Monday, August 26, 2013

More Thoughts on Cold Training: Biology Chimes In

Now that the concept of cold training for cold adaptation and fat loss has received scientific support, I've been thinking more about how to apply it.  A number of people have been practicing cold training for a long time, using various methods, most of which haven't been scientifically validated.  That doesn't mean the methods don't work (some of them probably do), but I don't know how far we can generalize individual results prior to seeing controlled studies.

The studies that were published two weeks ago used prolonged, mild cold exposure (60-63 F air) to achieve cold adaptation and fat loss (12).  We still don't know whether or not we would see the same outcome from short, intense cold exposure such as a cold shower or brief cold water plunge.  Also, the fat loss that occurred was modest (5%), and the subjects started off lean rather than overweight.  Normally, overweight people lose more fat than lean people given the same fat loss intervention, but this possibility remains untested.  So the current research leaves a lot of stones unturned, some of which are directly relevant to popular cold training concepts.

In my last post on brown fat, I mentioned that we already know a lot about how brown fat activity is regulated, and I touched briefly on a few key points.  As is often the case, understanding the underlying biology provides clues that may help us train more effectively.  Let's see what the biology has to say.

Biology of Temperature Regulation

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Sunday, August 25, 2013

This, That and the Other...

I find facebook a pest and an irritant, but just occasionally I stumble upon interesting stories and individuals. Overwhelmed with work, (but with determination to provide some interesting texture, as well as funding and job opportunities), this week’s blog offers two-such links. Click on the photograph above to discover the work of Jill Peters and her documentation of burneshas, that is females who have lived their lives as men for reasons related to their culture and society. Very interesting and badged up by Peters as Sworn Virgins of Albania and thinking of the reporting around Chelsea Manning this week, it can only be healthy to understand different cultural and political influences on gender, sexuality and equality.

"Artists 'better protected' against dementia" 
Neurologists at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto found that artists suffering from vascular dementia may still be able to draw spontaneously and from memory, despite being unable to complete simple, everyday tasks. "We discovered that there is a disproportion between the degree that artists lose some of their memory function, their orientation and other day-to-day cognitive functions. But at the same time, some of their art form is preserved," Dr. Luis Fornazzari, a neurological consultant at St. Michael’s Hospital memory clinic and lead author of the paper, told CBC News. You can read more about this research, by clicking on the not-entirely-irrelevant image of Willem de Kooning above.

June 2013 – November 2015
We are seeking an experienced evaluator or research organisation with a strong track record in both the arts and public health arenas to provide guidance in selecting and managing the internal evaluation and monitoring processes, and to carry out independent analysis of the programme as a whole.  We are looking for robust evidence of the impact of arts approaches in addressing health and social care priorities to provide effective advocacy tools.

The role of the appointed evaluators will be to interrogate the following questions:

· How effective are arts and cultural interventions in addressing health and wellbeing agendas?
· What are the opportunities and challenges presented to organisations working collaboratively in this field?
· What are the benefits (financial, organisational, qualitative) to commissioners of the Creative Communities Consortium model of working?

We are offering an inclusive fee of £10,000 for this piece of work, plus £500 for the production (design and print) of a final report and are inviting suitable bodies and individuals to submit proposals for how this work would be carried out. Papers relating to the membership criteria and procedures of the consortium and to the tendering process for the arts and wellbeing programme are available on request.

Closing date for submission of proposals to undertake this evaluation work – Thursday 19th September 2013. All enquiries to Abby Gretton

British Academy - Small Research Grants 
The British Academy, the UK’s national body for the humanities and social sciences, has announced that it is planning to issue a call for a further round of Small Research Grants on the 4th September 2013. Under the Small Research Grants programme grants of between £500 and £10,000 over two years are available to support primary research in the humanities and social sciences. Funds will be available to:
· Facilitate initial project planning and development
· Support the direct costs of research
· To enable the advancement of research through workshops, or visits by or to partner scholars.  
The closing date for applications will be the 16th October 2013. Read more at:
The Triangle Trust 1949 Fund is currently inviting applications from charity organisations to support projects that support the rehabilitation of offenders and ex-offenders.  The Trust would like to see applicants use these grants to develop sustainable income sources, so that when the grant comes to end the applicant organisation’s income will not be reduced.  Grants are available for up to £40,000 or 50% of the organisation’s current annual income, whichever is lowest, per year for 3 years. The Trust would expect to see the amount requested each year tapering down as applicants develop other income streams to replace the grant income.   The 50% of annual income limit is in place to discourage smaller organisations making an unrealistic step change in income that cannot be sustained when the grant ends. The closing date for applications is the 7th November 2013. Read more at: 

