‘IfI had been involved when the show was named,’ says Martin Hunt, consultant to the Scottish Exhibition of Alternati ve Medicine, ‘we wouldn’t have used the word “alternative”. I don’t like that, because the concept is that you’ve found an alternative answer — which is not the case at all. It is not the alternative, it is complementary to. [H get run over by a bus, I want a bloody fast ambulance, I want a good few pints of blood and I want to have stitches, thank you very much! The holistic approach of rubbing arnica into the wound is pointless, because you’d be dead.
‘I am very, very keen to build a bridge between conventional and complementary medecine. And it’s starting to happen: a lot ofGPs are referring to acupuncture and homeopathy, which ten years ago didn’t happen at all.’
Hunt did not, in fact, need to give me ten minutes’ aromatherapy to convince me of the efficacy of ‘holistic’ or ‘complementary’ medicine — he’s a persuasive individual as it is. Besides (as I reflected, while the vigorous massage and aromatic oils soothed away the accumulated tension of several hours a day hunched over a keyboard) the public’s desire to find out about this is well known.
It is in response to public demand for information that the Exhibition, which runs for two days in Edinburgh, has been set up. Hunt cites lead-free petrol as an example of people’s willingness to respond when information becomes available: until the Queen had her cars converted, most of her subjects had supposed lead-free petrol would be hard to come by. Now we all know that most cars can run on it and most stations sell it. The Exhibition is about what’s on offer now and in Scotland in the field of complementary medicine.
‘A figure was published in one of the medical journals about six months ago,’ continues Hunt, ‘which said that seventy-five per cent of hospital admissions are stress-related. I don’t know how you quantify it, but the point is people have suddenly realized that it’s on the increase, and that if you deal with stress by using suppressant drugs, you’re keeping the lid on a can of worms. We have to take a holistic approach — that is, look at the whole person and take into account their lifestyle, their general health and their environment.
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Andrew Burnet gets the consultant organiser of the Scottish Exhibition of Alternative to relieve a few aches and pains.
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‘It’s inappropriate to say we want no stress at all - a certain amount of stress is a good thing. What you have to do is identify within yourselfwhat level of stress you can actually cope with. In the show we’re trying to stimulate people to take a bit more
responsibility for themselves.‘ There are essentially three elements to the Exhibition: 152 stalls, representing over 100 exhibitors; a programme of six lectures by practising specialists; and ten brief demonstrations, covering
some key forms of alternative therapy.
These demonstrations are free, and are perhaps the most attractive area for the general public. ‘People might say,’ suggests Hunt, “‘Oh, I’ve heard of homeopathy — what the hell is it all about?” — and there you have a practical demonstration of what it’sl all about.’
The lecturers include Jan de Vries, whose work with cancer has won him an international reputation, former migraine sufferer John Page, who will be discussing the deep causes of migraine, Jonathon Glogstoun-Willmott, who treats an increasing number of young people as arthritic patients, and Mary Russell, who will be using astrology to examine stress.
This is certainly an unconventional approach, but one which Hunt feels is worthy of inclusion. ‘You’ve got to be very, very careful when you’re putting on a show not to sit as judge and jury. However, having said that, we’re not condoning everyone who’s exhibiting here, and there are certainly some people who are very much on the fringes and who I would not allow to come. One or two have been told, “sorry, you’re not coming”.’
In general, though, there is very little rivalry among complementary practitioners, and Hunt speaks warmly of the Connections festival, which took place in Glasgow in January. ‘We do intend to hold an exhibition like this on an annual basis, and I think the ideal thing would be to combine the two and alternate between Edinburgh and Glasgow.’
Apart from his own experience of aromatherapy, Hunt has the distinction of having organized Here ’3 Health, an equivalent show at the Olympia in London, before returning to his native Scotland last month and establishing a new practice in Edinburgh. ‘In London
we had 250 exhibitors and an attendance of 21 ,000 people over four days,’ he says, to give some idea of the project’s scale. ‘Up here we’ve got two days, and I think we can reasonably expect 5000.’
The Scottish Exhibition of Alternative Medicine is at the Assembly Rooms, George Street, Edinburgh on Sat30 Sept & Sun 1 Oct. 11am-7pm. £2.50 (child 12—16/0A P/ U840 £1.50; child under 12 free); lectures £1 each. Further information: 0235 723 735.
68 The List 29 September — 12 October 1989