Spring to Life serves people who want to grow in emotional well-being

Textiles sessions with Freedom from Torture

June 23rd, 2019

For the last few months Gillian, our art for well-being therapist, has been running textile and embroidery sessions with clients from Freedom from Torture. This has been to produce work to commemorate the 10th anniversary of West Midlands Freedom from Torture.

Throughout the thoughtful and reflective sessions, themes of inner transition emerged around identity and belonging. There was a strong sense of celebration, appreciation and gratitude within the group and the aesthetics certainly had underlying links to finding peace within conflict, nature connection, difference, diversity and inclusion, as well as spirituality/connections with faith.

Here are are some testimonies from Freedom from Torture staff who were also present during the sessions:

“Thank you so much for leading this project and facilitating the five workshops. I too was astounded by the quality and quantity of the work produced”.

“The power and richness of the workshops, because of the knowledge you hold as an artist, was great to see and experience. Your skills, thought and preparation really came across and as a result fifteen of our service users engaged in the project within this short time – which is just amazing!”

“Your interaction with familiar faces from previous groups and other service users who were new to yourself and the centre was welcoming and warm in such a way that they knew they were in a safe place, and were able to experiment with new and old modes of expression. In addition, your confidence in the efficacy of complementary approaches made the project so successful”.

“I note that there were clients who participated in the group who, in individual sessions, have struggled to overcome avoidance in terms of their image making. The workshop setting that you created offered them a quiet and confidential space to be absorbed in the process in the presence of others, with the making facilitating self-regulation and increasing self-esteem. This shows how arts activity makes a difference, which will no doubt pave the way for ongoing social and well-being participation with a gained sense of possibility”.

“I thought that you gave just the right amount of direction, and the right amount of choice to stimulate interest. I would guess that all (me included) were introduced to a new skill/technique”.



Mother Garden plant swap event

May 29th, 2019

Fruit and Nut Village Stirchley first year overview

May 25th, 2019

We have completed the first year of Fruit and Nut Village Stirchley. It has been a very busy one with great achievments, lessons learnt, and exciting new possiblities for growth. Here is photographic review of the year:

Last summer we held a stall at the Stirchley Funday to promote the project. We also had tasting opportunities of different heritage varieties of apples.


Our first major workday of the season was planting the first few trees in the nut grove at Hazewell park. Here we planted walnuts, and a sweet chestnut. We also carried out work developing the Kingdom Forest Garden. A total of around 70 people attended the session.
Visiting fruit and nut farmer Billy Auger – from Augernik Fruit Farm – to get advise and a generous donation of different fruit and nut trees. Of particular interest were some damascene trees (mother of the modern damson and plum), and some interesting varieties of cobnuts and filbers (‘Cosford’ and ‘Enoa’). You can meet him, and buy his own produce at Moseley Farmers market.
All tooled up and ready to go with our tree planting days.
Planting workday at Stirchley Park. Here we joined forces with the Friends of Stirchley Park to plant an orchard of very old varieties of fruit trees dating back to the 1600’s and beyond. This included a Medlar, Damascene, Old Greengage and some of the oldest varieties of apples in Britain such as the ‘Summer Pearmain’ and ‘Joanetting’.
On Christmas day a group of local people came out for an hour or so to plant an apple tree variety called the ‘Christmas Pearmain’. This was the first tree to be planted at the Ten Acres mixed orchard site.
In January we held a Wassail, an old medieval tradition of blessing the trees with singing, noise and cider in order to ensure a good harvest the following season. Over 60 people turned up to join the procession touring through different orchards within the village.
Our longest running site project is the Kingdom Forest Garden. This was initially planted about 8 years ago as an orchard by the park ranger and the Friends of Hazelwell Park. It has since developed as a forest garden (AKA a food forest), with different layers of perennial edible plants including fruit trees, soft fruit bushes, herbs, and groundcover edible plants.
An unexpected project added to Fruit and Nut Village has been the discovery and work on the ‘Lost orchard’. This is a damson orchard that was planted over 30 years ago in the Ten Acres site in Stirchley. Over the last six months we have been working with the park rangers to restore it, starting by clearing the brambles around the site. In this photo our volunteers reached the orchard after having cleared through about ten metres of brambles to get to it. This site is a valuable addition to the heritage value of Fruit and Nut Village Stirchley.
Setting up and planting a cordon of apple trees at Umberslade nursery. We planted 20 Worcestershire heritage trees. Two of each variety, mostly apples and one pear.
Planting workday at Ten Acres. The community helped plant a mixed orchard of 13 trees wich included apples, pears, plums, wild service tree and a sweet chestnut.


