Soft Power – A Lithuanian perspective

Rytis Paulauskas is Director, Information and Public Relations Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Republic of Lithuania. Formerly, he was Lithuania’s Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva. Here he reflects on his own experiences of cultural diplomacy in light of his contribution to the latest King’s Cultural Enquiry report ‘The art of soft power: a study of cultural diplomacy at the UN Office in Geneva’. The  report will be launched in London on Thursday 9 November.

It was a great opportunity for me to be a part of The art of soft power project in collaboration with Melissa Nisbett and James Doeser of King’s College London and Francesco Pisano, Director of the United Nations Library in Geneva. We should all appreciate that the research was led by practice rather than by abstract theorising. This helped to reveal the rather exclusive, confidential and politically sensitive competitive processes surrounding soft power and cultural diplomacy. As a firm believer in cultural diplomacy, I will advocate for the diplomatic community to incorporate the study’s findings into their thinking and operations. Those responsible for allocating financial resources for cultural programmes should be aware of this research too.

Throughout the last twenty-five years, it has been essential for Lithuania to re-establish itself on the bilateral and multilateral diplomatic stage to create new political alliances and bonds between nations. Culture has always been part of these processes, widening Lithuania’s cultural landscape and forging new artistic bonds. Lithuania is ready to contribute more to the dialogue of civilizations, facilitating mutual understanding, peaceful co-existence and international cooperation.

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As Lithuania’s former representative in Geneva, I had the privilege through the UNOG’s Cultural Activities Programme (CAP) to make a small contribution towards achieving these important goals. I concur with The art of soft power’s finding that the CAP is important for smaller nations in order for them to have their voices heard.  The report also points out that some states use culture to preserve and express hard political power. It also provides us with concrete examples in which cultural activities highlight a clash of values which some may perceive as closer to propaganda than cultural diplomacy. Raising awareness, as this report does, is an important step, which I believe might be of help in strengthening the UN mechanisms responsible for the CAP.

Finally, it may not be that soft power and cultural diplomacy will always be immeasurable. With the speedy development of digital technology, we should also explore the digital dimension of cultural diplomacy. Perhaps there we could find some necessary hard data to measure the effectiveness of cultural diplomacy and move closer to answering the study’s question: what works? I very much look forward to continuing to collaborate on further research into soft power.

Words: Rytis Paulauskas

Speech: Dr Nick Wilson at launch of Towards cultural democracy report

Last week, King’s College London launched its fourth Cultural Enquiry. Towards cultural democracy: promoting cultural capabilities for everyone investigates the UK’s cultural ecology, highlights the importance of ‘everyday’ creativity and calls for a more inclusive approach to building the networks and partnerships that enable creativity in the UK.

At the launch, Dr Nick Wilson, Reader in Creativity, Arts & Cultural Management, Department of Culture, Media & Creative Industries at King’s and one of the report’s authors, gave a speech to invited guests from across the cultural, academic and policy sectors that formally launched the report: 

Any talk of ‘cultural democracy’ carries with it the danger, however unwitting, of reinforcing rather than eradicating or overcoming division: unfortunately, of course, we’ve heard so much in the last few days and weeks about the haves vs. the have nots; the rich vs. the poor, and so on; it is easy to see how this report might threaten to add a long list of additional dualisms of its own – high culture vs. popular culture; professional vs. amateur; culture vs. commerce; London and the South East vs. the North; the arts vs. everyday creativity; and so on. The cry goes up that we should be re-directing attention and resources towards the ‘other’ – the marginalized, the disenfranchised, and the excluded – and what is termed a ‘deficit’ model quickly ensues. So what of this Cultural Enquiry and its call for the arts and creative industries to take everyday creativity seriously – is this just another well-intentioned but ultimately flawed agenda which, if implemented, would merely see hugely stretched resources being re-directed from one group to another – a zero sum game?

It will come as no surprise that my answer to this is a resolute ‘no’. I firmly believe that the ideas and recommendations we are presenting today offer a different, necessary and pragmatic way forward that is in everybody’s interests. But, in the same breath, I want to stress that this is just a starting point; its big ideas need to be discussed and debated; we don’t have all the answers.

