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Mike White

Mike WhiteMike White is a Senior Research Fellow in Arts and Health at the Centre for Medical Humanities and St. Chad’s College, University of Durham, UK. He studied English at Exeter College, Oxford, but ran away from an early career in academia to explore pioneering arts initiatives in social justice. He has been involved in arts in health work since 1988 when he set up the first arts in primary care project in the UK at Brierley Hill. His work for the Centre for Medical Humanities has included nurturing arts in health projects in schools and communities, workforce development programmes in creativity in healthcare, project-based evaluations, and audits and literature reviews of arts in health for Government agencies. He is currently developing the arts in health component of an inter-disciplinary 5-year research programme in medical humanities, funded by major grant from the Wellcome Trust, which explores the question “what makes for human flourishing?”

In 2005, Mike was awarded a fellowship of the UK’s National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts to research community-based arts in health and build national/international links in this field. A resulting book Arts Development in Community Health: a social tonic was published by Radcliffe in 2009, and in June this year Mike convened the first international ‘critical mass’ meeting to set up ongoing exchanges of research and practice.

Mike was previously at Gateshead Council where he developed many arts in health and arts for older people projects, as well as public art commissions such as the landmark Angel of the North by Antony Gormley. He has also worked as Development Director of the influential celebratory theatre company Welfare State International, and a long time ago he was a founder member of WOMAD, the international music festival agency. He has many published articles and has lectured widely on arts in health at universities and conferences in the UK, several EC countries, Japan, South Africa, Australia, Canada and USA. This year’s AHA conference marks Mike’s seventh visit to Australia in five years, so he now considers himself a part-time Australian.

The UK - WA Artists’ Exchange

Panel Format Presentation

Co-presenters: Mike White, Mary Robson, David Doyle, 2 UK artists, 2 WA artists


This project places young and emerging artists at the centre of complex communities and practices at an international level. 

A team of Australian and UK practitioner/researchers are supporting a pilot exchange in community-based arts in health for two artists from Northern England and two from Western Australia, providing placements in each other's jobs, networks, and communities for eight weeks in autumn 2012, guided by reflective practice and research. The project is funded by the Australia Council for the Arts with support from Arts Council England.

All four artists will develop meaningful connections with health population groups through arts and health processes at grass roots levels. The project will provide production and critical reflection avenues through which the participating artists will develop new approaches to their practice and ultimately inform the recommendations and frameworks to guide future investments in the next generation of outstanding artists working in a participatory community context.

The artists' exchange is taking place in October and November 2012. The UK placements are based mostly at Chickenley Primary School (Artsmark Gold awarded) in a socio-economically deprived part of Dewsbury, where Mary Robson has been in residence with a team of artists since 2003. The project is called 'Roots and Wings' and focuses on children's social and emotional development and how creative techniques of reflective learning, developed outside of the curriculum, can support children's transition through the school system and community integration. It is consistently praised as an innovative extra-curricular activity in Ofsted reports. The visiting artists will be given ample opportunity to create new artworks in the spirit of the programme.

The visiting artists will also connect with the field work of Open Art in Huddersfield, and visit Arts For Health at Manchester Metropolitan University and the Looking Well Healthy Living Centre in rural Bentham, as well as meeting arts in health practitioners from Yorkshire and North East in two practice-focused forums which will be arranged. The placements offered in Western Australia to the artists from Chickenley are in DADAA's fieldwork in the coastal town of Esperance, working on a HIV awareness project with WA Aids Council and a mental health street-based intervention. Within a supervised reflective practice framework, all the artists will work with their host communities and explore similarities and differences in approaches to community-based arts in health.

Expected outcomes, based on the international experience of the project partners, are: