Value, Creativity and Human Flourishing

July 27, 2016 - July 28, 2016
Aesthetics and Creativity Network and Critical Medical Humanities Network, Manchester Metropolitan University

Brooks Building, Birley Fields Campus, Rooms 2.15 and 2.16
53 Bonsai Street
Manchester M15 6GX
United Kingdom

This will be an accessible event, including organized related activities


Manchester Metropolitan University
Lucy Burke
Manchester Metropolitan University
Bill Fulford
University of Oxford
Matthew Kieran
University of Leeds
Charles Neame
Manchester Metropolitan University
Clive Parkinson
Manchester Metropolitan University
Sheryl Tuttle Ross
University of Wisconsin, La Crosse
Julian West
Royal Academy of Music
Ana Álvarez-Errecalde


Anna Bergqvist
Manchester Metropolitan University
Lucy Burke
Manchester Metropolitan University

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The workshop explores what we mean when we talk about the value of the arts and creativity and some of the problems with which the requirement to measure ‘value’ presents us. The second day of the workshop develops our conversation about these questions with specific reference to creative work with people with dementia, learning disabilities and mental health conditions. The workshop combines provocative contributions from artists and academics from a range of disciplines, group activities and discussion. We invite participants to bring along or identify a cultural artefact or practice (from an artwork to a song or object) that they value.

The workshop is open to everyone, although places are limited to 40.

Conference Theme

Creativity is an area that many research councils and funding bodies recognise as a focal point for transformative research across traditional subject boundaries to advance medical knowledge and well-being. In 2014  Sir Peter Bazalgette, Chair of the Arts Council made the following statement to the editors of the The Lancet: “It’s common sense, isn’t it, that the arts make us feel better. We now have the beginnings of evidence to prove it too. But we need to do more work to persuade health leaders this could be a worthwhile investment. The Arts Council will fund more research and welcomes partnerships in all fields. With new partnerships and rigorous scientific methodology, the benefits of art and culture to health and wellbeing could be documented and measurable for future generations.”[1] The assertion that the benefit of the arts lies in the capacity of ‘rigorous scientific methodology’ to document and valorise the effects of our interactions and participation with them raises a number of questions. Richard Smith, former Editor-in-Chief of the British Medical Journal, argues in a recent BMJ Blog the need for philosophical conceptual inquiry as applied to medicine on the grounds that scientific methodology alone cannot serve to answer questions like, “What is medicine for?”; indeed science can’t even define the concepts of health and illness. Smith writes: “Is the concept of disease still the best way for medicine to think about what it is trying to do when risk factors become “diseases” and most patients have multiple “diseases”? What can we learn from reflecting on “diseases” like drapetomania (the mental illness that led slaves to escape)? And is it right that healthcare is increasingly consuming resources that could be spent on education, housing, social care, the environment, the arts, and much else?” [2].

Arts and Humanities research provides knowledge on perspectives such as forms of knowledge and perception in the world we inhabit, and the ways in which society as a whole uses knowledge in medical contexts in the contemporary value-pluralistic paradigm. As such, it offers possibilities for critical confluences of ideas and practices to inform scientific advancement and for tackling societal challenges facing community psychology in the era of austerity, and the increasing demands for values-based practice and personalised care. These research perspectives are also crucial in understanding the potential, scope, limits and impacts of the arts in health care research, ranging from the fundamental conceptual problem of what we mean by the arts, to the complex question of what we might mean when we talk about ‘feeling better’. There is also the political question of whether we believe that the value of the arts can or should be measured and translated into either the restorative language of a medical model or the financial language of ‘investment’ and a cost/benefit analysis. By bringing together practitioners and theorists using systems of creativity from different disciplinary backgrounds across the humanities, arts, medicine, health and education, this project re-examines and extends the creative in developing new theoretical approaches in different practice platforms.

This two-day workshop sets out to explore these questions from multi-disciplinary and arts-based perspectives with a particular focus upon the significance of these debates for people with dementia, people with learning disabilities and people with mental health conditions; groups that experience significant levels of social and economic marginalisation, exclusion and abuse. Our aim is to explore the ways in which normative critical conceptual perspectives challenge the implicit or assumed able-ism of current models and measures of ‘value’ and of particular concepts of art, creativity, flourishing, health and wellbeing.  We hope that the workshop will open up a dialogue about the ways we might think and argue differently about the benefit of the arts and creativity in these contexts.

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July 26, 2016, 12:00pm BST

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