This growing season has been a busy one for our allotmenteers. With funding initally from Tesco Bags of Help, then from Heart of England Community Foundation (Harry Payne fund and Birmingham and Black Country Communities fund), we ran regular workdays at the allotment and grew a wide range of vegetables and fruits.
Our members initally took part in constructing a wooden gazebo with David Papadopoulos, our skilled and dependable Spring to Life ‘handy-man’ (also main coordinator at Highbury Orchard Community). This provided much needed shelter for the very unseasonably hot days we had during our english summer, and for the seasonably rainy days too.
Apart from our usual volunteers and participants, we made links with a large hostel housing newly arrived asylum seekers and refugees. Twice a week we took people from there to the allotment. Some people had only just been in the country for a few days or weeks, and the trips to the allotment provided a much needed relief in a quiet space in nature. Over the spring and summer we took over 100 people to the site.
People were able to take back with them harvested produce as well as positive feelings of well-being having had time to socialise, eat, have fun, get their hands in the soil, and experience peace in nature.
Aside from the allotment, participants also had the chance to visit a care farm, connect with animals and get creative with music.
We were very pleased to find out last month that Heart of England Community Foundation has approved applications for two grants to support our work at the allotment. In addition to our current Tesco Bags of Help grant, these two extra grants – Harry Payne and Birmingham and Black Countries Community Fund, will help us run two gardening sessions a week. The grants will go towards further coordination of the sessions, tools, food, and travel expenses.
Mondays will be aimed at refugees and asylum seekers. Thursdays will be for people with mental health problems.
This year we have been cultivating a range of vegetables and fruits, and have already begun harvesting some produce.
The Sycamore Court Art for Wellbeing Group met together for three two hour ‘Unremembered Wreath’ sessions with Spring to Life artist Gillian Lever. The Art for Wellbeing group at Sycamore Court established by Sarah Blackstock (Witton Lodge Community Association Health and Wellbeing Manager www.wittonlodge.org.uk) aims to minimise the impact of a range of health issues for participating Sycamore Court residents and a number of other local people.
The first of the three ‘Unremembered Wreath’ sessions included conversation, research and the sharing of fascinating family stories about the men and women from the many lands across the Commonwealth who contributed to the war effort as workers one hundred years ago.
Many of these men and women died without recognition. The Big Ideas Company (www.big-ideas.org) provided some interesting resources for this first session and group members also fed into it with information about family members whose contributions weren’t acknowledged. The Big Ideas Company is an agency which develops and delivers projects for public participation. They specialise in projects which bring groups together and create new experiences and relationships.
As well as talking and researching the group were keen to pitch in straight away with practical ideas and as part of the first session they made ‘mini wreaths’ and then sketched out ideas for the bigger wreaths that they wanted to create for the challenge. All the group members were very committed to the project and came up with some striking and creative ideas. The second and third sessions were action packed with all group members focusing in on the task in hand but also feeling energised by the team effort and banter. Experimenting with art materials can often enable people to find new ways to express themselves and to tell their stories. This was certainly the case with ‘The Unremembered Wreath Challenge’. The group was so enthusiastic about the project that they decided to continue meeting by themselves and they have designed and produced three wreaths which they are hoping will be selected for a National ‘Unremembered Wreath Challenge’ event organised by The Big Ideas Company.
The event exhibiting their wreaths and those made by a number of other groups from around the country took place on the 17th of May at the National Army Museum in London. During the event there were performances and speeches by artists and performers from Commonwealth countries where some of the unremembered veterans came from.
Spring to Life is co-ordinating a ‘Freedom to Live’ therapeutic activities programme with Freedom From Torture, West Midlands in 2018. The programme started off with an ‘Art for Wellbeing Calligraphy Workshop’ at Lightwoods House, Bearwood.
The session lasted for two hours and twelve or so participants took part (including two or three interpreters and the Freedom from Torture therapist Isabel). The session was held in a warm, light airy room. Being focused around a big central table, the session had something of the atmosphere of a shared meal enabling people to sit quietly focusing on their creative work or to join in with the various conversations that were sparked by the activity.
All the calligraphy ‘pieces’ were completely personal and unique and helped to generate stories and conversations very naturally. Even when verbal language ‘barriers’ exist communication through ‘making’ can be profound. During the morning people experimented with different calligraphy styles writing family names and inspirational texts in several different languages.
Participation in shared creative activities can be a valuable stepping stone towards building confidence and friendships. Whilst it is perfectly acceptable to work on artwork in silence, meaningful dialogue can start to gently unfold in the group too. Part way through the morning we enjoyed sharing refreshments from the Lightwoods House Café and then the group were keen to return to their calligraphic pieces. A gentle creative buzz continued right up until the time came for us to pack away for lunch.
For the fourth year running Spring to Life has helped the residents at St Eugenes plant up the 16 hanging baskets in their wonderful oasis atrium in Digbeth. Keen residents helped to fill and plant the baskets and look after them on a daily basis. By July they provide a colourful space for the residents and visitors to enjoy. A resident of St Eugenes said “Taking care of the plants isn’t a bother and gives a lot of pleasure”.
