Sunday, March 10, 2013're just not perfect

News in this week - Australia tops the health league and dear old Albion scrapes along the bottom, with largely preventable diseases increasingly contributing to premature deaths. Cheery stuff eh? Too many cans of processed meat in the diet - too much booze - too many fags still being puffed on and of course, not enough exercise. So stroke, heart disease and lung cancer still figure highly in our mortality rates. The only snag is, that whilst its easy to spot all the ‘bad’ things that people do - it’s far harder to help people change ingrained behaviour, especially if its comforting...and even more so, when the vested interests of the market, push the stuff down our throats anyway. Just think about the corporates who sponsored the Olympics and Paralympics - fizzy drinks (you know who), Big Fat Burgers (you know who) and the oil polluting, toxic hydro-carbon emitting industries that mediate our stupefied relationship with physical exercise. Then of course there’s the increasing belief (well-marketed) that we need medication for everything - a pill to normalise the ups and downs of everyday life, to help us lose weight, to do better academically - hey, you can have that battery of diagnostic tests too - maybe have some preemptive surgery that might not be entirely necessary. And at the top of this well-peddled pile of pseudo-scientific pathological nonsense is the fact that you’re just not perfect. Your teeth are the wrong colour and misshapen, you’re loosing hair, your face is getting lined - your body just isn’t the right shape. What chance have we got eh? How can we achieve this perfect healthy aspiration?

Kate Pickett and Danny Dorling in Against the organisation of misery? suggest that, “what is missing is the political courage to deal with the root causes of those social determinants. Why people smoke, rather than trying to get them to stop. Why people eat too much, commit violence, trust each other less, invest more money in their children’s education; rather than trying to understand the social inequalities that stand in their way.”

This would seem to be a window of opportunity for artists, educationalists, health and social reformers and policy makers who are concerned with public health and who believe addressing inequalities is central to human wellbeing - and have the vision and tenacity to think differently. Lets think about our arts/health work as part of a public health movement and re-imagine the way that our family doctors, public health specialists and teachers might work more closely with artists and cultural organisations to think differently - and not about apportioning blame, but addressing systemic inequalities and the insidious psychological impact of modern advertising: our health is political - art is political too.

So, this week it came to pass that Hugo Chavez died. I’m not politically astute enough to know the details of his political impact on the people of Venezuela, but I’ve been moved to see the huge outpouring of grief from people. I would be interested to hear your views on Chavez, particularly if you are from Venezuela. With the Arch of Arts and Health conference about to take place in Israel in a week’s time, it’s curious too, to note that one of its key-notes has fallen off the agenda! Presidente (sorry, I mean executive director) of the newly re-branded Global Alliance for Arts and HealthTM, (and proud sponsor of the conference) appears to have vanished and the GAFAAH (sounds a bit like the Gaffer, or maybe GAF for short) has an interim director, to whom we wish the best of luck.

New Job Opportunity
Closer to home, and in touch with its community, it seems that Pioneer Projects are looking to appoint a new manager. I advertise this position on the blog because Pioneer Projects are an exemplary organisation. They are an arts and health charity which uses creative activity to improve individual and community health, tackle social exclusion and reduce health inequalities using arts-based approaches. They are looking for a manager and offer a salary: £28,636 pro rata for 21 hours per week (Working Time Equivalent = £16,587). Location: High Bentham, North Yorkshire. For further information and an application pack please contact:  Julie Vass, Administrator, Looking Well Studios, High Bentham, Lancaster, LA2 7HN or download from our website
Email: Telephone: 015242 62672

Closing Date for applications:  12 noon, 5th April 2013.
Interviews will take place Friday 19th April 2013 at Looking Well Studios,
High Bentham, Lancaster, LA2 7HG

Now, here's something to ponder...

Cultural Value Project
A very important new funding stream was announced this week, and I urge you to have a look over this and see if you are eligible to apply. If you can’t, perhaps resolve it and think about ways you can. Think - multi-disciplinarity and partnerships. Click on the multiplication sign in a double circle below, for details. Here’s a little about the call.

In launching this two-year Cultural Value Project, the AHRC wishes to make a major contribution to how we think about the value of arts and culture to individuals and to society. Recent years have seen many attempts to capture that value in straightforward ways, not least in order to make the case to governments for public funding, but none have commanded widespread confidence. The AHRC decided that something more ambitious was needed. Areas of interest include: REFLECTIVE INDIVIDUALS AND ENGAGED CITIZENS - URBAN REGENERATION AND COMMUNITY DYNAMICS - ECONOMIC BENEFITS - UNDERSTANDING IN THE CONTEXT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONSHIPS - IMPROVEMENTS TO HEALTH AND WELLBEING. 

Thank you as ever for popping onto the blog...C.P.