.  Keystone conferences are small, focused meetings that tend to attract high quality science.  This particular conference centered around my own professional research interests, and it was incredibly informative.  This post is a summary of some of the most salient points.

Rapid Pace of Scientific Progress

Read more »

NHS countdown - minus 7



So - we’ve one week left before radical ‘free-market’ changes take place in our NHS. Be prepared, be very prepared. You may think that this isn’t something that’s going to affect us - but it is. You, me and everyone we know that lives in the UK.


Dr Clare Gerada, Chair of the RCGP, gave a talk to the British Medical Association on 21st March, which I hope to be able to link you to next week. In her paper, Stand up and be counted - before it is too late, and of which I’m quoting, she reminds us that no-one voted for NHS privatisation and it’s not in the coalition agreement.

She describes a health service that in 2010, was functioning so well that for the first time in her lifetime it was not an election issue. An NHS that has provided what no other country in the world has achieved at the same cost: universal health care in the form of equal access to comprehensive care irrespective of personal income, at a cost to us the tax payer at many billions of pounds less than other comparable health services. A health service that bound us together as a society.

Lord Ara Darzi said “The NHS is the greatest expression of social solidarity found anywhere in the world: it is as much a social movement as it is a health system. It is not just that we stand together but what we stand for: fairness, empathy and compassion. It is for these reasons that we all care so deeply about its future; and it is why I stand ready to contribute to ongoing efforts to invest in and improve the NHS, in any way I can.” 

Ed Hall
This comment about being a social movement is one that gets to the heart of things for me. It’s a comment I’ve heard before from the people I respect - from clinicians; from public health workers; from artists; from free-thinkers and yes, from politicians.

In our manifesto for arts and health Lord Howarth talked about individual and collective integrity, of trust and arduousness, of self-expression - about politics being predicated on our values. Mike White at the Centre for Medical Humanities talked about nurturing a better and fairer society and Gary Christienson of the Society for Arts in Healthcare of how artists help amplify our human nature. Ruth Passman at the Department of Health talked about how the manifesto itself, brought about hope to health, strengthening our resolve in creatively challenging dehumanising or 'warehousing' models of care which can so easily corrode self expression and remove meaning from life. Jami Bladel of KickStart Arts perhaps, hits the nail on the head, describing this small p political manifesto as: ‘at once bleak and hopeful, a troubled text searching for answers, asking questions and promising nothing if we don't start working (creatively) together. It is a starting point. It faces us towards the global revolution we simply cant afford not to have.’


In my latest paper, Inequalities, the Arts and Public Health: Towards an International Conversation I share something of my aspiration for us being part of an arts and public health movement - something that embraces big thinking, but critically brings diverse partners together. From the 1st April, things are set to change fundamentally and as all the confused elements of a dispersed NHS mutate into whatever form emerges from the swamp, arts and culture could shine out like a beacon, offering all sorts of innovation - or else, fade miserably into obscurity.

So, its time to galvanise - but beware: the simpering arts and health bean-counters, blind to any notion of cultural value and driven by singular, market-based justification of their approach to arts, culture and health - are waiting in the wings. Their offer - an insipid prescription for reducing arts and culture to some cost effective, bland panacea. Of course there’s room to explore these ‘efficiency’ questions, but beware again: if we go down this route, we may well end up like our fractured NHS, seeing a dominance of the happy, well-educated, middle-classes accessing what they can already easily afford. If the evidence of your weights and measures are based on cultural placebos for the wealthy worried well, you’ll miss the true value of the arts. Poet, Simon Armitage on the manifesto again, rounds things off for me - It reminds me of something that I've always believed in: that art gives us worth as humans, no matter who we are. And as a consequence makes us more humane.  