So, what are these big ideas; what do we mean by cultural capability – and why do we think this is this so important? I want to answer these questions very briefly in reference to 5 ‘C’s, the first two of which are Culture and Creativity:

Over and above Get Creative’s specific aim, which the BBC’s Director General Tony Hall, at the campaign launch described as ‘inspir[ing] everybody, and I mean everybody, to make art; to do something creative’ it has placed even more firmly on the map the importance of thinking more deeply about the relationship between culture and creativity.  Through our research we have glimpsed just some of the plethora of creativity that is happening across the country, but which is not recognized or supported at a cultural policy level. Bringing attention to this ‘everyday creativity’ is of itself not new, of course. The Warwick Commission; 64 Million Artists’ report for the Arts Council England; John Holden’s work on the significance of ‘home’ and ‘amateur’ culture, as part of a cultural ecology; the AHRC Cultural Value project; and the Understanding Everyday Participation research project – to name but a few – have all made important contributions. But what we think IS new, is our findings about the interdependencies and interconnections that exist between everyday creativity, the arts and creative industries, and what this tells us about the nature of cultural opportunities  – which crucially extend well beyond the over-arching cultural policy goal of increasing access to already existing publicly funded arts.

The report argues that we need to pay much greater attention to the Connections (my 3rd ‘C’) between everyday creativity, arts and creative industries. These are vital – not just to inspire people to try something new, or encourage more everyday creativity, but rather as representing the (often invisible) conditions and pathways into the arts and creative industries, and moreover, crucially, as the ways in which people get to lead fulfilled lives. This brings me to where I think the report is most innovative – in respect of its re-thinking how we do ‘cultural policy’ not so much, as I have said, in terms of access to currently existing publicly funded arts, or even the equitable distribution of resources across the country (important though these are), but in respect of promoting the potential, the opportunity the freedom, or in the language of Nobel prize winning economist Amartya Sen, the ‘capability’ to do or be what we really value. Cultural Capability (my fourth ‘C’) is the real freedom or opportunity to co-create versions of culture. Commenting on a draft of this report, Alex Ferris (formerly of the Old Vic Community Company, now at West Yorkshire Playhouse) said: “Culture can provide the agency, confidence and platform that communities need to survive – giving them a route to be heard, a sense of belonging, a compassion and empathy for each other no matter where they fall in society.” Cultural capability matters because not everybody has this socially embedded freedom: and if you are still struggling to see just what I mean by these words – think of ‘co-creating versions of culture’ in terms of the very real and lived freedoms (or not) to speak, to express, to be heard, to make, to build, to create. When everyone has this freedom we will have cultural democracy.

The obvious question arises: How might we promote these cultural freedoms, this cultural capability for everyone … in practice? In the report we outline 14 recommendations – the most central of which is to make the promotion of cultural capabilities for everyone an interlinked policy objective – by which we simply mean that we encourage everyone across all scales of policy decision-making – from national policy makers (across Government), theatre chief executives, funders, foundations, to knitting club organisers – to embrace this focus on cultural opportunities, as discussed in the report. Other recommendations include exploring the best institutional arrangements through which this can be done; reviewing how this policy complements rather than negatively impacts existing policy directions and priorities (as I said at the start – we really don’t want to unwittingly reinforce division; access to ‘great art’ and cutting edge creative industries remain central within this vision of cultural democracy); as well as a range of other more focused recommendations, including supporting creative citizens; encouraging arts organisations to develop their own cultural capability strategies; local (city-wide) initiatives; exploring the role of digital platforms and social media in enabling new partnerships and collaborations; and developing new connections with non-arts groups.

All of which brings me to my 5th and final ‘C’ – Change. Starting this evening, but very much in the spirit and practice of Get Creative – we hope that through joining together in an inclusive conversation about how to promote cultural capability for everyone, we really will be able to bring about change for the good. The arts and the creative industries are best-placed to lead this conversation – but it is one that should embrace many voices, and bring us into contact with people and views we haven’t heard from (or perhaps haven’t been heard) before.

