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The arts in health: the icing on the cake?

In this latest Guest Blog, Daisy Fancourt, DaisyFancourtNew Generation Thinker 2017 and Senior Research Associate in the Department of Behavioural Science and Health at UCL  talks about the effect of arts on health. Interestingly, Daisy also appeared on BBC Breakfast on 19th July talking about the All-Party report “Creative Health: The Arts for Health and Wellbeing” on the benefits of arts prescribing and arts in health.

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On 17 March, I took part in my first interview as a 2017-2018 BBC/AHRC New Generation Thinker at the Free Thinking Festival at Sage, Gateshead. Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough, a previous New Generation Thinker herself, was my interviewer. She asked about my work: how I got interested in the field and what I’m working on. But then Eleanor asked a question I wasn’t expecting. “What’s the limit here. The arts can support our health in some ways, but surely they can’t, for example, fix a broken leg?”

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This is a good question, not because the arts can fix broken legs, but because it is a question that comes from wanting to understand the scope of what research is showing: wanting to know how excited we should get about the new research papers coming out each month, but also where this excitement should stop because the arts do have a limit. They do not represent complete solutions to all health problems.

This question has stuck with me since. Although there is now a plethora of evidence showing the effects of the arts on a range of mental and physical health conditions [https://global.oup.com/academic/product/arts-in-health-9780198792079?lang=en&cc=in], it could be possible to see the use of the arts in health as the icing on the cake: a wonderful way of enhancing health within societies once the fundamentals of healthcare are in place, but unnecessary, perhaps even flippant, in the context of major health challenges. However, if we look around the world, we actually see the opposite. Sometimes, in the face of the toughest health challenges, there are still important roles for the arts. A pertinent example of this is the Ebola virus epidemic from 2013-2016.

During the outbreak in West Africa, some of the major challenges were the abundant rumours and misunderstandings about the disease. There were instances of people who were affected hiding from medical staff, Ebola survivors being outcast from their societies and even healthcare workers being murdered. [http://democracyinafrica.org/improving-public-health-messaging-on-ebola] To combat this misinformation and support public health messaging, one of the strands of action was to mobilise the arts.weowntv

Spread Knowledge to Stop Ebola’ programme was developed by WeOwnTV; a San Francisco-based non-profit organisation. It involved Sierra Leoneans themselves being trained in film making and creating short films in their own words to raise public understanding about Ebola. The films built on local oral traditions and storytelling and combatted misinformation. www.sierraleone.weowntv.org

Stop Ebola Now: Through Creative Storytelling’ was a programme with UNICEF Liberia that involved the development of a 5-episode radio serial drama that addressed the reality of the Ebola epidemic. The programmes were sensitive to local cultural values and perceptions of Liberian audiences. The programmes contained songs and jingles alongside drama to help fight myths, including those surrounding survivors to help them reintegrate into communities. www.mediaimpact.org/ebola/guide.html 

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And Songs such as Ebola in Town by Rapper Shadow were released that warned about how Ebola could be caught. With the most crucial messages looped over an electro-dance beat, the rap song became popular in Liberia along with a ‘no-touching’ dance. Details of songs regarding Ebola can be found here

Of course the Arts can directly fix a broken leg. But they are also not confined to only being the ‘icing on the cake’. During emergency situations such as epidemics, the arts do have a role to play: they have the power to turn critical health messages into something accessible, emotive and sensitive to cultural traditions. They have the power to make people listen.

For more information on the use of the arts in Ebola response, visit http://arts.ufl.edu/academics/center-for-arts-in-medicine/resources/artist-repository/

To find out more about the use of the arts in health, my new book Arts in Health: Designing and Researching Interventions is now available to order: https://global.oup.com/academic/product/arts-in-health-9780198792079?lang=en&cc=in

Follow #ArtsinHealth

If you are interested in international collaboration, did you know AHRC allows international collaborators on most of its schemes?  Please see our Website for details of such opportunities.