A Job Opportunity
Lead Artist: Animating the Odeon, Chester
Deadline: April 15, 2013
Cheshire West and Chester Council are currently looking to appoint an artist to lead on a social engagement project in the old Odeon cinema in Chester.
The Odeon has been selected as the site for a new Theatre and Library in Chester and the Council are initiating a programme of work in two of the old shop units which are part of the building, in order to begin the process of bringing the building back to life and into people's imaginations. The ethos behind the project is to mark the process of change as the building transforms into a city centre theatre; to interact with its previous identity as a cinema and subsequently to its present form as a derelict building.

Cheshire West and Chester Council wish to commission a lead artist to have an overarching view of this project in the Odeon Units over an eighteen month period, and coordinate a programme of activity within the units. The artist will work with the Arts and Festivals team and their partner organisations in developing a strategic, thematic approach for a programme of art commissions / interventions / projects / displays etc within the units.

The programme of activity should consider the place, the people, the surrounding environment, history, partner cultural activity and more.
Project Budget: There is an artist fee of £6000 + VAT. This is inclusive of expenses, travel and subsistence costs.  The artist will work on a self-employed basis. 
Estimated budget of £4500 + VAT is available for a number of commissions and projects during the 18 month project.
Timescale: Project start date is May 2013 running until the end November 2014.
Longer term aims: Cheshire West and Chester Council hope that the projects will be a source of research material that may inform any future public artworks that are commissioned as part of the new theatre.
Closing date: Monday 15th April 2013. For a full artist brief please contact artswest@cheshirewestandchester.gov.uk 


Two funding opportunities
BBC Children in Need Major Grants over £10,000
Next application deadline:  15 May 2013 
Grants for not-for-profit organisations that are working with disadvantaged children and young people who are 18 years old and younger living in the UK. BBC Children in Need’s focus is firmly on children and young people experiencing disadvantage. They fund organisations working to combat this disadvantage and to make a real difference to children and young people's lives. Funding is available to organisations that are supporting children and young people of 18 years and under who are experiencing disadvantage through:
· Illness, distress, abuse or neglect.
· Any kind of disability.
· Behavioural or psychological difficulties.
· Living in poverty or situations of deprivation.
Organisations must be working to combat this disadvantage and to make a real difference to children and young people's lives. Read more at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b008dk4b/features/cin-grants-main-index 

Time to Change Grants (England)
The Mental Health charity, Time to Change has announced that its grants programme will re-open for applications on the 6th March 2013.Through the programme, grants of up to £100,000 are available to constituted not for profit organisations for projects that bring people with and without mental health problems together to challenge discrimination in their communities.  Time to Change plan to fund approximately 75 projects between 2012 and 2015.  
The closing date for applications will be 2pm on the 30th April 2013. Read more at http://www.time-to-change.org.uk/grants 

Just a big fat thank you for visiting again...C.P.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

...dementia, creative australia and funding


Dementia and Imagination : connecting communities and developing well-being through socially engaged visual arts practice. 

There is no cure for dementia, so attempts to maintain quality of life and well-being are crucial. In less than 20 years nearly a million people will be living with dementia. This will increase to 1.7 million people by 2051, and 1 in 5 people over 80 will have dementia by 2021 (Dementia UK, 2007). Dementia is now firmly on the international public and policy agenda, bringing opportunities for change on a wider scale for those living with the condition (Alzheimer‟s Society, 2012) and the communities in which they live. Changing awareness and understanding about dementia and enabling people to “live well‟ is central to the National Dementia Strategy (DoH, 2009).

Arts for Health at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) is a partner in an exciting £1.2 million dementia and visual arts research project. We are part of a collaborative group that has been awarded a large grant in the Cultures, Health & Well-Being theme, one of five Connected Communities Programme themes which share funding in excess of £7m.

Thanks to Darren Browett for this image
The Connected Communities Programme is designed to help us understand the changing nature of communities in their historical and cultural contexts and the role of communities in sustaining and enhancing our quality of life.  It is jointly funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council and the Economic and Social Research Council.