And on this note – you will find a piece of paper on the desk by the window, which invites you to reflect on and share,– what you have heard this evening. We should like to hear from all of you – so do please take a few minutes to jot down any helpful thoughts and contributions and post in the box by the doors before you leave.

To conclude, let me just say: for us – the research continues. We are currently planning a follow-on research project that asks ‘what interventions (if any) are needed to bring about cultural democracy?’ We will also be taking this agenda to South Africa in September to make the case for cultural capabilities on an international level (to the Human Development and Capabilities Association). We very much look forward to talking with you further in due course.

Words: Dr Nick Wilson

For more information about and to download Towards cultural democracy: promoting cultural capabilities for everyone, see the King’s website.

Further information about King’s programme of Cultural Enquiries, is available on the King’s website.

CiF’s first Annual Creativity Lecture: a farewell to Sir John Sorrell

Declan Sheahan. a Masters student at King’s studying Arts & Cultural Management, went along to the Creative Industries Federation’s (CiF) first Annual Creativity Lecture where members were saying a fond farewell to the organisation’s Chair and founder, Sir John Sorrell. Here Declan writes about the event and Sir John’s address to the Federation. 

I was incredibly lucky to be invited to Sir John Sorrell’s farewell address (many thanks to Ruth Hogarth at King’s Cultural Institute), touted as the very first Annual Creativity Lecture. Consequently I was keen to arrive promptly, calm and looking relaxed. A short monsoon on my 10-minute walk from King’s College London Strand Campus to The Hospital Club close to Covent Garden ensured I arrived quite the opposite. As I dried myself, my mind turned to the prospect of Sir John Sorrell’s address that evening. How do you balance the end of one chapter whilst welcoming another?

Hair dried and drink in hand, I took a seat and eagerly waited for Sir John. I opened a tiny envelope on my seat which concealed a business card with ‘Creativity’ printed on one side, and the dictionary definition printed on the other. Many hours had been spent debating and trying to pin down definitions of ‘creativity’, ‘the arts’, ‘art vs. craft’ and so forth during my Masters seminars (Arts and Cultural Management at King’s College London). The definition on the card was so neat that it seemed to mock me, so I stuffed it in my wallet for safekeeping. It’s still there.

biz card

I was familiar with The Virtuous Circle, co-authored by Sir John Sorrell, which makes an incredibly compelling case for the value of creativity in the educational setting and provided one of the sparks of inspiration for my dissertation topic. Needless to say, any case put forward by Sir John this evening would be preaching to the choir. Surrounded by Creative Industries Federation members who looked on to someone who had worked hard to bring a previously disparate collection of industries together to talk with a more ‘united voice’.

My attention soon turned to Sir John as he took to the stage and began a talk that mapped the story of The Creative Industry Federation. This was so inextricably linked to his own story that I sometimes couldn’t tell which was which –  where friends ended and colleagues began, where his vision turned to hard graft, determination and action. His talk spoke to me as a struggle for recognition that the creative industries, before they were termed as such by policy, needed leadership and organisation if they were to ever be taken seriously by government. He praised the DCMS mapping document and the more recent work of Ed Vaizey for understanding and supporting the ‘cause’ of the UK’s creative industries, their value to the UK economy but also to the fabric and texture of British society.

Sir John dedicated a large amount of his talk to  the importance of the link between creativity and education. From my perspective as a Theatre grad, creativity and expression of individuality is only made possible through arts subjects. However, Sir John’s vision of creativity imbedded as a process or way of thinking across all subjects is a vital step, as it would certainly have changed my perception of STEM subjects being a place for my creative endeavours had this been made explicit to me at a young age. His speech outlined that there was still much to do to enshrine creativity within our education system to ensure that not only the Creative Industries talent-pipeline doesn’t run dry, but that Britain continues to drive innovation across many sectors.