New Generation Thinkers 2018 is now open for applications.  For more information please visit the website

NGTi


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AHRC International funding calls pre-announcements

The AHRC have several international funding calls pre-announced. These let you see the scope and content of the call in advance of formal launch to help researchers build collaborations. As these are preliminary announcements, deadlines and details are provisional, the full call documentation will contain all the eligibility rules and application process.

HERA

HERA call “Public Spaces: Cultures and Integration”

The fourth HERA (Humanities in the European Research Area) call is now launched for Humanities-led proposals addressing ‘Public Spaces: Cultures and Integration’, the theme text and a partner search tool is available on the HERA website.With co-funding from the European Commission, the total call budget will be approximately €20 million. Proposals can be up to €1 Million and must include four eligible researchers from four different countries involved in the call. 24 European Countries are involved including France for the first time.

The full call is expected to launch on 24th August 2017, with a deadline on 24th October 2017. The AHRC are planning a webinar in early September.

 

Equip Logo

EqUIP India/Europe pilot call on ‘sustainability, equity, wellbeing and cultural connections’

This call is the first from the EqUIP Platform involving partners from Europe and India, both the ESRC and AHRC are involved. The theme text and a partner search tool is available via the EqUIP website . The total budget for this call is approximately €5.5 Million. Each proposal will require the building of consortia of at least three research groups, one of which must be based in India and at least two must be based in different participating European Countries. Eight countries are involved, with Switzerland joining since this was announced. For the UK component, the research must be interdisciplinary across social science and humanities (this is encouraged across the whole call) and must be compliant with Oversees Development Assistance (ODA) 

The full call is expected week commencing 4th September 2017, and will close at the end of November 2017.

CH logoJPI Cultural Heritage call on ‘Heritage in Changing Environments’

The Joint Programming Initiative (JPI) in Cultural Heritage and Global Change has announced a call on ‘Heritage in Changing Environments’. The total value of the call is approximately €4.5 Million and involves 11 European countries. Each project proposal must comprise of at least three research teams, each based in an eligible institution in a different country participating in the Heritage in Changing Environments Call.

The call is expected to launch on 4th September with a deadline of 30th November 2017. Further information is available on the JPI Cultural Heritage Website

 


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A Sestina for the Huntington

In this latest Guest Blog, Thomas Tyrrell talks about his experience of the AHRC International Placement Scheme, and ultimately, his “Sestina for the Huntington”.

On my first day at the Huntington Library, Los Angeles, I was allocated a shelf for my books beneath a bust of Lord Byron. Madly jet-lagged but wide-eyed and vibrating on American coffee, I was here on the AHRC international placement scheme, which gives British PhD students the chance to travel abroad and access collections they couldn’t reach on their own budgets.

A bust of George Gordon, Lord Byron, from the Ahrmanson Reading Room in the Munger Research Centre - Photo Credit Thomas Tyrrell

A bust of George Gordon, Lord Byron, from the Ahrmanson Reading Room in the Munger Research Centre – Photo Credit Thomas Tyrrell

After a previous fellowship at the Chawton House Library, Hampshire, I had thanked my hosts with a country house poem. Suitably inspired by Byron, I set myself the challenge of writing a poem for the Huntington. To make things difficult for myself, I chose a sestina, an unusually difficult poetic form where the same six words are repeated in new orders in every verse. That meant that these six words had to be important—they had to embody my experience. These are the six I chose.

Library. Understandably, this was where I spent most of my time. Henry Huntington, one of the richest millionaires of the Gatsby age, had inherited a railroad fortune and built a property fortune on top of it. Much of this cash had been splashed in buying up wholesale the libraries of impecunious English aristocrats, or of other book collectors. I largely spent my time on early atlases and eighteenth-century poetry, but treasures of the library included Gutenberg bibles, first editions of William Blake and a beautifully illuminated Chaucer manuscript.