Music Grants for Older People 
The registered charity, Concertina which makes grants to charitable bodies which provide musical entertainment and related activities for the elderly has announced that the next deadline for applications is the 31st October 2013. The charity is particular keen to support smaller organisations which might otherwise find it difficult to gain funding. Since its inception in 2004, Concertina has made grants to a wide range of charitable organisations nationwide in England and Wales. These include funds to many care homes for the elderly to provide musical entertainment for their residents. Read more at:

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Reflections on the 2013 Ancestral Health Symposium

I just returned from the 2013 Ancestral Health Symposium in Atlanta.  Despite a few challenges with the audio/visual setup, I think it went well.

I arrived on Thursday evening, and so I missed a few talks that would have been interesting to attend, by Mel Konner, Nassim Taleb, Gad Saad, and Hamilton Stapell.  Dr. Konner is one of the progenitors of the modern Paleo movement.  Dr. Saad does interesting work on consummatory behavior, reward, and its possible evolutionary basis.  Dr. Stapell is a historian with an interest in the modern Paleo movement.  He got some heat for suggesting that the movement is unlikely to go truly mainstream, which I agree with.  I had the opportunity to spend quite a bit of time with him and found him to be an interesting person.

On Friday, Chris Kresser gave a nice talk about the potential hidden costs of eradicating our intestinal parasites and inadvertently altering our gut flora.  Unfortunately it was concurrent with Chris Masterjohn so I'll have to watch his talk on fat-soluble vitamins when it's posted.  I spent most of the rest of the day practicing my talk.

On Saturday morning, I gave my talk "Insulin and Obesity: Reconciling Conflicting Evidence".  I think it went well, and the feedback overall was very positive, both on the content and the delivery.  The conference is fairly low-carb-centric and I know some people disagree with my perspective on insulin, and that's OK.   The-question-and-answer session after the talk was also productive, with some comments/questions from Andreas Eenfeldt and others.  With the completion of this talk, I've addressed the topic to my satisfaction and I don't expect to spend much more time on it unless important new data emerge.  The talk will be freely available online at some point, and I expect it to become a valuable resource for people who want to learn more about the relationship between insulin and obesity.  It should be accessible to anyone with a little bit of background in the subject, but it will also be informative to most researchers.

After my talk, I attended several other good presentations.  Dan Pardi gave a nice talk on the importance of sleep and the circadian rhythm, how it works, how the modern world disrupts it, and how to fix it.  The relationship between sleep and health is a very hot area of research right now, it fits seamlessly with the evolutionary perspective, and Pardi showed off his high level of expertise in the subject.  He included the results of an interesting sleep study he conducted as part of his doctoral work at Stanford, showing that sleep restriction makes us more likely to choose foods we perceive as unhealthy.

Sleep and the circadian rhythm was a recurrent theme at AHS13.  A lot of interesting research is emerging on sleep, body weight, and health, and the ancestral community has been quick to embrace this research and integrate it into the ancestral health template.  I think it's a big piece of the puzzle.

Jeff Rothschild gave a nice summary of the research on time-restricted feeding, body weight and health in animal models and humans.  Research in this area is expanding and the results are pretty interesting, suggesting that when you restrict a rodent's feeding window to the time of day when it would naturally consume food (rather than giving constant access during both day and night), it becomes more resistant to obesity even when exposed to a fattening diet.  Rothschild tied this concept together with circadian regulation in a compelling way.  Since food is one of the stimuli that sets the circadian clock, Rothschild proposes to eat when the sun is up, and not when it's down, synchronizing eating behavior with the natural seasonal light rhythm.  I think it's a great idea, although it wouldn't be practical for me to implement it currently.  Maybe someday if I have a more flexible schedule.  Rothschild is about to publish a review paper on this topic as part of his master's degree training, so keep your eyes peeled.

