I visited Liverpool this week to find out whether my work could have a place there. I’d been invited to participate in a roundtable discussion at FACT between arts organisations, artists and the NHS. Liverpool is trying to rebalance the health inequalities in the city and to improve its very poor health statistics. The aims are laudable, as is the desire to acknowledge the value of the arts in helping to achieve some of those outcomes. However, as I confessed to the gathering, when I make work, improving health or increasing well-being is not a starting point I usually choose. I am also concerned that the drive to achieve well-being suggests that ill-health, or unhappiness don’t have any place in a good life. For me, it is important to learn how those low points fit in to a bigger picture, how understanding our unhappiness can teach us something that may help us leave that unhappiness behind or at least accept its place in our lives while we search for happiness in other parts.
I walked around the city a lot and got a tour from a community artist who spoke of his own experiences in care, in the navy, in prison and in rehab. As we looked at the ugly buildings on Liverpool’s Albert Dock, he remarked that the windowless holding-cells of the courthouse next door are far uglier. He reminded me how partial my experience of the city is, how protected I am.
But the only thing I really know is how to work from myself out towards others, to work on what I think is right and offer it to others to engage with. I’m not a proselytizer and that may be a short-coming.
So after all the talking, I danced.
I’d seen some teenagers hanging out in one of the alcoves on the outside of the Metropolitan Cathedral and when I returned later, it seemed like a place where I could work for a bit.
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