The evening had struck a powerful balance, successful in gathering the creative industries together to celebrate Sir John’s long career and legacy and also welcoming the very first Annual Creativity Lecture. As I headed out from the Hospital Club, into the pouring rain again, I felt energized and ready to begin a new journey of my own. The infrastructure installed by Sir John Sorrell and those who worked with him demands a new generation of creative sector leaders to come forward and continue his work.

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Declan Sheahan is a Masters student at King’s studying Arts & Cultural Management. To contact Declan, email: declan.sheahan@kcl.ac.uk.

 

 

The Creative Industries Federation is the national membership organisation bringing together all of the UK’s arts, creative industries and cultural education to provide an authoritative and united voice in a way never done before. For more information about the course, please visit  the King’s website. More information about the Creative Industries Federation can be found on the organisation’s website

Words: Declan Sheahan
Pictures: Declan Sheahan

King’s alumna, Rosanna McNamara, talks about her role as Production Assistant on King’s Dear Diary exhibition

If you’ve seen King’s current Inigo Rooms exhibition Dear Diary, you’ll realise how much work and research went into its production. The Programming team at King’s manage the university’s flagship exhibition space and we managed to find a small amount of downtime to speak to Rosanna McNamara, King’s alumna and Programming Assistant, to find out about her role and why students should take the time to look around Dear Diary.

How did you end up working for King’s and what does being a Programming Assistant entail?

After finishing my MA at King’s in Christianity in the Arts, I faced the inevitable task of finding work. I had some gallery experience, having previously worked for The RYDER Projects, a contemporary gallery in East London, so when I saw an invigilator position on the King’s Talent Bank I applied. My first position was for the By Me William Shakespeare Exhibition, during this time I got to know the team, and ended up taking on extra shifts and becoming a supervisor. I then started helping out with office support and now I’m on a fixed term contract.

My current role is to support the Programming Team, which can mean a diverse array of tasks. For example for Dear Diary I have helped recruit gallery staff, organise the private view and even ordered some furniture. I’ve learnt you have to throw yourself into all the different elements of the job.

Why do you think diaries make an interesting topic for an exhibition?

Six months ago I don’t think I would have thought so, my idea of a diary was limited to a teenage one. Now I know more about the subject matter I’ve realised how the form of ‘life-writing’ or diary writing has changed. The Dear Diary exhibition explores the ‘digital descendants’ of the diary, and I’m addicted to my phone and social media so I’ve realised how connected I am to these newer manifestations of the diary form.

Has anything surprised you in terms of the content of Dear Diary, and what is your favourite part of the exhibition?

Yes! The most surprising element is probably Kenneth Williams’ ‘Bum Chart’ – which records his bowel movements after surgery. Although shocking and funny, it is also interesting in terms of ideas around privacy and self.

On a more personal level, I am really interested in post-human studies, so the ideas within the exhibition around prosthetic memory are really exciting. For example the exhibition asks questions about how now we seem to almost upload parts of our mind and memory to a machine.

Why should students come to Dear Diary?

Well, firstly, the exhibition is free, which is so great, and it is based at the Strand Campus – so easy for King’s students to get to: they can even pop down between lectures or during their lunch break.

In terms of the content, there is such a variety of objects and artworks on display. One of our gallery assistants, who is a King’s student herself, described the exhibition as ‘accessible’, as diaries are something that everyone can relate to, even if they don’t actually keep a diary themselves. Even if you don’t keep a written diary, you might well use social media and different apps which keep track of your life.

Thinking about my time as a King’s student, I almost see the content I produced during my course as a type of academic diary. The opinions I formed and the essays I wrote in an academic context are indicative of my life and, in a way, this work becomes like a type of diary or record of thoughts and interests.

Thinking back to secondary school as well, I remember we all had planners where we would have to write down when our homework was due and anything else we wanted to keep track of… It would be really interesting to find my old planner. Perhaps after students have seen Dear Diary they will feel inspired to share their own planners or diaries, that’s something I would love to see.

Dear Diary: A Celebration of Diaries and their Digital Descendants is on in the Inigo Rooms, King’s College London, Somerset House East Wing from 26 May – 7 July 2017, Weds–Sun, 11.00-17.30. Entry is free.

