Beyond Skin Commence Arts Dialogue Health Project

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Beyond Skin commence Arts Dialogue Health project supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland through National Lottery funding.

Using music, sound, crafts and technology the Arts Dialogue Health project encapsulates a series of intercultural engagements and activities across Northern Ireland from August 2019 through to  June 2020, all facilitated by members of the #ArtsDialogue Collective.

“The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is pleased to support Beyond Skin to deliver the Arts Dialogue Health Project.  Research has proven that engagement with the arts can raise self-esteem, improve confidence and motivation, as well as aid in relieving stress, worries and also pain. The Arts Dialogue Health Project is providing meaningful opportunities for people, old and young, to take part in arts activities, enriching their lives for the better.  The arts have a vital role to play in helping people find their voice and express the issues which can often affect them on a day-to-day basis, thus promoting positive physical and mental health.”

#ArtsDialogue collective are an international inter-generational team of musicians, artists, producers, writers and peace activists. Creative Peacebuilding organisations working in Ireland, USA, Sri Lanka, Colombia and the Middle East are also part of the Consortium. #ArtsDialogue was formed during a Youth4Peace conference in Northern Ireland in 2017 supported by Arts Council NI and the WOMAD Foundation.

“Most people know that the Arts is the best medium and tool for nurturing good mental health and assisting those suffering from mental health related illnesses – so it has always been a focus within our peacebuilding and cultural education projects. The legacy of conflict also has influenced mental health and as a peacebuilding organisation that it is an area that need specific professional attention to meet peoples’ & society needs. This funding will enable that” – Darren Ferguson (Beyond Skin)

The Arts Dialogue Health project will be led by Dr.Shelley Deane (Brehon Advisory / TraumaTeddy Project); Mark Smulian (Lydian Health, Musician, Producer. Co-inventor of the MindHarp™); Stewart Redpath (Lydian Health, Co-inventor of MindHarp™, Musician) and Tessa Ann (Sound and Healing Spa).

The MindHarp™ is a creative programme that enables anyone to engage actively in music. The delivery is aided by a simple interface on an Apple iPAD and iPHONE. The MindHarp™ was first developed to stimulate people living with dementia and produced incredible positive results. Read the amazing story at this link about Ginette Koonjean

Mark Smulian commented “Most people don’t know that we are all ‘hardwired’ to respond to musical sound and that everybody is innately musical. This is now empirically proven, so the real question is why do we respond to musical sound? In addition, science has shown that when we actively engage with music (as opposed to simply passively listening to it), the effects are more dramatic. Actively engaging with any kind of music, on any level, of any kind promotes a positive and heightened awareness of the people around us, it promotes social cohesion and reduces anxiety. It reminds us that we are, in the end, tribal by nature and allows us to enjoy and bond with the ‘other’. Music does not promote dialogue; music is the dialogue”

Arts Dialogue Health also incorporates Orchestra of Change project in Mid Ulster, a children and youth music project with mental health and peace as core themes. OoC project is facilitated by Raphael Frank (London based producer/rapper that specialises in producing Grime/HipHop and trap) and Nikos Petsakos (Greek composer, producer & musician).

Dr. Shelley Deane is the Director of Brehon Advisory a not for profit advisory, supporting societal security, and education in fragile conflict affected states. Formerly Assistant Professor of International Relations and Middle East Politics at Bowdoin College, Shelley has mediation, aid, development, training and security field experience in Cyprus, Denmark, Egypt, Greece, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Norway, Occupied Palestinian Territories, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, UAE, UK.  Shelley runs the TraumaTeddy Bilingual Arabic-English education programme for Refugee and vulnerable children across the Middle East
Relevant Publications: S.Deane.  Syria’s Lost Generation: Refugee Education Provision and Societal Security in and ongoing Conflict Emergency, International Development Bulletin 47:2 2016 March

“As part of the UN Global Compact, the UN’focuses its third Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) on Health and Well Being.  The WHO defines health as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. The Arts Dialogue Health initiative seeks to tackle the challenges faced by the young and the vulnerable trying to improve their mental and social well being in fragile conflict affected communities. Social well-being begins with acknowledging the need to support and assist those experiencing adverse experiences and the need for prevention and intervention strategies to begin to reduce from 10.35 million the number of people around the world who woke up in a prison today. “  Shelley Deane

Beyond Skin is a member of the MARCH Mental Health Research Network ( a body of over 1,000 arts and community organisations, researchers, policy makers and mental health charities focused on improving our understanding of the impact of social, cultural and community engagement for mental health.

Dr Daisy Fancourt, Associate Professor at University College London and Director of the MARCH Network says “Beyond Skin is at the cutting edge of work using the arts to help tackle complex societal issues that contribute to the burden of mental illness in the UK. This project is a fantastic example of how we can use the expertise of artists to transform the lives of individuals and communities.”

Activities with the Arts Dialogue Health project will take place across Northern Ireland with various investors in addition to Arts Council Northern Ireland investment as the principal funder. The activities cater for ages 10 - 100+

“The use of sound in a therapeutic sense can be utilised as a personal development tool, as well as for relaxation and self-healing. It often promotes improved mental wellness, in turn encouraging clients to develop a more positive and hopeful perspective towards bringing increased wellness to their mental health, their physical body and their spirit. Inspiring wellness and balance across all aspects of their being.”  Tessa Ann – Sound & Healing Spa

For more information about Arts Dialogue Health workshops please contact the Beyond Skin office