New Burgh Castle Almanac website

The website for our Burgh Castle Almanac project is now up and running. We’ll be posting blog updates from participants as well as photos, videos and artwork from the group’s fortnightly sessions.

www.burghcastlealmanac.org

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Photo by Tod Sullivan

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Fundraising for our inaugural Participants Council meeting

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Photo © The Landmark Trust, 2018 

Thanks to the Landmark Trust‘s 50 for Free scheme, we’ve been given New Inn as our home from home.

This two-day event at New Inn will be our first ever Participants Council, an opportunity for people from all our projects to share stories and ideas, and make decisions about our strategy.

The cost of transport is the biggest block to people joining our projects, adding to loneliness and worsening mental health. Members of our Participants Council are all on low income and are travelling from rural Norfolk, Suffolk and Wiltshire.

This will be a great way to create something special, stay in a fabulous historic building, meet old friends and make new ones.

Help make it an experience to remember!

Donate here

Human Henge at TAG 2017 – Walking with Intent: Culture therapy in historic landscapes

Laura Drsydale, Director, Restoration Trust

There are these moments in time and space, these conjunctions, when ideas coalesce, and I wonder if TAG 2017 is one of them. Where we can talk about health, psychogeographies, forgetting, time, memory, poetry and place, and have a sense of resonance and reciprocity across our overlapping interests.

But I am at the end before the beginning, since resonance and reciprocity are words from the vocabulary of group analysis, to which I will come later.

I was at the session on archaeology and mental health at TAG 2015, when we were developing Human Henge. I watched the YouTube video of Dr Rathouse’s talk last night, and it reminded me how helpful the papers and conversations were to our thinking. This is a shared endeavor, so as a non-archaeologist, thank you TAG.

Now, I will tell you something about the Restoration Trust. We are a small charity that supports people to engage with heritage, art and culture so that their mental health improves. We call this culture therapy. We are usually producers – we broker partnerships, develop projects, find the money and manage the project.

Our current heritage foci are archaeology and the historic landscape, and archives. Why? Well, it’s partly pragmatic – availability and a culture of public entitlement to information in both arenas. But it is also because both archives and archaeology have a delicious tension between the quest for knowledge and the impossibility of total success in that quest. It is there, in the space between knowing and not knowing that our projects make a difference, for there is where imagination lives. More of that later too.

Heritage and mental health are certainly politically congruent at the moment. Mental health demand is rising, services are shrinking. National and local government need new ways to help people with their mental health, so all the various organs of the state, including lottery distributors, are on the case. Arts are front runners, for example with the report Creative Health published by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Arts and Health. Museums are catching up through the work of Professor Helen Chatterjee and her colleagues, but the wider heritage lags behind, it lacks a champion. Yet here it is, all around us, visible, hidden or intangible; and the thought of therapeutic landscapes lies deep within us.

Our two current landscape projects are Human Henge at Stonehenge and now at Avebury, and Burgh Castle Almanac at Burgh Castle roman fort in Norfolk. Both projects are largely HLF funded. Burgh Castle Almanac kicks off properly in January.  It is a year-long 24-session programme – that happens two years running – of walking, talking and making at the Castle, and at Time and Tide Museum in Great Yarmouth. Norfolk Archaeological Trust is the lead partner.

Human Henge you will hear about from Professor Darvill and Dr Heaslip, and I hope also from members who are here at TAG. Briefly, it is a programme of 10 weekly walks for a facilitated group accompanied by archaeologists and musicians. Pilot 1 ran from October to December 2016, Pilot 2 from January to March 2017. In January we will run Pilot 3 at Avebury, to see how a different site impacts on the process. There is masses of information about Human Henge online at www.humanhenge.org

I would like to pay tribute to the whole astonishing network of participants, support workers, volunteers, board members, funders, partners, experts, creatives, researchers and staff who are the project; they, along with the sites, the collections, the weather, the administration, the biscuits, make up the Human Henge matrix, to use group terminology once more.

Both Human Henge and Burgh Castle Almanac meet our Criteria for Success, listed on the slide.

Let’s take one of these – Groupwork is the core.

Foulkes[1] described what happens when a collection of individuals meets routinely together with someone he named a conductor:

“They will begin to live, feel, think, act and talk more in terms of ‘we’ than in terms of ‘I’, ‘you’, and he’. At the same time, and I want to stress this point, the individuals do not become submerged but, on the contrary, show up their personal characteristics more and more distinctly within the dynamic interplay of an everchanging and often highly dramatic scene. As soon as this little sample community shows signs of organization and structure in the way described, we will call it a group.”

This is what we are trying to achieve in Human Henge.

So over 10 weeks of sustained and regular involvement within a context of safe frameworks and practice, and with expert facilitation, in this case from Yvette Staelens with Daniel O’Donoghue, a group begins to form. How does a historic landscape help? Or rather how does being in a historic landscape in the company of people who know a lot about it help? Because that is one of our criteria – privileged access to real cultural assets AND expertise.

