Showing posts with label Arts. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Arts. Show all posts

Tuesday, 29 May 2012


This event will be the headline concert in a small arts festival I'm organising at Wonford House Hospital in Exeter.
This is the headquarters of Devon Partnership NHS Trust and has a few mental health wards.This event is open to the public and totally free (donations welcome). There will also be several events on the wards for staff and patients only.

This is another free event open to the public, where I'll providing some laid back jazz for a cream tea. Let's hope the weather is still good.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Conference Thoughts - Part Seven

That evening, my last there, I joined a group heading off for a meal, some of whom I knew, some not. We had a very convivial meal, then popped back to the Real Collegio for some live music. This was provided by a band from a local psychiatric hospital, made up of inpatients. They played a mix of well known songs and their own compositions, and were brilliant, getting people up and dancing (including me - not photographic evidence fortunately!)
I then got taken out by a group of Dutch and German delegates who after my perfomance in the Robert Landy workshop, regarded me as some kind of mascot, parading me to their friends. This was very flattering and I went along with it, if only so that I could get some very nice free wine! I was taken to Vinarkia wine bar where we had some of the local wine, which was excellent. We chatted for ages, and eventually I rolled into my dormitory about 1am, having said earlier that I would have an early night due to giving a paper in the morning.
So, after another cafe breakfast, I head, along with fellow presenter Daniel Stolfi (see here) and our chair for the session Mitch Mitchelson We were determined to get to our venue, The Convent of San Micheletto  early, but were puzzled when we found no one there to let us into the lecture theatre. Then we realised that, because it was away from the main conference base, the papers started half an hour later, to give people time to walk there! Eventually a student helper came to let us in and we got set up. Despite the ancinet external appearance, the theatre turns out to be very modern with comfy chairs, a dais with several individual microphones, laptop, projector and big screen. However, if you went through the doorway at the back, it led to a beautiful little chapel with some pews and an altar. I spent some time in prayer there before giving may paper. I had about 25 people there I guess, enough to make me nervous. I went through the paper, and it all seemed to go ok (see my powerpoint here) . The only bad thing was that I then had to make a mad dash to the train station, missing Daniel's presentation and the closing party. This was so that I get home quicker and not try my wife's patience further by leaving her with the children all weekend as well as half the week! Many thanks to her for letting me go to this conference which,as you can gather from the seven blogposts on it, was very inspiring and enjoyable. Also, many thanks to any of you that have had the patience and interest to read all seven posts - I admire your stamina!

Monday, 3 October 2011

Conference Thoughts - part three

After the keynotes on Thursday morning we had a choice of presentations. I went for Henk Smeijsters, who I enjoyed listening to at the 7th European Music Therapy Congress in 2007. He is Professor of Arts Therapies and Head of Research of KenVak He has a particular interest in the work of Daniel Stern whose pioneering works on mother infant communication, and on the use of arts in psychotherapy, have been a great inspiration to me. Henk's presentation looked at Damasio's concept of the core self, an area of "felt meaning" beyond words. This is the "intelligence of the body" and links with art forms. Damasio wrote that "The core self at the bottom of the mind resembles Arts", and we believe that the Arts Therapies can express what is beyond cognition and words. Smeijsters says that "The felt experience of life can be put into gestures, pictures, sounds and movements. Art Forms are experienced as a felt match with the core self" (From his Powerpoint). He then linked this with Stern's concept of Vitality Affects - feelings/emotions that are felt in the present moment. They can be measured in parameters of art, such as rhythm, tempo, dynamics and form. So, Smeijsters says, "vitality affects are formed as art forms - when we experience art forms we experience vitality affects". This also means that as arts therapists, when we work with art forms, we work with the client's core self. I found Henk's presentation very interesting, combining the insights of neuroscience and psychology to show how the arts are central to the expression of our core self.
This was followed immediately by Malvern Lumsden, Dance Movement Therapist and Professor of Community Mental Health, University of Agder, Norway. He also looked at the way neuroscience backs up the work we do, summing this up in four hypotheses:
  1. The integration of lower and higher levels of the brain, of right and left hemispheres, and the resulting sense of self is essential for the "intelligence of feeling", but may be blocked by adverse experiences in development.
  2. The resulting lack of "emotional intelligence" - not to speak of a range of psychiatric "diagnoses" - can be seen as a consequence of this lack of integration.
  3. The arts and arts therapies are an important channel for promoting the development of the disordered brain (eg right and left hemispheres) and the fragmented self (many facets) both during development and subsequently.
  4. Since movement (involving the body, space, cognition, affect and social interaction) is fundamental to the early development of the brain and the self, dance movement therapy is seen as particularly relevant in the context of pre-verbal developmental and relational issues.
He also talked about the concept of "flow", using Laban's theories as a starting point and identifying three main types of flow - body, social and spatial. It is important to have mindful bodies, to be aware of the imapct of mind on body and body on mind. He reminded us that "emotion" literally means moving or pushing out, thus reinforcing the physical movement implied in the word.
Malvern also talked about another highly influential neuropsychiatrist Allan Schore who believes that all early forming psychopathology is connected with attachment disorders, leading to a failure of self and/or emotional regulation.
He also recommended The Meaning of the Body by Mark Johnson which also explores these issues.

The combination of these two papers was well planned, as they both linked current developments in neuroscience with the work we, as Arts Therapists do. I headed off to lunch in the Real Collegio courtyard, my head full of ideas, and looking forward to some more active learning at the afternoon workshops.

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, 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.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Research into use of Live Music and Visual Arts in Hospitals

This is some excellent research done at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in 2003, showing the many and amazing benefits of live music and visual arts in hospitals. All hospitals should do this! Click title for link.