Twelfth night at the National Theatre – a student review

MA Arts and Cultural Management student Alex Talbott took in Simon Godwin’s production of Twelfth Night at the National Theatre. Here she offers her perspective on the latest production of this much loved play:

The dynamism of Godwin’s production was unfaltering. From the moment the show opened Soutra Gilrmour’s pyramidal set slipped seamlessly from shipwreck to backstreet to palace via a nippy sports car. Music accompanied, adding to a somewhat carnivalesque atmosphere, with musicians switching on and offstage. While this provided a captivating setting for the show, the real innovation lay in Godwin’s ability to shift the focus of Twelfth Night towards the usually secondary character of Malvolio – here Malvolia – played by Tamsin Greig. As Olivia’s rigidly humourless steward, in the first half of the show Malvolia – complete with angular fringe and black culottes – trails ‘her lady’ eradicating fun. Yet as the play goes on, Greig portrays the complexity of Malvolia through a tragically comedic performance. What begins as light hearted slapstick morphs into a moving portrayal of vulnerability, as Malvolia’s love for and desire to please Olivia leave her an object of ridicule rendered insane. The treatment of Malvolia in light of her sexuality too highlights a more serious and sobering point.

Doon Mackichan’s Feste stood out, with another gender twist, Mackichan brought an occasional gravitas to the comic role, moving the audience with melancholic song before switching back to sharp sarcasm and knowing comments. Intermittent moments of hilarity also came from Olivia’s drunken uncle Sir Toby played by Tim Mcmullan and his partner in crime the dimwitted Sir Andrew (Daniel Rigby) whose flourescent pink socks remain etched in my mind.

While I sometimes feel on seeing another advert on the tube for Macbeth, Hamlet or a Midsummer Night’s Dream Shakespeare’s hold over the capital is monotonous and staid, productions like Godwin’s continue to prove me wrong. In a sense this production seemed to be out of kilter for the Leading Culture participants, having travelled across the globe to discuss and debate the promise of culture in the 21st century, they were faced with the work of a celebrated 16th century male playwright – but really this is indicative of great culture’s promise. Under new direction works like this are open for reinvention, at the National Theatre just a few minutes stroll from the original location of Shakespeare’s Globe, this performance might just have sparked some ideas that could be hanging around a few more centuries down the line.

King’s College London are screening a National Theatre Live production of Twelfth Night at the Strand Campus on Wednesday 26 April

Wednesday 26 April 2017 at 19.00

Arthur & Paula Lucas Lecture Theatre (S-2.18), Strand campus

Tickets: £5 King’s students | £10 standard students | £12.50 King’s staff and alumni, Northbank Card holders | £15 standard  To book tickets click here

An evening of anything but standard progress

Young Progress Makers is an afternoon of talks, workshops and performances at the Roundhouse in Chalk Farm for Londoners aged between 18 and 25. It is organised by the Evening Standard and brings together inspirational speakers from across the capital to stimulate and inform people from all backgrounds who want to find solutions to the challenges facing young people in the city. King’s sent Masters student, Ottilie Thornhill, along to see what it was all about.

There is a general rule that I am bound by when I write for this blog, that I must not mention the thing that happened in June last year, or the thing that happened in January this year — I suppose because everybody else does and it makes the King’s blog site something of a safe haven for the politically burnt-out. That said, I am now in a difficult position because I really don’t know how write about the Evening Standard Young Progress Makers (ESYPM) event and not talk about them.

Hosted at the Roundhouse in January, the inaugural conference drew together the great and the good from politics, business and the arts to explore how to give the young people of London a better future.

Evening Standard Editor, Sarah Sands, opens the evening

Evening Standard Editor, Sarah Sands, opens the evening

Unfortunately for this piece, in hearing some incredibly inspiring stories and finding out what can be improved, at least half the speakers in the six hour event mentioned the things that must not be mentioned, in conjunction with youth unemployment, unaffordable housing, the never ending cycle of internships, low wages, the NHS crisis, the growing vocalism of intolerance and all the other ills that come with being documented as the ‘best educated, worst off generation ever’.

