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

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Tree of Life Programme with Refugees and Asylum seekers

October 22nd, 2019

Working in collaboration with Migrant Help, Spring to Life ran a Tree of Life programme with newly arrived young refugees and asylum seekers. It took place during June and September of this year, and was  funded by Swan Mountain Trust.

Tree of Life is a ‘narrative psychology’ approach originally developed in Africa for traumatised young people and children. It involves giving participants an opportunity to explore their lives (including their traumas) and their sense of selves from a position of strength and empowerment. This is done creatively with participants depicting their lives as a tree with different parts of the tree representing different aspects of their lives. While exploring their tree of life  participants to connect with other people through sharing experiences and gifting comments on other people’s sharing, with the process culminating in  people’s individual trees coming together to make up a Tree of Life. We had participants from Syria, Iran, Kurdistan and Afghanistan.

We held the first part of the programme at the beautiful Martineau Gardens, where as well as people taking part in the day long session they also got to enjoy the beauty, peace and friendly atmosphere of this community garden. The intention of this aspect is to encourage participants to return to visit Martineau Gardens independently in their own time, as a way to promote integration and connection between refugee and migrant communities with local projects.

The second part of the programme involed getting the same participants to take part in actual planting trees themselves in a community space, or to care for fruit trees at a community orchard. This follow up section of the programme worked with the Fruit and Nut Village Stirchley project to support the ‘edible park’ initiative at Hazewell Park.


Here are some testimonials from participants:

“The course was so helpful and made me feel very happy”

“Learnt more about how to deal with difficulties”

“Learnt to be patient when facing calamity”

“Talk together and get help from

others about life”














Community Conversations in the Three Estates

September 7th, 2019

During the summer, Spring to Life began a ‘Needs assessment’ initiative in the Three Estates – South Kings Norton. Funded by the Big Lottery Community fund, we have been speaking to a wide range of people in different settings in order to capture a sense of what the concerns and visions are for their community, and what are the priorities for developing positive mental health and well-being. We have taken on people living locally to help with this. So far we have had a couple of ‘Vox Pops’ in Hawkesley Square. We also plan to speak to people in GP practices, sheltered housing sites, door to door visits, as well as for our new local members to carry out these conversations with their own friends and neighbours.

The long term aim is for the results of this Needs Assessment to set the basis for developing a long term well-being programme in the area, supporting different social groups using different approaches, and working in partnership with other organisations operating in the area.

A key component of this current project is also for Spring to Life to continue to develop its local networks. There are many local projects and groups doing amazing work in the community. During our Vox Pops and other community conversations we have been sign-posting people to these existing projects.

From these conversations we are also developing a core group of local people that we come across that are interested in seeing their community improve and grow. This group will get to meet once in a while and advise on the long term development of the Spring to Life programme.

Some of the things these conversations are showing us are the huge assets that this community has. These include an incredible sense of community where people know each other and look out for one another, the many green spaces in the area, and other spaces such as the Hawkesley Community Centre and as well as other facilities. Spring to Life will aim to make use of these assets in order to maximise the impact made.

July 15th, 2019

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.



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