Led by Bangor University’s Dementia Services Development Centre, the three-year project receives £1.2 million researching how taking part in visual arts can contribute to the health and well-being of people with dementia. This new research, due to commence in July, explores how dementia supportive communities might benefit from creative activities. Dr Gill Windle, from the Dementia Services Development Centre explains: "The project is about using a range of visual arts to challenging people's negative attitudes and to reconnect people with dementia back into their communities. We'll be researching how this works and how groups of people spread and share ideas, and measuring and tracking any resulting change in attitudes and perceptions about people with dementia."

Announcing the Awards, Rt Hon. David Willetts, Minister of State for Universities and Science, commented: “This capital investment in the Connected Community projects will lead to the development of new ways to engage communities in creating, interpreting and using arts and humanities research data. This will leave a sustainable resource and legacy for future research and for communities. 

Thanks to Alice Thwaite at Equal Arts
The three year project brings together social sciences researchers specialising in dementia, gerontology, psychology and economics with researchers in the visual arts, cultural policy and museum studies.

I’m thrilled to be part of the research team and my area of focus will be very much focused on the arts and particularly, the artist as researcher. Artists in their own right, will be a core element of the way we interrogate the impact part of interventions. Over the next few months we’ll be developing a web presence for this work and before that’s up and running, I’ll share updates via this blog.

This is an exciting and important piece of research and I look forward to working with the team. 

Other news coming in...


Westminster City Council has confirmed that it will cut all arts funding in the London borough by 2014/15. Soho Theatre and English National Ballet are among the groups set to lose funding under the plans, which will see the £350,000 the council currently spends on ‘commissioned community arts projects’ reduced to £192,00 in 2013/14 and cut completely in 2014/15.

Soho Theatre’s young people’s programmes, English National Ballet’s older people’s schemes and community and youth arts services from Paddington Arts, Dream Arts and Streetwise Opera will all be affected, along with around ten other initiatives led by arts groups. The decision to axe 100% of funding in Westminster follows a similar 100% cut by Somerset County Council, while plans to axe arts funding completely in Newcastle were reduced to 50% cuts, following local protests. Click on the image above for more details.


The Free World
I understand that the President of the ‘Free World’ is off to Israel this week. He’s having dinner with the first black Miss Israel apparently. I wonder if he’ll be attending the Arch of Arts in Health Conference in Haifa? Sounds like a match made in heaven, and what a photo opportunity eh? Click on Mickey to know more.


Creative Australia
This week saw the launch of the Australian Governments Cultural Policy, Creative Australia. It’s an interesting development and one that’s been received with mixed responses. Arts Access Australia comment: "The release of the Government’s Creative Australia policy yesterday has left artists with disability and arts and disability organisations lacking certainty about how the one in five Australians with disability will be empowered to contribute to arts and culture as audiences, artists, employees and arts leaders."

Whilst we’ve had black smoke and a murky greyish-white smoke from the Vatican, the arts/health community in Australia hasn’t commented on the policy document publicly yet. So, whilst I’m not on the ground in Aus and haven’t digested the entirety of the document, there are some interesting references to the arts and health which reflect the groundswell of activity over there - not least the powerful advocacy delivered by the Annual Arts of Good Health and Wellbeing International Conferences. This years of course, taking place in Sydney between 12th and 13th of November.

So with my outsider eye, here are some interesting passages.

Arts-led recovery projects have also demonstrated the powerful role arts and culture, and cultural workers, play in bringing communities together, breaking down social isolation and contributing to place-making, particularly following a community crisis or natural disaster. As Australia is recognised as one of the most multicultural countries in the world, government-funded initiatives like Harmony Day and A Taste of Harmony provide all Australians with the opportunity to celebrate our great cultural diversity. Further, evidence is mounting about the application of arts-led approaches in health settings to reduce isolation and aid recovery and rehabilitation.

The Australian Government will:
Develop an Arts and Health Framework with state and territory governments to recognise the health benefits of arts and culture and to provide an agenda for activity.