In collaboration with the Friends of Pebble Mill Paying Fields we planted the first layer of the The Pebble Mill Forest Garden. We had around 60 people turn up to take part. There were people from the local neighbourhood who got stuck in as well as our regular volunteers. In addition to this the Welcome Walk group (Kings Heath Action for Refugees) joined us and brought with them a group of newly arrived refugees and asylum seekers staying at a nearby hostel. Everyone worked together to plant 14 different fruit trees.
At Pebble Mill Forest Garden we planted a range of fruit trees, many of them being heritage and local. The local area around Pebble Mill has a link to the Pitmaston family heritage. Therefore we planted three pitmaston varieties: Pitmaston Russet apple, Pitmaston Pineapple apple, and a pear variety called Pitmaston Duchess.
Pictured here is Wade Muggleton, an expert in orchard growing and local heritage varieties of apples. He has a wealth of knowledge with a particular interest in Worcerstershire varieties. Late winter we paid him a visit, saw his impressive orchard, learnt a lot and came back with a large volume of scion wood of heritage varieties for grafting – Thank so much Wade!
An element of the Fruit and Nut Village model is for each village to have at least one ‘mother garden’ site. This has the purpose of growing and propagating plants to populate the rest of the village, and to grow on young saplings and newly grafted fruit trees until they are large enough to be planted out in their permanent public site. For Fruit and Nut Village Stirchley, this mother garden is Umberslade nursery. Here we have a range of young hazels, cobnuts, and filbert varieties, as well as damascenes and elders given to us. We also have grafted trees growing until they are of good size to be planted out.
A Umberslade nursery we have also carried the two bench grafting workshops.
At Umberslade Nursery we have also adopted a previously planted orchard next to the cordons, which we are now also looking after.
At different sites around the village we have carried field grafting – also know as ‘guerilla grafting’. This entails grafting fruit scion wood onto existing trees, in order to convert the original tree into a tree giving a different desired fruit. This could be pear scion wood onto hawthorn, or apple of a chosen variety onto a crab apple tree.
Success! This is a successfully grafted pear onto a Hawthorn tree, done with members of Friends of Stirchley Park. We now a have Hawthorn tree growing Marquise pear. In the following years we will be grafting other varieties of pear onto this ‘pearthorn’ tree. It is also posible to graft medlar onto hawthorn. So watch this space…





During the last year we have built an active community of people taking part and willing to help transform Stirchley into a community of permanent edible public spaces. We have been working to build communities around each of the sites that have been developed. Over the year people have learnt many new skills, learnt about the local fruit heritage, built up a valuable community around them, and have helped secure a supply of food for people in the future. Now feel free to join us during our next stage of our adventure…























Freedom to Create textiles workshop

March 24th, 2019

Spring to Life has re-commenced it’s well-being programme with Freedom from Torture titled ‘Freedom to Create’, starting with a a textiles workshop. There will be five textiles sessions creating work to celebrate Freedom From Torture West Midland’s 10th Anniversary.

For the first session participants were engaged and produced very sensitive work. They painted and printed fabric that will be used to create textile pieces in future sessions.


Reading for Well-being @ Cars Area

March 18th, 2019

Join us over three weeks of Reading for Well-being at Auckland Hall.

Starting this Thursday.

Fruit tree Grafting days with Fruit and Nut Village

March 18th, 2019

Join us at the ‘village’ to learn how to graft fruit trees. If you have have done it before, come along to help us create new tree stock of heritage varieties for our communities.

City Centre Art for Wellbeing Group with Younger Adults

February 7th, 2019


During the Autumn of 2018 Gillian Lever (Art for Wellbeing Practitioner) and Wai-Ling Bickerton (Chartered and Health Professional Council registered Clinical Psychologist) co-facilitated a series of ‘Art for Wellbeing’ group sessions for Younger  Adults at Birmingham Jesus Centre, 66 Gooch Street North, Highgate B5 6QU.

The session model was built on the Spring to Life pilot project which took place at BJC from April to June 2018 which included a community engagement day and an ‘Art for Wellbeing’ group for Women and Children.

Our vision was to offer structured group support with collaborative intervention by an Art for Wellbeing practitioner and Clinical Psychologist. The aims of the group were to improve psychological wellbeing, to increase individual group member’s social confidence and to enable verbal and non-verbal self-expression through participation in creative activities and conversation in a safe and therapeutic environment. The group facilitated individuals with diverse social and cultural backgrounds, and with different languages, to share and enjoy a time of creativity, reflection and mindful actions, even when many of them were going through highly challenging times in their lives. Within a few sessions, we witnessed the development of increased confidence expressed through their artwork, and their interactions with the group.

