Mike White, Senior Research Fellow in Arts and Health in the Centre for Medical Humanities at Durham University, sets out the case for community based arts and health in a recent article for ANIMATED – The Community Dance Magazine:

“The most resonant image, for me, from the post-modernist jamboree of the Olympics opening ceremony was that of hundreds of children bouncing on beds to the choreographed attendance of health workers from NHS hospitals. Daring to epitomise our national values at a global sporting event in a concern for the health and imagination of children produced a populist tableau that will haunt the Secretaries of State for both Health and Education for decades to come.  Sure there was sentiment, even some of the proud socialism in which the NHS was conceived, but it was so much more substantial and provocative than the Disney Nuremburg we’ve come to expect from OIympics openings.  It was a massive declaration for arts and health as the bedrock of healthcare, expressed with a sweeping confidence that the viewing public would understand such an association.

My elation at the powerful advocacy that this spectacle might provide for the imminent launch of a new National Alliance for Arts and Health was tempered in the week following the Olympics when news reports revealed that Great Ormond Street and other flagship NHS hospitals were franchising their excellence into private NHS clinics in the Middle and Far East, ostensibly to re-cycle profits into supporting their healthcare work in the UK.  It seems the NHS is now a brand, a ‘Starbucks’ of international healthcare.  But if arts development is to have a viable role in the monkey business of medical trading it will need to rise to the challenge of providing a rigorous evidence base of measured impacts whilst bouncing to the tune of commercialised healthcare.  In short, there needs to be both depth and dazzle in the sales pitch, but this could end up diverting arts in health from its natural course of support for patient-centred care and human flourishing.”

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