The Rothenberg Reading Room in the Huntington Library. Photo Credit - Thomas Tyrrell

The Rothenberg Reading Room in the Huntington Library. Photo Credit – Thomas Tyrrell

Garden. The greatest attraction for the Huntington’s ordinary visitors, however, were the acres of botanical gardens, which showcased a vast variety of flora and landscaping techniques, from the stillness of the Chinese and Japanese gardens to the baroque labyrinth of the cacti garden. It was more than possible to go for a quick stroll after lunch and lose yourself for the rest of the afternoon.

A bridge in the Japanese garden at the Huntingdon Library. Photo Credit - Thomas Tyrrell

A bridge in the Japanese garden at the Huntington Library. Photo Credit – Thomas Tyrrell

Art. Among the various galleries of American and European art in the Huntington grounds, one could find a William Morris stained glass window, a painting by Edward Hopper that used to hang (in reproduction) above the fireplace at my parents house and even a bust of John Milton, the key author of my thesis. When I was stuck, I used to go and gaze into his eyes for insight. He had a remarkably sympathetic expression.

Mountains. Waking up in a brand new place, the peak of Mount Wilson to the north made a great impression on me. They were a constant presence through the trip, towering above the parking lots of the Huntington, a reminder of the greater wilderness in tension with the immense urban sprawl of Los Angeles.

Window. American air-conditioning took some getting used to, but I was grateful for it when the temperature hit thirty degrees in February. As I looked out over the sun-baked gardens from the cool, climate-controlled archive spaces, it felt like looking into another world, and I tried to build that sense of slightly uncanny transition into the poem.

Move. I needed a verb to effect a transition between these elements, and stop the poem from falling into an elegant stasis. Something as simple as possible—I considered ‘walk’, ‘pass’, and ‘go’, but I found ‘move’ to be the most adaptable to my purpose.

The Munger Research Centre, where I conducted my research. Photo Credit - Thomas Tyrrell

The Munger Research Centre, where I conducted my research. Photo Credit – Thomas Tyrrell

Then I sat down and wrote.

Huntington Library Sestina by Thomas Tyrrell

The city sprawls out shoreward from the mountains,
Grids grafted to the plain by strength of art:
The craftsman’s skill that makes and frames the window,
With the persistence that sustains the garden
In times of drought; the eloquence to move
A people with the vision of a library.

It’s cool and still and silent in the library,
Where books inform me of the distant mountains:
How hawks and lizards and coyote move
Over a wilderness no human art
Can tame into a farmstead or a garden.
Beneath my eye the page becomes a window.

The world is beckoning beyond the window.
So from the studious pleasures of the library
I go to seek out nature in the garden.
Sheltered in the wind-shadow of the mountains,
The shoots sprout strongly, methodised by art
Which guides their courses as they grow and move.

When down the garden’s winding paths I move
I see far-distant lands as through a window,
The world’s arboreal and floral art
Arranged to form a vast botanic library.
Raked gravel and old stones encompass mountains
And oceans in the stillness of the garden.

The noon-day sun beats down upon the garden
And sweat rolls down my forehead as I move.
Against the cloudless blue horizon, mountains
Stand stark as cut-outs. Wishing for a window
On cooler air, too restless for the library
I go to walk the galleries of art.

The mind and hand combine in making art,
More than in writing books or tending garden.
There’s nothing that could tell me in the library
Quite how a pigment-loaded brush can move
Over an empty canvas, now a window
On men and women, palaces and mountains.

Here is great art with power to awe and move,
A library with all the world its window,
A garden in the shelter of the mountains.

