Meet the Fellows: Chris Larkin

Chris Larkin at MOSi with Stroke Association staff and volunteer

Meet new fellow, Chris Larkin FRSA, who’s been combining science and art to celebrate stroke awareness month.

What’s your job?

I am the Regional Head of Operations for the Stroke Association in the North-West. Most of my role involves working with people, often from health and social care, to try and improve the support available to people when they come home after a stroke. Alongside that we try to raise awareness of stroke in the community and work with stroke survivors on a number of creative projects. That’s the bit of my job that has allowed me to show a creative side I didn’t know I had, or rather a creative side that’s probably been stifled in my previous jobs!

Where are you based currently in the NW?

I live in Gatley in South Manchester but I’m lucky having a regional job which means I’m often in Cumbria, Lancashire, Merseyside and Cheshire as well as our work across Greater Manchester.
What social actions are you passionate about?

I’m currently most passionate about projects that offer people an opportunity to tell their story, especially in relation to my work with stroke survivors and their families. This crosses over increasingly into the field of arts and health, and includes some of the stuff I’m most proud. My role is often just connecting up people who can work together, but it usually seems to come out quite well.

Projects such as ‘Poetry for Mancunian Stroke Survivors’ where we ran poetry workshops with Mike Garry in Gorton.

What social action projects are you involved in and how could other fellows get involved?

The project that has been keeping me busy over the last 6 months is a partnership between the Stroke Association and The University of Manchester (UoM) called ‘Science Stroke Art’ 

Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, the President and Vice-chancellor of UoM, is a stroke researcher and heads up a team conducting ground breaking research into stroke treatment. The film gives a bit of background about the run up to the events but originally our idea was to host a “TED-like” conference focussed solely on stroke.  After the first meeting it became clear that much more was possible and two North-West based RSA fellows, Erinma Ochu and James Thompson, both based a The University, helped to shape the programme of events, so what started out as a conference became something more like a festival.

Our decision to include science and art in all of the events meant we quickly engaged people from disciplines across the University and it’s been hugely exciting to work collaboratively with students, neuroscientists, medics, biologists, speech and language therapists, artists, cultural organisations & more. Most important was our decision to ensure that personal stroke stories were central to all of the events and that has meant we have generated new insight and understanding for a lot of people about stroke and how it impacts on peoples lives.

If you get chance do check out some of the blogs, here and here, written by stroke survivors to both promote and reflect on this year’s events.

We’ve nearly finished Science Stroke Art for 2014 but we are definitely thinking about what we could do for Science Stroke Art 2015…. and it would be fantastic to engage with more RSA fellows around that.

When did you become a fellow and who or what motivated you to join?

Only a month ago! I’ve been thinking about it for a while and have attended some of the NW Networking events, but it’s been working recently on Science Stroke Art which has made me really appreciate how powerful partnership working can be and that collectively (both organisations and individuals) we can be more than we are on our own.

How have you been involved with RSA to date – locally or nationally? Is there anything else you’d like to be more involved in?

Minimally… but I’m keen to do more. I will be getting along to as many of the upcoming events as possible and hopefully getting to know a few more of the RSA fellows over the next few months.

I’d love to offer support to other projects or upcoming events as is possible (with an 8 month old at home.)

If you woke up suddenly one morning and you could gain a new skill, what would it be?

I’ve always regretted not being able to play a musical instrument. I feel like that’s something I need to address at some point…

What RSA NW activities would you like to see happen?

Some idea generation workshops or creative brief type events – basically things I’ve stolen from a friend Jim Ralley who works at an amazing organisation called Hyper Island (where they seem to have a lot of fun whilst learning / working). Clearly there’s a network of extremely talented people connected to the RSA, so an event where people bring along a challenge or project, then the group is guided to create possible new ideas or solutions to it could be a fun way to get to know each other AND come away with top tips. (Of course this has probably already been done!)

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