It is only human to be in nature, to use our bodies and minds, to connect with each other, to be creative. And it is certainly better than some of the alternatives, such as loneliness, boredom and sadness. But why the historic bit?

It is not a universal prescription, for strange as it may seem, not everyone is interested in the past! But for those who are, and who can find the strength to face the daunting prospect of a project like Human Henge, historic landscapes are one way to face down mental illness’s erosion of the self.

Mental illness attacks space. For example it fills mental space with futile rumination or terrifying psychosis, or it negates it with a horrible combination of restlessness and passivity in depression. It makes space malignant so that it cannot be traversed to connect with others. It compromises time as it telescopes the past into the present with all-consuming flashbacks. Without space to think, to act, nothing creative can happen, there can be no imagination, no relating. A group experience of a historic landscape illuminated by people who know about it open ups multiple vistas of temporal, topographical and psychological space. It is a short cut to the imagination.

When people feel safe enough to take the enormous risk of embarking on a journey in both time and space, taking part in a strange wellbeing experiment in some fields, albeit fields that are among the most famous on the planet, with people they have never met, that’s when they may do things they never thought possible. It is when, hopefully, they can enjoy the richness of their own humanity.

I will leave you with this poem by Chris Jessup.

 

[1] S. H. FOULKES (1946) “ON GROUP ANALYSIS” Originally published in the International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 27:46‐51, 1946. Later in a shortened version in Selected Papers: Psychoanalysis and Group Analysis, pp. 137‐144, eds. M. Pines y E. Foulkes, Karnac Books, Londres: 1990.

 

Human Henge Press – December 2017

The Wild Hunt

The role of ancient landscapes in mental health 

by Liz Williams

Modern celebrants have been convening at the ancient site of Stonehenge in Wiltshire for many years now: revivalist Druids of the early 20th century, hippies of the 1960s and 70s, New Age travelers and political activists, and modern Pagans have all gathered at the summer and winter solstices to hold free music festivals, conduct rituals, hold raves, and simply acknowledge the turning points of the year.

The role of the site is ongoing and has a highly significant place in the practices of contemporary Pagans worldwide, but not just Pagans alone. As well as solstice rites and ongoing archaeological work, Stonehenge is now the focus for a wider new initiative: the Human Henge Project.

Read more

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An article about Human Henge featured in The Guardian to celebrate the Winter Solstice.

Hundreds gather for Stonehenge sunrise after winter solstice

by Steven Morris

Some of those attending the winter solstice celebrations at Stonehenge were there to worship, others to party or to simply to enjoy the rise of the sun after the longest night and look forward to lengthening days and springtime.

Despite it being a gloomy, soggy morning in Wiltshire, there was a joyful atmosphere as hundreds of people gathered to witness the light return.

There is evidence that spending time near or within the standing stones can actually be good for mental wellbeing.

Read more

Find out more about Human Henge on our website http://humanhenge.org/

Coming up: Human Henge at TAG 2017

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The 2017 Theoretical Archaeology Conference takes place at

Cardiff University from 18th-20th of December

The timetable is now available on the Theoretical Archaeology Conference 2017 website here. Our session on ‘Archaeology, heritage and well-being’, led by Restoration Trust Director, Laura Drysdale, and Professor Tim Darvill, from Bournemouth University, will be on Tuesday 19th December. This will begin at 9.30am and is a three-quarter day session with a wide range of papers to be discussed.

Find out more about the session here.

You can also follow TAG 2017 on Twitter here.

Session Abstract
Archaeology, Heritage and Well-being

The concept of therapeutic landscapes was developed by Wil Gesler in the early 1990s, building on contemporary theory in the field of cultural ecology. It has since expanded to become a key concept in health geography applicable at a range of scales. But whether natural, designed, or symbolic, places connected with healing the body and soul have been recognized and studied for much longer. Routes of pilgrimage, destinations for health-giving visits, facilities for ‘taking the waters’, hospitals, and gardens surrounding asylums and institutions, have all been instrumental in formalizing relationships between place, space, and well-being that have been promoted and applied in many different ways and with varying degrees of real or perceived success. This session will consider archaeological and heritage dimensions of therapeutic landscapes, asking what can be learnt from the study of existing sites and whether there is a role for developing new ones appropriate for the needs of the 21st century. Contributions are invited in relation to three main themes. First, studies of recognized therapeutic landscapes through historical or archaeological investigations that enrich understandings of their construction and use. Second, case-studies of recent or ongoing projects that make use of archaeological sites or heritage resources to promote physical or mental well-being amongst defined participant communities. And third, analyses of the philosophical and theoretical frameworks appropriate to the study of archaeology and heritage in relation to health and well-being.