My Highlights of the Event
The day kicked off with an affecting presentation from Michael, a man with Parkinson’s, who spoke for many in the room when he confessed to wanting to avoid support / activity groups for others with the condition, for fear of seeing the ‘end game’ of his deterioration. When he overcame this, he found himself instead liberated by joining with others unselfconsciously, and by the creativity of dance in itself, in a project by English National Ballet.
We then heard from Mike Hunter (Associate National Clinical Director for Mental Health) about the soaring demand for mental health support, and that despite recent improvements, not enough was reaching especially those in socio-economically deprived circumstances.
The recent green paper on Children & Youth mental health was mentioned, what, he wondered, might an arts-based approach to this urgent issue be? The brave Gillian Leng of NICE confessed that despite the plethora of evidence and randomized control trials proving the effectiveness of creative / arts-based therapies, this data was still considered ‘soft’ in comparison to that around conventional drug treatments. She called for more use of existing (public) data and apps etc to become part of evidence-gathering in the field.
The first presentation I attended introduced a 40-year arts charity, Akademi, delivering South Asian inspired dance (‘Dance Well’) to older, isolated adults isolated with dementia, based at the Royal Brompton & Harefield Hospitals.
Patsy Rosenberg, an acting coach and all round guru who’d taught everywhere from Soweto to the SAS and a lot in between, stole the stage in a captivating presentation, ‘Presence in the Power of Healing’, about art’s awakening function. I’ll remember her ‘three circles of Being’ for a long time (we all should be in the first one if we want to be effective at anything).
Here’s a snapshot of the theory: Trump is in the third circle, dogs are in the first, and cats pretend to be in the second but really they are in the first.
A presentation on singing for lung health (British Lung Foundation) included randomized control evidence that participation had effectively ‘distracted’ sufferers from their illness and therefore improved outcomes by reducing anxiety sufferers felt, which led to better lung health.
Closer to home and to my own interest in stroke, the ‘About Being’ project based at Cumberland Infirmary & the University of Cumbria showed how a dance artist had worked with occupational therapists and physiotherapists to help stroke survivors re-engage with exercise. I hope to keep in touch with this team as we have much in common.
I also enjoyed hugely a Historic Royal Palaces presentation on their project to create intimate gatherings in some of their most special historical rooms, just for dementia sufferers. Spoken word, drama and sensory experiences are woven together to make very special experiences.