As an over-educated, underemployed young woman who now doesn’t want to cross the Atlantic without the contraceptive implant, what I had hoped for out of the ESYPM – indeed what I hope for in general – is for someone to find the solutions. In the moments when I’m not panicking about really identifying with the characters of the TV series Girls, I do see that there probably isn’t one magic cure and that nobody is going to lay everything out whilst making it seem like it was my idea. With this in mind the focus on creating opportunities was intriguing even if it came from an unexpected angle.

The overwhelming message of the day was that the young should look to entrepreneurship, and that London should look to the young. Brent Hoberman shared his story of founding lastminute.com with Baroness Lane Fox. Travelex founder Lloyd Dorfman and Fabien Riggall of Secret Cinema both launched new initiatives to help the young. The Office Group announced a plan to provide office  space to businesses started by young entrepreneurs and Secret Cinema are mobilizing to do more community outreach with younger people.

Sometimes, when facing the crippling fear that post-2016 life can induce in the young, it is important to listen to something better. Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, reaffirmed his vision for London as a place where hard work and a boost can help you get where you want to be, again taking his journey from council estate to City Hall as an example. Actress and activist Lily Cole stressed the importance of sustainability and discussed her online community Impossible People and technologist Alex Klein spoke of the power available in understanding how the technology around us is built and functions.

Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan speaks to the Evening Standard Young Progress Makers

Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan speaks to the Evening Standard Young Progress Makers

Intercut with more than twenty other talks were blindingly good and all-too-brief offerings from poets including Young Laureate, Caleb Femi.

ESYMP1 Anita Barton-Williams

Anita Barton-Williams, poet and resident artist at the Roundhouse, wows the audience

Undeniably, the game has changed and for many, either we didn’t see it coming or weren’t in a position to act. However, bearing in mind the wider ills listed above, the stories of two women who have overcome mental illness and disadvantage with support from The Prince’s Trust to go on and found a digital business and a bakery were the first in what I hope will be a long line of small victories for the new generation. Celebrating them definitely deserves more space in print than Brexit or Trump.

Words: Ottilie Thornhill
Pictures: Ottilie Thornhill

Patching up

Patching up is a project at King’s that is running throughout a six month maker-in-residence programme. The programme is a collaboration between Angela Maddock and the Florence Nightingale Faculty of Nursing & Midwifery at King’s and is supported by the Crafts Council and the Cultural Institute at King’s. It aims to explore and develop material empathy in nursing and midwifery students through engagement in craft practice.

In Patching up students are asked to bring along a valued object in need of repair and, through a process of discussion, reflection and negotiation, we develop a care plan for the object and they continue the repair in their own time. An exhibition of all the ‘Patch Ups’ is planned for the end of my residency. This blog features contributions from students across the faculty, their photos and their reflections on what the process means for them.

If you would like to be included in the project, please contact Angela at angela.maddock@kcl.ac.uk.

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Words: Angela Maddock
Picture: Angela Maddock

Patching up – Jess, second year Midwifery Student

I arrive at Angela’s office to fix ‘the duck’ as it has come to be known, after several emails and rescheduled meetings. I have been thinking about the duck and talking about the duck more than I ever did when it was just sitting on the windowsill of the bathroom. I have created a whole narrative around the duck, or rather around mending the duck in which I am, in fact, the central protagonist. We observe the duck, the broken off shards, the blot of blood still on the inside. I turn the pieces over in my hand while Angela and I talk about births and catches and, of course, my mother. Angela hands me the golden glue, has me apply it along the crack while holding the two pieces together firmly, and I am ever so slightly aware of the sensation of creating something new.

jess - patching up 1

Words: Jess
Picture: Angela Maddock

Patching up – Amy, second year Adult Nursing Student

Pooh Bear (‘Pooh’) was given to me aged six weeks by my Godfather. When I was little, Pooh was so much more than a teddy; he was my friend, my all-time companion and the reason I got into trouble (a lot) I would sleep with him at night and play with him during the day.