Kevin Boyd gave a very compelling talk about malocclusion (underdeveloped jaws and crowded teeth) and breathing problems, particularly those occurring during sleep.  Malocclusion is a modern epidemic with major health implications, as Dr. Boyd showed by his analysis of ancient vs. modern skulls.  The differences in palate development between our recent ancestors (less than 200 years ago) and modern humans are consistent and striking, as Weston Price also noted a century ago.  Dr. Boyd believes that changing infant feeding practices (primarily the replacement of breast feeding with bottle feeding) is the main responsible factor, due to the different mechanical stimulation it provides, and he's proposing to test that hypothesis using the tools of modern research.  He's presented his research at prestigious organizations and in high-impact scientific journals, so I think this idea may really be gaining traction.  Very exciting.

I was honored when Dr. Boyd told me that my 9-part series on malocclusion is what got him interested in this problem (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9).  His research has of course taken it further than I did, and as a dentist his understanding of malocclusion is deeper than mine.  He's a middle-aged man who is going back to school to do this research, and his enthusiasm is palpable.  Robert Corruccini, a quality anthropology researcher and notable proponent of the idea that malocclusion is a "disease of civilization" and not purely inherited, is one of his advisers.

There were a number of excellent talks, and others that didn't meet my standards for information quality.  Overall, an interesting conference with seemingly less drama than in previous years.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Inequalities, Surviving Stroke, the Arts and so much more...

Inequalities, the Arts and Public Health: Towards an International Conversation 
Some of you may have heard me give a presentation last year called - State of the Arts - not content with letting this work fester in the minds of those people who did, (and with the critical co-authorship of my compadre Mike White) an intelligible reworking is now available to those with refined sensibilities in that most august of publications, Arts & Health: An International Journal for Research, Policy and Practice.

The paper considers how participatory arts informed by thinking in public health can play a significant part internationally in addressing inequalities in health. It looks beyond national overviews of arts and health to consider what would make for meaningful international practice, citing recent initiatives of national networks in English-speaking countries and examples of influential developments in South America and the European Union. In the context of public health thinking on inequalities and social justice, the paper posits what would make for good practice and appropriate research that impacts on policy. As the arts and health movement gathers momentum, the paper urges the arts to describe their potency in the policy-making arena in the most compelling ways to articulate their social, economic and cultural values. In the process, it identifies the reflexive consideration of participatory practice – involving people routinely marginalised from decision-making processes – as a possible avenue into this work.

To access the journal, click on the lovely green patch of grass above. If you want to ask anything at all about this paper, please don’t hesitate to get in touch! Following the public health focused, Invest to Save: Arts in Health Research Project (2003 - 2007) and since my keynote (The Arts, Popular Culture and Inequalities) at the first international conference in Port Macquarie in 2009, I have been continually developing my thinking around inequalities, culture and the arts. I hope to bring some of this work full-circle this November in a new piece of work, FICTION/NON-FICTION.  

Art and poetry help Mancunian stroke survivors in their recovery
Here in the North West, the Stroke Association has been ploughing the furrow with some great arts based practice. Poet Laureate of the North, Mike Garry, best known for his poems ‘God is a Manc’ has been running a series of poetry workshops with stroke survivors in Greater Manchester aiming to create poetry that reflects their lives and experiences, giving them a platform to share their stories. You can see a short video about this below. Meanwhile students from MMU Design Lab teamed up with people affected by stroke and with Hyper Island’s Jim Ralley to produce a billboard poster for the curated Print and Paste site in central Manchester.

The students took the insights from the session and worked up this clever design in a couple of weeks. Katie Lea was one of the students: “After a four hour discussion with stroke survivors, we came away with a clear direction - life after stroke, particularly seeing things differently. We wanted to create an optical illusion, which draws people in and illustrates this shift in perspective. The poster wording ‘things were right, now they’re left’ also addresses the fact that a stroke in the left side of the brain can affect the right side of the body, and vice versa.”

You can see the poster on Chester Street (just off Oxford Road) up until the end of September. To see a little of the work with Mike Garry, click on the video below.

A stroke is a brain attack which happens when the blood supply to the brain is cut off, caused by a clot or bleeding in the brain. There are around 152,000 strokes every year in the UK and it is the largest cause of complex disability in adults. There are over 1.1 million people in UK living with the effects of stroke. For more information about local stroke services and groups, email or call the stroke helpline on 0303 303 3100.

