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Thursday, 29 September 2011

Conference Thoughts - Part Two

My recollections of the first evening are slightly hazy, due to not having slept for two days, but I think I grabbed a pizza on the Piazza Amfiteatro - very tasty. This piazza is on the site of a Roman Amphitheatre, but very little of the original walls survive, just the shape. I then went to the Opening Ceremony  and first of all we went through all the countries (31 in all) represented here and each nation's representatives stood up to tumultuous applause. Then various local dignitaries gave speeches, with translations on a large screen. The amount of support this conference got from local organisations, in the arts and healthcare in particular, was really heartening to see. We then had a keynote speech from Malcolm Ross, who lives close to me, and has been involved in Art Therapy for a long time. I seem to remember he was being a bit provocative, but I was too tired to take the bait. The evening ended beautifully, with patients from a local psychiatric hospital performing dramatic tableaux to the music of Puccini, a son of Lucca (disowned for a while, but conveniently welcomed back for the 150th anniversary of his birth!). Words cannot describe how moving this was, with scenes from Madam Butterfly and other operas. I don't know Puccini that well, so can't tell you which operas they were, but there was a scene with someone being led to execution, a poor couple leaving their work and embracing, nuns in a convent, all presented in mime with exquisite simplicity and a great sense of timing and space.
So, after this emotional beginning, I head off to my bunk bed in the youth hostel, sharing with four other men, one of whom will be chairing the session I am presenting in on Saturday morning.
The following morning, after a disappointing breakfast at the hostel (coffee made in advance, brought through in a big plastic jug, then reheated in smaller metal jugs to look authentic) we had two keynote speeches, from two very different people - Graziella Magherini and Shaun McNiff.
Graziella is best known for her writing about Stendhal syndrome, a feeling of disorientation caused by an excess of art. Stendhal describes a panic attack brought on by a surfeit of history in the artworks he was seeing: "I had reached that pitch of emotion where the celestial sensations aroused by fine arts meet ones passionate sentiments....I walked with the fear of falling" She also spoke of the connections between the arts and psychoanalysis. For example, Freud said that "poets... are invaluable allies....they can draw upon well springs that have not yet been opened to science" and Wilfred Bion believed that the arts could reach the deepest strata of the mind. Jung was the most involved in the arts, using art to express his deepest self, through the use of mandalas and archetypal images. The most amusing aspect of this talk was her, as an elderly lady, showing several pictures of Michelangelo's David from all sorts of angles!
She spoke from the floor, to the side of the stage, almost as invisible as the Wizard of Oz, but then Shaun bounced onto the stage. I was struck by his movement, his energy and his warmth. Not surprising then that his main assertion was that all arts begin in movement. The feeling of a passionate belief in the healing power of the arts remains with me from that presentation, and Shaun and I had a very surprising encounter later in the conference, to be recounted in a later instalment. There is so much more to come.....................

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Conference Thoughts - part one

Last Wednesday, in the early hours, I set off for Lucca a beautiful medieval town in the heart of Tuscany. It was a slightly complex journey, as I decided to fly from London Stansted, not Bristol, which is closer. This was because it was cheaper, but meant a long coach journey first. I was on my way to the ECArTE Conference This is the European Consortium of Arts Therapies Education, who organise these conferences every two years. This was my first time at one, and I am so glad I went. About 400 delegates from 31 countries attended, all with some interest in the Arts Therapies - practitioners, students, researchers and so on. Fortunately for me the conference language was English - I am full of admiration for people giving papers in a language that is not their mother tongue. I found it hard enough in my own language. It is part of the arrogance of the English, I fear, that we assume that everyone will speak our language. I suppose more people in the world speak English as their second language than any other, but it still impresses and humbles me.
The main venue was the Real Collegio, a 500 year old building around a central courtyard. I, along with about 100 of the delegates, stayed at the Ostello San Frediano a youth hostel with a difference - it's an 18th century library with cool marble floors, high celings and wide staircases! I was sharing a room with 4 other men, in bunk beds, but for less than E20 per night, this was just fine! I tried their breakfast on the first morning, but was disappointed. It was much better to go to a cafe on the Piazza San Frediano, where you could get coffee and pastries for about 2 or 3 euros.
So, after an uneventful journey, including a 30 mile train journey from Pisa airport to Lucca, that only cost E2.50, I arrived and prepared for the first evening...

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Clive Betts Lunchtime concert

Had first lunchtime concert at Wonford House Hospital yesterday. About 40 people heard Clive Betts perform an exquisite collection of Spanish and Latin American guitar music (programme in earlier post). We had some high quality sandwiches from Taste and the event was introduced by Devon Partnership NHS Trust Chief Executive, Iain Tulley. Some of the pieces, such as Recuerdas de la Alhambra, were familiar, others less so. Clive introduced each set, giving a history of the pieces and some biographical detail on the composers. The highlight for me was Clive's performance of Asturias, by Albeniz, a very demanding piece that Clive performed with great panache. There were also several pieces that demanded the delicate use of harmonics, which Clive pulled off brilliantly. The concert has been recorded, and I look forward to transferring it to DVD soon. I hope to make some excerpts available on the blog. I invited people to give written feedback afterwards, and the consensus was that this was a top quality concert, in a great venue, and was fantastic value for money. I look forward to the next concert, on 24th October, featuring top band, Refuge.