We were encouraged by the overwhelming positive feedback, and have learnt valuable insights into the needs and presentation of the clientele served by the BJC. We aim to run more sessions for Younger Adults in 2019. (The Young Adults we were worked with were18-25 years old, registered with a Birmingham GP and eligible for Forward Thinking Birmingham low intensity psychological therapy service, based on the initial screening assessment). Gillian Lever and Wai-Ling Bickerton January 2019.



Comedy Fundraiser for Spring to Life

January 28th, 2019

First season at Cars area

December 22nd, 2018

Funded by Cars Area Together we delivered our first well-being programme at Auckland Hall, Cars Area, located in Smithswood. On Wednesday afternoons we ran regular mindfulness sessions, while on Saturday mornings we ran a mix of Creative therapies. This included Art, African drumming, Reading for Well-being, Dance and Movement therapy, as well as a session on Stress and anxiety management – leading up to Christmas!

The process of promoting  the programme in the local community has in itself proved highly beneficial, as we created good connections with people and groups in the area.

Here are a few comments by people who took part in the programme:

“In such a short period of time, I have found myself able to recognize the healing value and benefits of connection, especially with like-minded people. For the 1st time in years, I can see a positive future for myself, full of possibilities”.

“I have learnt a lot from each session facilitator and have enjoyed all my interactions with them, and have learned a lot about myself. I have also made contacts with other attendees outside of the sessions, which is great!”.

From a regular participant of our mindfulness sessions: “Make some time for you, this will be an hour well spent. You can leave calm, relaxed and refreshed – all you need to do is sit and breathe”.

We are very pleased to announced that due to the reception to this initial programme, our funding has been extended for the new year next September 2019. Because of the lower attendance on the Saturday sessions, both Mindfulness and the Creative therapies will be on weekdays. On the next stage of the Creative therapies programme, each month will be dedicated to a single therapy running over a few weeks. Details of these to be confirmed.



Networking in Birmingham

December 21st, 2018

Aside from our well-being work, Spring to Life has been busy over the last few months building its network and making links with a range of organisations doing great work in the West Midlands. As part of this we have attended different networking events where we have exhibited our services and built new connections.

On the 10th of October (World Mental Health Day) Spring to Life attended the “Being Well Works Well” Conference organised by Common Unity. It’s aims were to “provide networking opportunities locally, regionally and nationally in respect of the well-being agenda, highlight upstream services being delivered currently under The Connecting Community Networks programme, present new and innovative approaches that seek to ensure early engagement with wellbeing support opportunities and actively promote the opportunity for improved well-being in a range of arenas”.

On the 12th of October we were invited to attend the launch of a major Social Prescribing initiative by the Witton Lodge Community Association. This provided insight into the immense possibilities of this growing trend in social prescribing. Spring to Life has previously provided well-being programmes at Witton Lodge Community Association, and is part of its vast network of groups and people doing work in the local community. Social prescribing is the practice of GPs, nurses and other primary care professionals, of referring people with physical or mental health needs to projects and activities out in the community. This may include activities such as gardening, cooking, sports or arts.

In November we attended the the iSE (Institute of Social Enterprise) launch of ‘Birmingham Social Enterprise City’ event. This was held on the 15th of November in order to coincide with national social enterprise day. Birmingham has the largest number of social enterprises in the UK outside of London, and is now officially a Social Enterprise City, being part of a national network of cities.

Finally, in November members of Food Forest Brum/Fruit and Nut Village Stirchley attended a mini-conference at Birmingham City University (BCU) concerning the vision to create the West-Midlands National park. This is a pioneering vision held and developed by Kathryn Moore, professor at BCU in Landscape Design to develop West-Midlands including its urban areas into a national park, connecting parks, allotments, other green spaces as well as the general urban environment into a National park.  As part of this there would also be the involvement of local groups and communities working on themes such as mental well-being to be part of the network that support this vision. Check out Kathryn Moore’s article about the idea: https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2018/jun/20/welcome-to-brumbria-should-the-west-midlands-become-a-national-park.

A common theme running through these events seemed to be on exploring how we connect the individual to their wider community. The growth of the social prescribing approach, illustrates the  increasing awareness of the value that being part of our community and environment  has on our psycho-emotional health – and which in turn has a positive impact on their community and environment. Its been inspiring too see recently, even in just Birmingham alone, the number of people and groups with this goal in mind.

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