 11 August 13
Funding for Organisations Tackling Violence Against Women & Children
The European Commission has launched a new call for proposals under the Daphne III Programme 2007 - 13. The overall aim of Daphne III is to contribute to the protection of children, young people and women against all forms of violence including sexual exploitation and trafficking in human beings. The total amount of funding available is €11,404,000.  The EU will finance up to 80% of eligible project costs.  There is no maximum level of grant that can be applied for; however, the minimum grant that can be applied for is €75,000. The closing date for applications is the 30th October 2013. Read more at:

Hilton in the Community Foundation Grants
Organisations that work with young people have the opportunity to apply for grants through the Hilton Foundation. Organisations such as charities and other not for profit organisations can apply for grants ranging from a few hundred pounds up to £30,000 per year for up to 2 years that meet one of the Foundation's chosen areas of focus, these are:
· Disabled children
· Children in hospital
· Homelessness
· Life-limited children in hospices. 
The next closing date for applications is the 15th October 2013. Read more at:

...and finally, Claire Ford, (who some of you will have seen present her work at networking events) is undertaking some brilliant work connecting people affected by dementia with iPad’s and as part of her iPad engAGE project, is moving on to a second phase. To read more about her work and if you’re feeling generous, support her work, click on the image above.

...and for the sheer hell of it...

Thank you for passing by...C.P.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

AHS Talk This Saturday

For those who are attending the Ancestral Health Symposium this year, my talk will be at 9:00 AM on Saturday.  The title is "Insulin and Obesity: Reconciling Conflicting Evidence", and it will focus on the following two questions:
  1. Does elevated insulin cause obesity; does obesity cause elevated insulin; or both?
  2. Is there a unifying hypothesis that's able to explain all of the seemingly conflicting evidence cited by each side of the debate?
I'll approach the matter in true scientific fashion: stating hypotheses, making rational predictions based on those hypotheses, and seeing how well the evidence matches the predictions.  I'll explore the evidence in a way that has never been done before (to my knowledge), even on this blog.

Why am I giving this talk?  Two reasons.  First, it's an important question that has implications for the prevention and treatment of obesity, and it has received a lot of interest in the ancestral health community and to some extent among obesity researchers.  Second, I study the mechanisms of obesity professionally, I'm wrapping up a postdoc in a lab that has focused on the role of insulin in body fatness (lab of Dr. Michael W. Schwartz), and I've thought about this question a lot over the years-- so I'm in a good position to speak about it.

The talk will be accessible and informative to almost all knowledge levels, including researchers, physicians, and anyone who knows a little bit about insulin.  I'll cover most of the basics as we go.  I guarantee you'll learn something, whatever your knowledge level.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Food Reward Friday

This week's lucky "winner"... cola!

Thirsty yet?  Visual cues such as these are used to drive food/beverage seeking and consumption behavior, which are used to drive profits.  How does this work?  Once you've consumed a rewarding beverage enough times, particularly as a malleable child, your brain comes to associate everything about that beverage with the primary reward you obtained from it (calories, sugar, and caffeine).  This is simply Pavlovian/classical conditioning*.  Everything associated with that beverage becomes a cue that triggers motivation to obtain it (craving), including the sight of it, the smell of it, the sound of a can popping, and even the physical and social environment it was consumed in-- just like Pavlov's dogs learned to drool at the sound of a bell that was repeatedly paired with food.

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Thursday, August 1, 2013


So, the Manchester International Festival might be over, but the best free exhibition in town is still on! Mortality: Death and the Imagination runs at the Holden Gallery until 16th August.

By now, I know a good number of people have had the chance to look at the full transcript of the debate in the House of Lords last Thursday and a lot of you have looked at the video too. (see last weeks blog) These are really interesting times for our field, and whilst we all know that the Government’s austerity measures have a long way to go yet and the cuts we’ve felt are only the tip of the iceberg, it doesn’t seem to be stopping our momentum - not least our belief that our work has never been more relevant.

Having only ever read the political proceedings of debates, after the events in Hansard, the opportunity to witness one in the flesh, albeit as a silent partner, was something of a revelation. Ushered up to a narrow balcony over the chamber, I had a vantage point to take in the debate and a little of the theatricality of parliament. 