You can read the full document by clicking on that beautiful continent.  

Happy or Rich?


This remarkable little Steven Fry monologue turned up in my inbox this week. Normally I wouldn’t be the first one to sing his praises, primarily because of his omnipresence on the TV and wireless and his occaisional smugness, but - it has to be said, many of his observations here are so astute and compelling, they are worth your time, over a coffee perhaps?

A short comment on SEX -
or Meet the Fokkens
Without sharing names, another email that landed with me this week illustrated a mix of attitudes to sex and older people. It all related to this trailer for a documentary about Louise and Martine Fokkens who are twin sisters and sex workers in Amsterdam. Our attitudes to even discussing sex, are always a bit repressed - our ability to discuss prostitution sensibly, seems near impossible - but then, do we ever really discuss sex in relation to age? I think not. So here’s a trailer for something that could be intelligent, or could be sensationalist but at the very least, is a part of a much needed discussion. So here’s a trailer that has swearing and references to sex in it: you’ve been warned. 


Funding to Tackle Climate Change 
(UK / Worldwide)
Artists Project Earth (APE) which funds projects that tackle the effects of climate change has announced that its next funding round is now open for applications.  Applications are welcomed from organisations working to:
• Prevent the causes of climate change
• Defend communities and ecosystems against the impacts of climate change
• Support and build resilience for communities affected by natural disasters. 
• Grants usually range from £500 up to £20,000.
The closing date for applications is the 31st March 2013. Read more at:


Carnegie UK Trust Launches Test Town (UK)
The Carnegie UK Trust has announced the launch of a new £10,000 competition for young people to help rejuvenate town centres.  ‘TestTown’ is a new competition for young people throughout the UK aged between 16 and 25 to put forward their own ground-breaking ideas to redesign the future UK high street. The top 10 finalist teams with the most exciting ideas will be shortlisted in April with the climax of the competition taking place across three days in Dunfermline, Scotland this June. The 10 teams will take over vacant town centre space and trade with real consumers. The winners, who do the best job of turning their ideas into reality, will walk away with £10,000 to take their idea to market for real.  The closing date for applications is the 3rd May 2013. Read more at http://www.carnegieuktrust.org.uk/news---events/latest/trust-launches-test-town 


Tesco Charity Trust: Large Grants Programme (UK)
The Tesco Charity Trust has announced that its large grants programme is open for applications.  The Trust gives grants ranging between £4,000 and £25,000 to charities working in the areas of:
• Children’s welfare and education
• Elderly people’s welfare
• Adults and children with disabilities. 

The funding is available to charities working on an international, national or regional basis in areas where Tesco have a presence.  Applications for funding are considered three times a year and the next closing date for applications is the 24th May 2013. Read more at: http://www.tescoplc.com/index.asp?pageid=121#ref_tescocharitytrust

Thank you as ever for visiting the blog...do call again! C.P.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Atherosclerosis in Ancient Mummies Revisited

Many of you are already aware of the recent study that examined atherosclerosis in 137 ancient mummies from four different cultures (1).  Investigators used computed tomography (CT; a form of X-ray) to examine artery calcification in mummies from ancient Egypt, Peru, Puebloans, and arctic Unangan hunter-gatherers.  Artery calcification is the accumulation of calcium in the vessel wall, and it is a marker of severe atherosclerosis.  Where there is calcification, the artery wall is thickened and extensively damaged.  Not surprisingly, this is a risk factor for heart attack.  Pockets of calcification are typical as people age.

I'm not going to re-hash the paper in detail because that has been done elsewhere.  However, I do want to make a few key points about the study and its interpretation.  First, all groups had atherosclerosis to a similar degree, and it increased with advancing age.  This suggests that atherosclerosis may be part of the human condition, and not a modern disease.  Although it's interesting to have this confirmed in ancient mummies, we already knew this from cardiac autopsy data in a variety of non-industrial cultures (2, 3, 4, 5).
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