Spring to Life’s Food Forest Brum project has partnered up with Lets Grow Together to create a new initiative entitled ‘Fruit and Nut Village’. The idea is to create small networks (“villages”) of food growing sites at specific localities that will cultivate tree and other perennial food crops – primarily fruits and nuts. The first ‘village’ will be in Stirchley, South Birmingham.
The first stage of this Stirchley-based initiative will have a strong heritage focus. We are therefore being supported by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund (https://www.hlf.org.uk). The two year fund will help bring people together in Stirchley and surrounding areas to explore and cultivate a range of heritage varieties of fruit and nut trees, as well as species of edibles trees with historical relevance to the region. We will be growing varieties that have links with Stirchley, Birmingham or Worcestershire (as historically this is what Stirchley was part of).
The village itself will comprise a collection of growing sites which use a range of cultivation methods and approaches. Eventually, as the different sites develop, we will organise walking and cycling tours around the various projects for the public. The methods and approaches to be used include: standard orchards, forest gardens, nut groves, trained fruit trees (e.g. espaliers), and edible hedges. Within this village model there will also be at least one mother garden, which can help propagate and develop plant stock for the other sites.
We have chosen to start the first Fruit and Nut Village in Stirchley, since there are already a number of existing projects and sites that have developed tree crop cultivation. Stirchley itself is also an increasingly vibrant area with many active groups and a strong interest in local history.
Let’s Grow Together (http://letsgrowtogether.org.uk/) is a Birmingham-based organisation that carries out environmental and food growing projects in schools and communities. They have recently been involved with the Urban Orchard Project which helped to create ten community orchards across the city. We are very pleased to be working with them.
From March to June 2018, Spring to Life is piloting a new well-being programme for a women’s group at the Birmingham Jesus Centre in Highgate, a newly launched centre run by the Jesus Army Charitable Trust, aiming to offer friendship and help to all in the community of Birmingham.
The programme consists of Dance and Movement for Well-being workshops jointly facilitated by a Dance Therapist (Amelia Sommers) and Education Movement Therapist (Liz Wright); as well as Art for Well-being workshops, jointly facilitated by a Art Therapist (Gillian Lever) and a Clinical Psychologist (Wai-Ling Bickerton). With the varied innovative joint sessions by practitioner of different therapeutic focuses, the programme aims to enrich member’s experience and enable holistic development of self and social confidence, and a sense of improved well-being.
In addition, our team of practitioners will also support a community engagement day (Fun Day) taking place on the 2 nd April 2018, with Spring to Life’s Drumming workshop (led by Calvert), Poetry workshop (led by Kurly) and Body Awareness workshop (led by Roland), to offer the local community a great day of fun, friendship and learning about ways to enhance their well-being.
We will gather feedback from the centre coordinator and those who come to our workshops on their experience of our programme, so we can develop it further in the future.
Activities at our allotment will recommence this spring. Here we will expand our activities to two days a week. On Mondays we will run a session for asylum seekers and refugees, while on Thursdays our sessions will be aimed for people with mental health problems. We aim to continue growing a wide range of vegetables, fruits and herbs. We will also expand our Mother garden capacity, with the intention of producing more plants to share with other community projects.
This new season of food growing is being funded by Tesco Bags of Help. Tesco teamed up with Groundwork to launch its community funding scheme, which sees grants of up to £4,000, £2,000 and 1,000 – all raised from carrier bag sales in Tesco Stores – being awarded to local community projects. Bags of Help offers community groups and projects across the UK a share of revenue generated from carrier bag sales in Tesco stores. The public votes in store who should receive the awards. We thank all of you who voted for us, particularly as we were awarded the highest grant.
Please watch this space for when our first session begins.
Contact us if you are interested in attending our allotment. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 07856277028
In 2017 we ran a full programme of therapeutic activities and groups, both outdoor and indoor with clients of Freedom from Torture. The joint project titled ‘Freedom to Live’ saw participants take part in a wide range of creative and nature-based activities ran by Spring to Life. For the first two programme blocks, we were based at the beautiful Centre of the Earth in Winson Green, run by the Birmingham and Black Country Wildlife Trust.
Here we developed a ‘Mother garden‘ bed, as a mini-project which took 3 months to develop. People were able to establish the bed from scratch, whereby they first worked to clear the space of old roots and weeds. Build the soil with fresh organic matter. Then plant up with a range of plants that were edible and good for wildlife.
While at Centre of the Earth, people also took part in mindful walks, and a very fun and rewarding canoeing trip round the Soho loop canal. This was delivered by B-ROW who were offering canoeing opportunities to community groups in Birmingham.
For the third block of the year we were based at Lightwoods House. This is a recently restored grade II listed beautiful 18th century house in Bearwood. People were able to learn the interesting background of this historic building, and take a walk in the Shakespeare gardens located within the grounds of the house. From here we also carried out health and well-being walks around Lightwoods Park and outings to Sandwell Valley Park Farm. Participants also took part in dance and movement therapy and dru yoga.
During this year’s programme with Freedom from Torture we have seen the value that the experiences of having fun, getting creative and being in nature had on people. We look forward to working more with them this year.
Here are a few comments from those who took part in the programme:
“I liked canoeing as I felt free and I liked the quietness of the places and just the sound of the paddle on the water”.
“It is good to go out and experience different things, I like Art work because I don’t have to talk but I feel relaxed”.
“I feel in peace when I am walking and walking in the woods reminded me of home”.