The opportunity to attend a debate, whilst it wasn’t a packed chamber (the Commons being in recess and the Lords were about to be), was still deeply compelling. The pr essence of the familiar faces of Joan Bakewell and Robert Winston added something to the sense of occasion, with Bakewell a consistent advocate for the arts and recently, older people - Winston of course, a ubiquitous presence on the small screen - and arguably (alongside that ever-young professor from the boy-band), the ‘face’ of popular science. I was very curious as to their take on the debate. More of that in a moment.

I’d been advised that the way these debates are formatted, adheres to rigid rules and however many people had asked to speak, would dictate the allotted time that would be then equally divided between those people. This meant that each speaker had a nine minute allocation. For some of the speakers, this meant that whilst covering the the themes of emotional well-being in both health and education, there was an inevitable passion to frame their stories in work that they were deeply involved in. 

The commitment and passion of all the speakers was palpable and for me, it was a strange position, not to be able to offer approval, support or even the odd whoop of bravo! After all, I’ve been brought up listening to the bear-baiting fervour of the Commons. All those here-here’s, boos and growls, yet not a sound could I utter. So, in respect of my noble colleagues, I offer these modest reflections, as I too take my ‘summer recess’ of two weeks annual leave. 

First of all, the debate was introduced by Baroness Jones of Whitchurch who not only spoke with a deep understanding of the issues, but judging by her own roles and interests inside and outside of Parliament is someone we should be very interested in. Education, culture and the arts and a strong interest in homelessness, the environment and communities, mark this peer out as a committed and articulate advocate for the field, who alongside Baroness Northover - representing both the DCMS and International Development - topped and tailed this debate.

Following on the heels of Baroness Bakewell who in her recognition of the ‘awesomeness of music,’ extolled the impact of the Proms and in particular the impact of the arts on the lives of people affected by disability, Lord Winston inevitably looked at the impact of the arts in scientific terms and its affects on different parts of the brain. His description of evidence from magnetic image resonance scanning of the brain, whilst interesting, perhaps just adds fuel to the age old debate that we need this kind of scientific magic to know that music can just be wonderful, its impact varied and mysterious, and beyond any need for measurement? Lord Howarth’s suggestion that ‘stimulus to the imagination’ might be what counts, tallies with so much of  your responses to my blogging of last weeks debate.

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve also been asking for examples of qualitative, or arts-based evaluation, and much intelligent deconstruction of the RCT have ensued! Thank you all for your contributions, which will provide me with much reading over the next couple of weeks. I feel there is much to discuss on this subject which ties into both the debate in the Lords, the rich variety of research being undertaken and of course, the ways in which we continue to advocate for the place of creativity, culture and the arts in wellbeing, health and education.

I’ve gone through the speakers words again in an attempt to distill something of the essence - I offer you a modest ‘anonymised’ cut and paste of the salient points.

         I want to make a different case—
                  the arts for their own sake, 
              for what they provide to our civilisation and the benefits   they impart to our well-being as a nation. This should be a sufficient reason to 
            celebrate, to defend and to invest in our arts culture.

        Celebration, insight, empathy and intellectual exchange.
    The arts lead us to see into the life of things.

   The arts are, in every possible sense, priceless. To equate them with commercial calculations is doing us all a disservice. 
                You cannot quantify it...

      One of the great things about music is that it expresses all 
         humanity. It expresses longing, sadness, anger and humour, it 
    looks at joy, it looks at sadness and at love and {...} hope as well. 
          It is a basic civilising influence on our population.

                        Lifestyles are not simply a matter of individual choice, they are a product of economic and social pressures. 

          The key thing here is the facilitation of artists, which I believe 
   is a good in itself, whatever the specific effects may be, 
                      because the artist’s work is the contribution 
           to society.