He accompanied me everywhere and I have fond memories of being phoned by local supermarkets requesting I pick him up. Pooh has been close to the end twice – when I was staying with my brother, a housemate thought Pooh was for charity, but in seeing the state of him, Pooh ended up in the bin. When I returned the next night I was perturbed! Needless to say that I searched not one, but two bin bags for him… He has since been washed!

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More dismayingly, Pooh was attacked by my puppy ten years ago, and lost his nose. Even though this made him look terrifying, I found the texture of the rips satisfying to play with and similarly I can explain almost every rip with anecdotal evidence; almost all of my life is reflected in this bear.

Pooh has been lovingly stitched by my family, and later by me. An old school shirt currently forms his nose, and Mum’s old scarf forms his left knee. He has had several ‘jackets’ and there has been a multitude of other ‘Poohs’ purchased just for their attire – I used to cut their jacket off and give it to my bear. Then I would give the former away..

As I have grown Pooh is still my most prized possession, although it’s fair to say I can no longer blame him for my misdemeanours! I still sleep with Pooh every night and he still accompanies me to other people’s houses, despite my embarrassment of needing a comfort blanket aged 20. There’s been a number of boyfriends with a number of reactions to such a threadbare bear!

For me, Pooh smells of ‘home.’ He has a safe, warm smell and this comforts me far beyond any words could. I also find myself playing with his various threads, and ‘notches’ on him, almost like a fiddle toy. I find this very therapeutic.

Of late I have experienced severe panic attacks, particularly at night. I find that I struggle to sleep without him being under my head. In an inane way I find myself sometimes taking to Pooh. If I tell Pooh my intentions for the day, I must do them, otherwise I have let myself down. This is another coping strategy I have found to work with my anxiety, but in retrospect I have been doing this since I was a little girl with Pooh.

I would love Pooh to be more durable, and less scary. It’s fair to say he won’t be a bear with a rumbly tummy for much longer if he doesn’t get some serious repairs soon. I desperately want Pooh to last for as long as possible, and I know that I will come to love his new patches!  Furthermore, I find myself thinking in great depth about Pooh’s foibles, where they have originated and how this has made me a more resilient person. I have learnt to love his rips, and the stories they tell and although he is really only material, he has been strikingly salient in my own character development.

Healing Pooh has become healing for me in this respect, and despite Pooh being less scary and more durable in the long term, what this project is really bringing me is insight into areas of my life I have never before considered, which are actually proving to be more meaningful than I have previously imagined.

Words: Amy
Picture: Angela Maddock

Patching up – Alison, Adult Nursing Student

This mug belonged to my mum. She used to keep it in her office whilst she was writing her PhD. This was around the same time as I was born, meaning the mug is over 20 years old. I got up in the dark to get ready for my nursing placement last autumn and slipped down the last few stairs. I was holding the mug at the time and ended up hitting it against the wall in my attempt to break my fall. I was left holding the handle in two pieces as the, fortunately empty, mug rolled across the carpet. A tiny cut in the palm of my hand served as a reminder for the duration of my 12 hour shift as it prickled every time I used the alcohol gel.

alison patching up 1The process of handing over the mug to the project was rather like admitting a patient into hospital. Aside from swabbing it for MRSA and asking it if it smoked, we carried out all the same measurements and history taking as we would in practise It was a wonderful opportunity to reflect on the healing process our patients go through. How it must feel for their families as they hand their loved ones into our care. We spoke about the fact that after the fixing, the mug wouldn’t quite be the same. I wouldn’t be able to use it for drinking out of anymore, because the fracture point would still be weak. But for me, it was giving my mug a new lease of life. I wouldn’t be able to drink out of a handless mug either. So returning it to its former glory, with a bit of extra copper detail, was really satisfying. My mug may be physically weaker for the trauma, but it has come out the other side more beautiful and unique.

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The breaking of the mug was also an opportunity for me to reflect on what it meant to me, I wasn’t aware of my attachment to it until I’d broken it. The mug can now be retired from the kitchen, after 20 years of good service, and be put out to pasture on my desk, holding my pens.


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Words: Alison
Top pictures: Angela Maddock
Two lower pictures: Alison