Sunday, April 28, 2013


Culture Secretary on 'culture's economic impact'
A slight  s h i v e r  this week for me, on hearing our dear Culture Secretary pronounce on the arts during her first big speech. Maria Miller delivered her missive at the British Museum in London on Thursday, claiming that British culture was "perhaps the most powerful and compelling product we have available to us", especially after the success of last year's Olympics and Paralympics. Product eh? She went on to say: "When times are tough and money is tight, our focus must be on culture's economic impact." Commenting that: “British culture and creativity are now more in demand than ever before... The world clearly thinks this is a commodity worth buying into." Ms Miller could almost be talking about the Arts and Health agenda with economic impact and a bright-shiny-product being the presumed desired outcome, influencing the NHS and saving hard cash. I know there are plenty out there attempting to reduce the arts to the bland mainstream through ultra-orthodox clinical measurements - and who will lap this up. 

I think its widely understood that the arts are going to take a larger than expected hit in the budget and Ms Miller did nothing to reassure the cultural sector (of which you are a part, if you are reading this blog). BBC Arts Editor, Will Gompertz comments more generally on the speech -

“The arts budget will be cut come the next spending review; the Culture Secretary will not be pleading for special treatment. The sector as a whole has not made its case regarding the economic benefits it delivers to the country convincingly enough to the Treasury. Nor has the DCMS. She talked enthusiastically about the success of the arts sector in helping drive the economy forward by supporting - and being part of - the creative industries, and by providing a valuable magnet for tourism. I spoke to some attendees who wondered why, if she truly believed this to be the case, would she not argue for increased, not decreased investment in the sector in order to fully realise its potential?”

Whilst I understand that artists and small arts organisations working in arts and health may not have direct access to funding streams like the Arts and Humanities Research Council, it should still be noted that the focus of some of their work isn’t bound by rigid reductionist approaches. In particular, their recent call for research around the cultural value of the arts has never felt more important, or welcome.

Its two-year Cultural Value Project, will attempt 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 and its priority lies in developing a much better understanding of arts and culture across the diverse ways that it is organised and experienced. You can read more about this by clicking on the very hand roll of cultural value above! 

Of Miller's speech, Shadow Culture Secretary, Harriet Harman said she supported attempts to persuade the Chancellor of the economic value of the arts and creative industries. "But she needs to persuade her education secretary as well, that for the sake of all children and the future of arts and creativity in this country, arts must be at the heart of the curriculum," she added, "and she needs to promote the fact that arts and creativity is about much more than the economy: they're about a sense of identity, of community and the potential of each and every individual."

To read more about this speech, click on the photograph above of the character Susan Wright, (a local busybody and misanthrope in the TV drama Broadchurch) played by the excellent Pauline Quirke.

So absolutely no mention whatsoever from me, that the rich legacy of the Olympics and Paralympics isn’t quite yet clear. And no mention from me doubly whatsoever on the expenses scandal that Ms Miller was embroiled in recently, or the £90,000 second home expenses she claimed for the house in which her parents lived. You can click on her face (just above) to find out more.

A Bird in a Gilded Cage

A Bird in a Gilded Cage is a song composed by Arthur J. Lamb (lyrics) and Harry Von Tilzer and was one of the most popular songs of 1900. This is a 1904 recording sung by Harry Anthony. I have written a new piece of work for the public arts think tank, ixia which explores some ideas around how we live and die post Francis Report. This is the first part of a two-part teaser for the paper. A Bird in a Gilded Cage will be published in May 2013. 

On Neuroscience and Strictly Bipolar
An interesting article on fiction and neuroscience in the Guardian this weekend from Charles Fernyhough, but in his quest for novels that explore neuroscience, isn’t the danger that the art form will just be a vehicle for teaching and not a work in its own right. Ian McEwan’s post 9/11 work of fiction, Saturday, comes under scrutiny, but is much more than a useful investigation of its central characters role as a neurosurgeon and offers us insights into power and powerlessness, fleeting happiness and perhaps, political apathy. A really interesting piece of writing. (to read, click on the centillion neurones and synapses acting with free-will, but with a common purpose, yet unheard by those in power - below)

In the same rag this weekend comes a taster from Darian Leader of his new book, Strictly Bipolar which extends contemporary thinking on public understanding of what it is to be bipolar, from the medical journal to the celebrity testimonies stacked up on high street bookshelves. Leader’s article is crammed with interesting detail including the quantitative factors that enable you to qualify for your diagnosis, which he eloquently argues, miss the point. He discusses the first hand accounts of people affected by both mania and depression and with a diagnosis that once applied to less than 1% of the population having risen to around 25% of Americans and 5% of people in the UK, he suggests that we are ignoring individual biographies.

Commenting: “Medical staff with little time on their hands to explore the exact circumstances of the manic episode or the depression may opt for a purely pharmaceutical response” […] “We live in an age that pays lip service to history, yet which continually undermines the ties we have to the past. The narrative of human lives is more or less absent in healthcare economies, where symptoms are seen as problems to be treated locally, rather than as signs that something is wrong at a more fundamental level.”

Interesting and deeply engaging work. Click on the sublime Spike Milligan for more info.