               If we slam the doors, we slam them not just on aspiration but 
                also on knowledge, confidence, communication
   and language — and we are just not prepared to see those doors slammed. 
           We are going to keep them open, and we shall have to fight to do 

             The value of that kind of experience is not measurable; it 
    is over and beyond the utilitarian calculus {…} or, all too often, of the 
         Department for Education and of the DCMS, with the Treasury lurking behind them. {…} 
               Poetry, drama and the novel offer insight into human nature, and a moral education—the best kind of moral education, 
           because it is not dogmatic. 
      Matthew Arnold was professor of poetry at the University of Oxford, and 
                 also Chief Inspector of Schools—what a good appointment that was
        by the Govt of the day. He said that the study of literature helps one to
     answer the great question: “How to live?” 
      The study of literature teaches people—to use a term that has lost too
                   many of its positive connotations—discrimination. It teaches them
                   to make moral distinctions, to recognise integrity 
  and quality.

As the House adjourned, I had the opportunity to walk with Lord Howarth along some of those corridors, mulling over what happens next. Clearly we have staunch allies in the Upper House - allies and advocates who see beyond simple reductionism and the value of culture and the arts beyond the miserablist bean-counters. Let us keep this momentum and let us keep our passion and vision. 

...and my final thoughts on that debate? Well actually, I’d like to restate one particular passage of the Earl of Clancarty who for me, hits the nail on the head: 

“The key thing here is the facilitation of artists, which I believe is a good in itself, whatever the specific effects may be, because the artist’s work is the contribution to society. The Government’s primary job in relation to the arts is—or should be—to do just that and must of course include encouraging the potential for creativity from all classes of society. {...} Indeed, in the short term, good art may not give a feeling of well-being at all but may be disturbing and highly critical of society, as much of our best post-war drama was. It is a healthy society which allows artists to have their say, encourages that criticism and, all importantly, offers spaces within which that can happen.”

My sincere thanks to Alan Howarth for his personal and unwavering committment to the arts and his belief in their impact on wellbeing, and for the time he made to share some of the hidden spaces within Westminster. 
MTV Staying Alive Foundation Grant 

The MTV Staying Alive Foundation has announced that its grants programme is currently open for applications. Through its grants programme, organisations led by young people (aged between 15 and 27) that work in HIV prevention can apply for support, which includes a small amount of funding as well as training and development, etc.  The maximum level of funding available is $12,000 per year.  The application process works in two stages. The first stage is a short online form.  If successful at this stage, applicants will be required to fill in a longer form with more details about the applicants organisation and the project for which you they are seeking funding.  The closing date for applications is the 12th August 2013. Read more at 

Clore Poetry & Literature Awards 
The Clore Duffield Foundation has announced that the sixth funding round under its £1 million programme to fund poetry and literature initiatives for children and young people across the UK is now open for applications. Through the programme, schools, FE colleges, community groups, libraries and other arts/cultural organisations can apply for grants of between £1,000 and £10,000 to support participatory learning projects and programmes focused on literature, poetry and creative writing for under 19s. Previous projects that received funding include:
·         Action Transport Theatre, which received a grant of £7,725 to develop primary school children’s appreciation of creative reading and writing through an exploration of traditional European fairy tales, using the power of live theatre performance.
·         Barnet Libraries LONDON Little Listeners: Big Readers project which received a grant of £9,761 to work with children aged 3-4 and targets 36 families where there is no regular reading habit. As well as library-led workshops in schools, volunteers will support targeted families to involve them in regular reading and library visits. 
The closing date for applications is the 7th March 2014. Read more at: 

Nominet Trust ‘Social Tech, Social Change’ Fund 
The Nominet Trust, a UK charity that invests in digital technology to improve lives, has teamed up with the Founders Forum for Good (FFFG) community of entrepreneurs to offer approximately 20 technology and digital startups the opportunity at getting a share of £1 million of funding.The funding is being made available through the ‘Social Tech, Social Change’ fund and is being made available to startups in the hope that they can be turned into profitable – and critically, scalable – businesses that use technology to tackle social challenges. This can be anything ranging from tackling child poverty to climate change. The fund is available to organisations such as Charities; Not-for-profits Community groups; Schools, PTAs, universities or other educational establishments; and Statutory bodies e.g. local authorities Commercially-run organisations that act as social enterprises; etc.  The next closing date for stage 1 applications is the 4th September 2013.  Those applicants successful at this stage will be asked to submit a fuller stage 2 application. Read more at:

Arts Council England Announce 2015 to 2018 
investment plans

A new application process for organisations wishing to apply for Arts Council National Portfolio Funding 

Thank you as ever and normal service will be resumed as soon as possible...C.P.