(c) Thomas Tyrell

Thomas Tyrrell gazing at a bust in the Huntingdon Art Gallery - Photo Credit Thomas' Mum

Thomas Tyrrell gazing at a bust in the Huntington Art Gallery – Photo Credit, Kathryn Tyrrell


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The Belfast Self-Portrait

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© Selfportrait.org.uk 16 Hemyock Road Selly Oak Birmingham B29 4DG UK brian@brianhomer.com +44 121 603 1934 +44 7958 339745

In this latest Guest Blog, Dr Kieran Connell, from the School of History, Anthropology, Philosophy and Politics at Queen’s University Belfast, talks makeshift studios in ethnic-diverse Belfast, and impromtu family portraits.  Kieran is also Project Lead for the Belfast Self-Portrait Project.  Although different from the normal type of Blog Posts that appear here, it demonstrates the international and cosmopolitan nature of AHRC Projects.

In autumn 1979 three photographers – Derek Bishton, Brian Homer and John Reardon – set up a makeshift photography studio on a street in Handsworth, an ethnically-diverse district of Birmingham.  The studio consisted of a 35mm camera, a plain-white backdrop and a sign inviting passers-by to come in and take their own photo.  How and when each image was taken was left up to the participants, who controlled the camera via a button that was attached to a cable release.  By taking themselves out of the equation, the photographers hoped to create a set of images that celebrated the area’s rich cultural and ethnic diversity.

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© Selfportrait.org.uk 16 Hemyock Road Selly Oak Birmingham B29 4DG UK brian@brianhomer.com +44 121 603 1934 +44 7958 339745

Thanks to a grant from the AHRC’s Cultural Engagement Fund, this project has been re-staged in Belfast.  On the face of it, this certainly offers a very different setting.  Birmingham is a city with a long history of immigration, and Handsworth – an inner area to the north of the city – has been a home to immigrants from around the world since the late-1940s.  By the 1979, approaching half of the Handsworth population were of Caribbean or South Asian descent.  The area had also become a focus for negative stereotypes surrounding street crime, poverty and urban disorder, and at various points the neo-Nazi National Front seemed to be on the verge of making a serious electoral breakthrough in the region.

Belfast does not have a comparable history.  It was home to small population of migrants from the Indian subcontinent from the 1930s onwards, but even by 1991 this only numbered fewer than 2,000 people.  The city’s longstanding Chinese and Italian communities were also comparatively small.  In recent years, though, this has begun to change.  Belfast – like Northern Ireland as a whole – is becoming an increasingly diverse place.  In 2011 there was an estimated 32,000 people who belonged to minority ethnic groups across the province – a population that had more than doubled since 2001.  The second most-spoken language is now Polish, and South Belfast in particular has become a cosmopolitan mix of international students, community centres and take-away joints offering culinary specialities from around the globe.

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© Selfportrait.org.uk 16 Hemyock Road Selly Oak Birmingham B29 4DG UK brian@brianhomer.com +44 121 603 1934 +44 7958 339745

Like Birmingham in the 1970s, this growing diversity has often been accompanied with negative headlines and racist stereotypes.  There have been a number of high-profile race-hate crimes in Belfast, for example and, like the rest of the United Kingdom in the wake of the EU referendum, the subject of immigration remains a politically-fraught issue.  Moreover, less than two decades after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, in the minds of many in Belfast is a city primarily associated with religious sectarianism and a heightened sense of community division.

Working with Brian Homer, one of the photographers behind the original project, and his colleague Timm Sonnenschein, the aim of the Belfast Self-Portrait Project is to provide an alternative perspective.  We set up our own makeshift studios in two spaces used by a cross-section of the Belfast community: a shopping mall in Belfast city centre, and a museum in the south of the city.  We used the same plain white backdrop as in the original set up, which has the effect of focussing our attention to the people who inhabit each frame (as opposed to anything that may be going on in the background).  Likewise, each participant decided how they would take their photograph through the use of a similar cable release, and also got a free copy of their print to take away.  Unlike in the original project, though, when it took weeks to develop each image in a darkroom, these prints were available digitally in a matter of minutes.
In all, over 200 people participated in the project, which took place just a few months after of the EU Referendum over a weekend in autumn 2016.  Participants included people on their way to work, shoppers, tourists, couples, teenagers, pensioners and families.  As they had done in Handsworth in 1979, many people used it as an opportunity for an impromptu family portrait.  The images provide a snapshot of diverse Belfast, of the people from different age-groups, nationalities and ethnicities – with different sexualities, political affiliations, styles and religious backgrounds – who each inhabit the city and make it what it is today.