Wednesday 15th May 2013 15:00 – 17:30
Recovery is the new orthodoxy in the field of substance misuse in the UK and for the first time it is an explicit goal of treatment. Recovery is contested both as a concept and as a policy objective and the UK evidence base is currently limited. This seminar presents initial interpretations from a Wellcome Trust funded project called ADDICT. Developed by Portraits of Recovery, a socially engaged visual arts charity based in Manchester, ADDICT is an interdisciplinary research project exploring processes of recovery. It is delivered as a collaboration between artists, social and biomedical scientists, treatment agencies and people in recovery. The project uses socially engaged arts both as a form of engagement as well as a mode of inquiry into recovery. 

In the project International Lens Based Artist Melanie Manchot is working collaboratively with people at differing stages of recovery in London, Liverpool, Manchester and Oxford over a six month period. Portraiture as dialogue is the main conceptual premise. The arts practice is accompanied by a series of interdisciplinary discussions and two visual imaging matrices. These are used as different devices for understanding what emerges through the practice as well as exploring the subject recovery.

Prior to the seminar will be convening a Visual Matrix which will give attendees a direct experience of one of the methods being used in the project. The Visual Matrix is simply a form of discussion, where participants can share images, feelings, thoughts and dreams without the need to explain, describe, justify or argue ideas and points of view. Please contact us if you have any questions. We look forward to seeing you on the day.

Visual Matrix 3:00-4:00pm  Harrington Building 338
Seminar 4:00-5.30pm Harrington Building 337
Both are free and open to all. Refreshments provided.    
To confirm a place please email:

Clore Social Leadership Programme (UK)
The Clore Duffield Foundation has announced that its 2014 Social Leadership Programme will open for applications on the 29th April 2013.  During 2014, the Foundation will be offering 20 Fellowships to exceptional individuals who have the potential to take on a significant leadership role in the wider social sector.  A number of these will be Specialist Fellowships, which are funded by particular organisations to target specific groups or address particular needs. In the past, bursaries of up to £20,000 have been available to help train and develop a new generation of leaders for the third sector in the UK. The Fellowship can be undertaken intensively over 12 months (the full-time option), or part-time, over a period of up to 24 months.
The closing date for applications will be the 10th June 2013. Read more at: 

Wellcome Trust Small Arts Awards 
The Wellcome Trust has announced that the next application deadline under its Small Arts Awards is the 28th June 2013. The Small Arts Awards provides grants of up to £30,000 to projects that engage the public with biomedical science through the arts. 

Grants to Help New, Innovative Visual Arts Projects 
The Elephant Trust has announced that the next deadline for applications is the 10th June 2013. The Trust offers grants to artists and for new, innovative visual arts projects based in the UK. The Trust's aim is to make it possible for artists and those presenting their work to undertake and complete projects when confronted by lack of funds. The Trust supports projects that develop and improve the knowledge, understanding and appreciation of the fine arts. Priority is now being given to artists and small organisations and galleries who should submit well argued, imaginative proposals for making or producing new work or exhibitions. Arts Festivals are not supported. The Trust normally awards grants of up to £2,000, but larger grants may be considered. Read more at: 

European Integration Fund 
The UK Border Agency has announced that it is now accepting applications for funding under the European Integration Fund (EIF).  A total of £31 million is available to support innovative projects that support the integration of third-country nationals of different social, cultural, religious, linguistic and ethnic backgrounds within the UK. The EIF is aimed at projects assisting third-country nationals who have a potential route to legal settlement in the UK, to fulfil conditions of residence and integrate into British society.  Applications will be accepted from NGOs, charities, academic institutions, central and local government, intergovernmental organisations, limited companies and any partnership made up of these organisations.  The minimum EIF grant that can be applied for is £200,000 per project; there is no maximum amount that must be applied for. Projects can last a maximum of twenty-four months depending on the start date. The fund will run until February 2014 and the next losing date for applications is the 10th June 2013. Read more at: 

Collective Encounters: Youth Theatre Director
Collective Encounters is a north Liverpool based theatre company specialising in using theatre as a tool for social change. Our youth theatre programme is now in its eighth year and we are seeking to employ a Youth Theatre Director to lead on all aspects of delivery. Our youth theatre programme involves a regular youth theatre as well as significant outreach provision in settings used by marginalised and hard to reach young people. The new Youth Theatre Director will have at least two years experience of working within a theatre for social change context, ideally with young people.

The contract is offered on a 4 day a week basis and the salary is £20, 160. This salary is subject to tax and national insurance contributions. The contract is offered on a 2 year fixed term basis.

For more information and an application pack please contact Anna Rymer on 0151 291 3887 or e mail

Deadline for applications 9thMay 2013. Interviews will be held 13thMay 2013. This post is financially support by Children in Need. Collective Encounters is an equal opportunities employer.

...and finally, a Brilliant and Blistering Blog
I’d like to recommend Mike White’s recent blog posting on the Centre for Medical Humanities in Durham. In this new piece of writing, he questions the sometimes superficial re-branding of organisations in the name of self-aggrandisement. Powerful and relevant work Mike. CLICK HERE