'Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth.' (Herman Hesse)
At the beginning of the year, I was asked to run a four-week writing programme for members - or 'pals', as they call themselves - of RT Projects, a mental health charity in Gilesgate, Durham, that uses art to help people in the community. The email informed me that they'd been asked to choose their own topic, and they had chosen the very wholesome topic of trees. How could I say no?
Over the course of the four sessions, the group worked both together and independently to analyse existing poems and short stories about trees and nature, before writing their own and producing original artwork to go along with it. We created haikus about pinecones, letters to trees in childhood gardens, hopes written on leaves and lots more.
At the end of the four sessions, I collected any work the group members were happy to share, typed it up and created a tactile sketchbook-style book of all of their work, which now sits proudly on the coffee table in the RT Projects space, where lots of pals can 'leaf' through it whenever they are having a cuppa or waiting for a friend!
What I learnt
I really, really enjoyed this project. If anything, I think we should have had more sessions so that we could have shared the work publicly or taken some recordings / videos but time was just so tight! It was quite special that we began the project when the trees outside the RT Projects building were wintry and bare, and finished with them just blossoming. I think the group chose a fantastic theme and I was very honoured to help them delve into it 🌳
A big thank you to Beano, Emma, Sam and all of the group participants