Now, a selection of these photographs is now going on display in an exhibition at the Ulster Museum.  Subsequently, they will form part of the Ulster Museum’s permanent collections, where they will become a kind of visual archive of a city’s diverse residents.  Like the Handsworth Self-Portrait Project more than three decades ago, we hope, they will act as a valuable resource to future generations of historians whose task it will be to unpick the history of a city in transition.

The Belfast Self-Portrait exhibition is free and open to the public in the Belfast Room of the Ulster Museum from Friday 7 July until Sunday 3 September 2017. The project has been generously supported by the AHRC, Queen’s University Belfast, the Ulster Museum and CastleCourt shopping centre.

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© Selfportrait.org.uk 16 Hemyock Road Selly Oak Birmingham B29 4DG UK brian@brianhomer.com +44 121 603 1934 +44 7958 339745


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International Funding Opportunities Closing Soon


Happy new year, and just a quick reminder that there are lots of international funding calls closing in the next month……

AHRC international development call

As part of the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF), the AHRC have a call for Area Based Network Plus awards for Arts and Humanities based approaches to addressing global development challenges. It is expected that applications will have a strong collaborative element with ODA (Overseas Development Assistance) countries. The awards will be £1.5-2 Million and over 4 years, and offer a flexible model of scoping, partnership building and running funding calls. Closing date: 18 January 2017

European Commission Funding

The topics to be funded under European Commission Challenge ‘Europe in a changing World – inclusive, innovative and reflective societies’ work programme close soon. These topics are more closely defined than a research council theme, but are still more open than commissioned research. In 2017 there is particular arts and humanities interest under the theme ‘Understanding Europe – Promoting the European Public and Cultural Space’ For example topics include:

  • Contemporary histories of Europe in artistic and creative practices
  • Religious diversity in Europe – past, present and future
  • Participatory approaches and social innovation in culture

Most close 2 or 4 February 2017 (note some of these are now 2 stage processes so involve an outline proposal). If you need assistance with applying, the UK contact point for this challenge is Ben Sharman challenge6ncp@esrc.ac.uk

Hello Shenzen: Researching the Ethics of Makerspaces

The AHRC and British Council have a UK/China opportunity for research into the China Maker movement that closes 29 January 2017. Note: applications need to comply with Overseas Development Assistance (ODA)

International Placement Scheme

The AHRC International Placement Scheme offers the opportunity for doctoral and Early Career researchers to visit seven world leading institutions in the USA, Japan and China. Closes 19 January  2017 

 


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AHRC International Placement Scheme Twitter Chat

On 5th January 2017, between 1430-1600hrs, AHRC is hosting an International Placement Scheme (IPS) Twitter Chat.

There will be the opportunity to:

  • Ask questions of IPS Alumini
  • Get answers on Application Queries for 2017
  • Obtain guidance on Policy.

Anything that cannot be answered will be responded to within a few days.

Details of the Twitter Chat can  be found on the events page.

Further IPS scheme information is located on the website.

 

 


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Transnational Italies Exhibition

Having opened at the British School in Rome on 26th October during the conference on Transnational Italies: Mobility, Subjectivities and Modern Italian Cultures, the exhibition “Beyond Borders. Transnational Italy” is now travelling to Italian Cultural Institute in London at the beginning of December (through until 14th January 2017) and then, in the course of 2017, to various places within the world.

It aims to follow the itinerary traced by researchers within the project (New York, Melbourne, Turin, and possibly Addis Ababa and Buenos Aires).

The conference and exhibition are part of the AHRC funded project, ‘Transnationalizing Modern Languages: Mobility, Identity and Translation in Modern Italian Cultures’.

More information on the ongoing projects tour can be found on the above website.