Sydney thumbs up for blog

I’ve arrived safe and well in Sydney! Currently wandering around the city with my laptop burdened by jetlag, trying to prepare for this symposium that I am contributing to in a couple of weeks. For those of you who don’t know, I’m here to start my PhD at University of New South Wales with supervisor Lizzie Muller. My subject is one that I’ve been nurturing for a while now: links between art, technology and mental wellbeing. Here is a summary of my starting point… Read More →

States of Mind

This time last year (my 30th birthday) I wrote one of those navel-gazing lists about what I’d like to do more of during my next 30 years of life. To my surprise ‘listen to more interesting radio’ was close to the top of the page!

One year on I am very pleased to have co-curated this event for Mental Health Awareness week with my new friends at In the Dark Radio. Its an evening of documentary, audio stories and spoken words that explore the glorious and eccentric possibilities of the human mind. We’re taking a broad look at mental health and will include phenomena such as voice hearing, OCD, aspergers and dementia. Its a celebration of all of the stuff that makes our brains unique. Audiences are invited to sit down together in a dark space and engage in some deep listening. Read More →

Brian Lobel: Fun with Cancer Patients

Review commissioned by this is tomorrow

At the age of 20, Brian Lobel was diagnosed with testicular cancer. Unsurprisingly, his illness changed the course of his life, leading ultimately to his decision to study performance and become an artist. Now 31, Lobel has frequently returned to cancer as his artistic subject matter, documenting its impact on his personal and social life. His trilogy of one-man autobiographical performances, including ‘Ball’ and ‘Other Funny Stories About Cancer’ featured the artist in confessional mode relaying the awkward, embarrassing and sometimes traumatic impact of the illness on his body and mind.

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What happens at the festival stays at the festival

A review commissioned by this is tomorrow

It seems contradictory for a festival that uses the word ‘Supernow’ as part of its tagline to be preoccupied with documenting its own history. The notion that performance exists only in the present has long been considered an obstacle for the archivist, marking the ‘nowness’ of the practice as one of its enduring artistic and political virtues. If performance is a collision of personal experiences brought together in a unique moment, the prospect of drawing together a compelling art historical exhibition to be explored amid the liveness of the 2013 festival is riddled with incongruity. How can fragments of the past stand up to the allure of the festival in the present? And how might knowledge of the festival’s history add to the production of new experiences in 2013?

This exhibition is pitched as a tentative beginning to a larger archival project that will cover the whole of Fierce’s15-year history. Read More →

Bearpits and Landmines

I’ve spent most of today playing Anna Best‘s new online game Bearpits and Landmines, which is launching this weekend (27th and 28th July) at Womad. Its a web and phone app with a haunting soundtrack and quirky illustration. The work was made as part of an artist commission by Artlands last year at the newly built Cyclopark in Gravesend. I was producer for some of the performance elements of the project. Read More →

Digital Humanities 1

Ed Pinsent presenting his ideas on data storage during day one of the course

I am writing this on my way to the second day of a digital humanities training course at the Working Class Movement Library in Salford. Together with my colleague Ella Paremain, I will be giving a presentation about the digital archival resource that we are currently assembling as part of Unfinished Histories. We are presenting it as a case study in working with volunteers to create accessible web archives.

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Phds in Theatre article in The Stage 9th May

My article on PhDs in Theatre Studies was published in The Stage on 9th May. Given that it happened a few days before my birthday I manged to completely miss it! If anyone has any belated comments please feel free to add them here.

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we need a new language for mental health

Jane Davis Director of The Reader leading the final panel session of the day
I believe that the words we use to talk about mental illness can profoundly change social attitudes towards it. I also believe that being exposed to creative, beautiful language can enlighten, uplift and powerfully impact personal well-being and mental health.

On 16th May I went along to The Reader Organisation’s conference ‘shared reading for healthy communities,’ were there was plenty of thought provoking dialogue to confirm and also challenge some of these beliefs. To recap from my previous post, The Reader are an organisation who run shared reading groups in clinical and community settings, often with individuals who have problems with alcoholism, chronic pain or depression. As part of the first session, reader Jon Greenhalgh testified to the impact that one of these groups had on his own life, by helping him to end a long relationship with alcoholism. Less than one hour in and I was already witnessing powerful testimony about the value of shared reading for personal wellbeing!

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Reading for mental health

Image Stephen Rees

The way we use language to talk about mental illness has a significant impact on how society understands specific conditions. Medical terms such as ‘bi-polar’ or ‘depression’ create a framework of symptoms or behaviors that individuals might be expected to exhibit in social situations, leading to common stereotypes and misunderstanding. While medical language is valid for certain purposes, it is necessary to develop a more nuanced lexicon to enable suffers to express the complexity of their own subjective experiences and to enrich social understandings of mental health issues.

I got really excited this week, when I came across The Reader Organisation’s annual conference titled “We need a new language for mental health”. This call to arms seems to acknowledge the importance of language in defining mental crisis. The title fired my imagination and got me asking, what might a new language for talking about mental health sound like? What kinds of words might be most adequate for reflecting the complexity of emotions such as fear, anxiety and anger?
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Philippa Strandberg, potential PhD in theatre, teaching her students at Italia Conti

Philippa Strandberg; a potential PhD student in theatre who I have interviewed for my article, teaching her BA students at Italia Conti

This week I am finishing a piece of writing for The Stage with a working title of “Should British Universities abolish PhDs in Theatre Studies?” The title is intentionally provocative and is devised in response to an article that was published in The Chronicle of Higher Education in America earlier this year. Written by a disenfranchised PhD in Theatre, this article attacked the PhD qualification as being worthless in the context of a shrinking American academic job market.

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