Agents of Change: The Power of Placebo

03.NOVEMBER.2018 • 11:00 - 17:00

Henry Wellcome Auditorium
Wellcome Collection
183 Euston Road
London NW1 2BE

Join us for a day of provocation and engaging discussion with leading scientists, cultural thinkers, artists and medics, exploring the topic of placebo.

What is the placebo effect and what can it tell us about the way we practice healthcare today? How can expectations, suggestibility, belief, charisma of the healer, ritual and environment impact on our health? Can we be agents of our own pleasure and pain? How are we affected by those providing us with care, the manner in which we are cared for, or the setting in which care is given?

Drop in and out for the whole day, or come along to one or two of the individual sessions listed below.

Part of The Power of Placebo – a national programme of events to accompany our new performance, Placebo.


11:00 – 12:30

How do the mind & body work together to impact on our health? Hear from award winning science journalist Jo Marchant, as well as Professor of Neurology and specialist in unexplained symptoms Jon Stone, to explore the increasing body of evidence unearthing the ways that our beliefs and emotions have an impact on our physical health, and the ways these ideas are being used in healthcare practice. Featuring a reading from legendary performer Peggy Shaw.

Jo Marchant: award-winning science journalist and author of New York Times bestseller Cure: A journey into the science of mind over body.
Jon Stone: Consultant Neurologist, Honorary Professor in Neurology in Edinburgh and international leader in functional neurological disorder.
Suzy Willson: Artistic Director of CLOD ENSEMBLE, and leads award-winning arts based education programme Performing Medicine.
Peggy Shaw: Performer, writer and co-founder of Split Britches and WOW in New York City.
Hana Ayoob (Chair): Creative producer, speaker, podcaster and illustrator, with a focus on the intersection between art and science.


13:15 – 14:45

What kinds of rituals are involved in healing? Hear from academic and broadcaster Sarah Goldingay, Professor of Health and Wellbeing Paul Dieppe, co-founder of the legendary Welfare State International John Fox, and meditation expert Christina Lee who will unearth the ways that connections between people, meditation, interpretation and performance have an impact on our how we heal. Stay afterwards to participate in artist Sheila Ghelani piece, Infinity Knot.

Sarah Goldingay: Teacher, Researcher, Writer and Broadcaster, and Senior Lecturer in the Department of Drama at the University of Exeter.
Paul Dieppe: Emeritus Professor of Health and Wellbeing at the University of Exeter Medical School, and a Scholar of the Institute for Integrative Health in Baltimore, USA.
John Fox: Co-Founder of legendary Welfare State International, and Dead Good Guides for secular rites of passage.
Sheila Ghelani: Sheila is an artist whose work spans performance, installation, participatory event and moving image.
Christina Lee: PhD student in the Department of English at King’s College, London.
Hana Ayoob (Chair): Creative producer, speaker, podcaster and illustrator, with a focus on the intersection between art and science.


15:00 – 17:00

What effects do the spaces we inhabit, both inside and outside in natural environments, have on our health and wellbeing? Hear from experts in hospital environments, Trystan Hawkins and Andrew Hall, as well as Oxford medical anthropologist Elisabeth Hsu who will explore how placebo effects can be brought about through elements of our environments. Featuring a reading by award winning author John Burnside from his collaboration with artist Amy Shelton, Bee Myths.

Elisabeth Hsu: Professor of Anthropology and Fellow of Green Templeton College, Oxford.
Amy Shelton: Artist and Artistic Director of Honeyscribe, whose work has been exhibition at venues including Southbank Centre, Eden Project, Wellcome Collection, Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh, Peninsula Arts and DAAD Gallery, Berlin.
John Burnside: Acclaimed and award-winning writer, and Professor in the School of English at St Andrews University.
Trystan Hawkins: Leads the vision for arts and Design for Chelsea and Westminster Hospital.
Andrew Hall: Sound Consultant at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, overseeing the research, development and implementation of new music and sound-based projects in the hospital.
Hana Ayoob (Chair): Creative producer, speaker, podcaster and illustrator, with a focus on the intersection between art and science.


Book tickets to the 7:30pm performance of Placebo at The Place after this event.


Image – Lullaby, the Seasons, 2002 (detail of Summer) by Damien Hirst

Credit – © Damien Hirst and Science Ltd. All rights reserved, DACS/Artimage 2018. Photo: Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd