On 7 May, Hannah Whitlock – Outside In’s Artist Coordinator – went along to Daily Life Ltd.’s micro festival: The Expert View. The festival included music, performance, poetry, art and an artist-led symposium. In this post, Hannah outlines the day’s events and what she has taken away from it.
“Society loves an expert. Someone who can answer questions, take responsibly and be called upon in a crisis. Poor mental health affects 25% of the population during their lifetime so clearly ‘expert’ care is needed. But is placing the responsibility on any one person or profession the most effective way of resolving distress?”
Friday 7 May saw the second day of Daily Life Ltd.’s micro-festival, which explored expertise in arts and mental health from the perspective of all involved, inviting the question: who really is the expert?
The festival was held at the Bromley by Bow Centre, an innovative community centre with a GP surgery on site as well as exhibition space in the surgery waiting room and a community run café. Lucy, the Inclusive Arts Manager at Bromley by Bow welcomed us all, telling us about the unique centre where people are at the centre of what goes on.
Marc Steene, founder of Outside In and Executive Director of Pallant House Gallery, was invited to share his message. He talked about how important it is to challenge the art world and question things like: who gets to decide what is art and who can make it? He is passionate about how everyone is entitled to a creative life and is a strong advocate for the eradication of labels, citing the challenge of people trying to put art – and people – into boxes.
Beth Elliott from Bethlem Gallery spoke about the gallery and its developments. She shared how art can play a role in raising and challenging big questions, such as: what is value, how do we define it and how can we learn from each other? She discussed how, at times, we can put artists on a pedestal. She followed this with a great quote from one of the artists she works with: “I am an artist with a little ‘a’ or an artist with no ‘a’.”
Throughout the presentations there were performances from artist Simon Raven, in which he invited people from the audience to participate in ‘basket unweaving’ and ‘flower deranging’.
During the second half of the day, Dr Caoimhe McAvinchey from Queen Mary’s University discussed the journey we must take to find a way of presenting and evaluating the arts in a way that makes sense. This was shown as a digital story, a time line of ‘real’ information, which included video, funding applications, emails, and documents. The team are trying to document and show the impact of arts projects in different ways.
The day was shared with the General Election results, inviting participants to reflect on their practice, what the next government might bring and whether this would have an impact on the people we work with.
Overall, it was a very inspiring day, and a great opportunity to hear powerful messages from a collective of likeminded people. It definitely has made me question who I would expect the ‘expert’ to be, when in reality, experience and compassion can often be more effective in supporting and connecting with people.