A Network of Writing and Community Publishers

Stevenage Survivors

01 May 2012

11 May 2010 - Survivors Poetry News Update

We are pleased to announce that Dave Russell has agreed to take over the role as the Editor of Poetry Express in a voluntary capacity.  For those of you not familiar with Dave, he has had a long relationship with SP since its foundation and he has regularly donated his time to various SP activities over the years.  He is a regular performer at the Poetry Cafe open mic nights in Covent Garden, run by Xochitl Tuck, and has regularly submitted poetry himself to the Poetry Express Broadsheet.  Last year Dave took up the challenge of writing reviews for Poetry Express.  He regularly attends Poets in the City events and writes up reviews about them, he reviews poetry collections from publishers and survivors alike and even reviews websites for their content.  Dave also agreed recently to support SP develop a new website, which is in progress presently.

I am making a call for submi
ssions for Poetry Express.  The deadline for the next issue will be 13th May.   We are interested to receive any poetry, letters, articles or reviews.

If you wish to send us notices regarding your events & activities, you can do so anytime and we will place them on our website or within Poetry Express.

Survivors' Poetry would be very interested to hear from any poets in your group that may be interest interested in becoming a Featured Artist in
Poetry Express.

If you have, any questions about Poetry Express or any other Survivors' Poetry activity please do email, or contact Simon, Roy or Blanche at the office on 020 7218 4654,  or you can get further information from our website: www.survivorspoetry.com

SP Contact Details:

Director : Dr. Simon Jenner - Director


Outreach: Roy Birch


Administration: Blanche Donnery


Reviews: Dave Russell


General Enquiries:


Please forward to anyone you think this will be on interest to.  Many thanks

Creative Therapy Day

On Saturday, March 27th 2011

at the Mid-Herts MIND Well-Being Centre in Stevenage, local Creative Writing Group, Stevenage Survivors, held its inaugural Creative Therapy Day.

Stevenage Survivors was set up in April 2000 for the benefit of survivors of mental distress. In the words of its MissionStatement, 'to use poetry in all its forms to help survivors of mental distress survive more adequately.' The group's record in that respect is exemplary, and the Therapy Day was, in addition to expanding the group's general remit in the field of interactive care, an attempt to show that a small local mental-health-oriented writing group can be considerably more, and also an attempt to bring Creative Therapy to the community in a manner which empowers service users by allowing them to be who and what they are in a safe and undemanding atmosphere, while offering them gentle and compassionate therapy combined with an opportunity to express their own personal creativity. In fact, offering them several levels of therapy simultaneously. Including the best therapy of all - enjoying themselves. And it worked.

When I broached the possibility of the Therapy Day to the group I was not certain how they would react. Stevenage Survivors is, after all, a very fine writing group with some quite superb poets in its ranks, and I was not at all sure that the group would want to move so far away from its spiritual heartland. But move we did. And the Force moved with us.

I had set my sights on thirty-five as our probable upper participation limit, with thirty as the likelier figure, and a very real possibility of as few as twenty-five actually turning up. In the event we were blessed with an official attendance figure of fifty-four (the number signed-in via the attendance register) though at least four who participated omitted to sign in, which means we had an actual attendance of at least fifty-eight. Virtually twice the number I had anticipated.

All the day's activities were facilitated by group members, which meant that the day was truly "User-led." And how.

By the time the first workshop began - Creative Writing with Rosie Berry - there were some twenty-five of us in the building. Most attended the workshop, and some fine work was produced. Meanwhile Andy Smith had got his All-Day, Drop-in, Drop-out, Drop-back-in Creative Art workshop under way and, accompanied by the seductive smell of paint and thinners, during the hours of daylight eighteen participants (of whom a number had never painted previously) created fifteen worthy canvasses, one of which was later used as a prop for one of the pieces at the evening Celebratory Reading.

Following the Creative Writing workshop, two activities ran in parallel - Paul Evans' Confidence-building and Assertiveness workshop, and an hour of Taoist meditation led by Dave Pack. Both were well attended and equally well-appreciated. Sadly, Dave, who had led the session magnificently although ill, was by now so depleted that he was forced to return home to his bed. Rosie Berry had also drained herself and was forced to leave early. That they had been willing to take part while unwell is a stirring testament to their courage and resilience. That they were able to have the positive effect on the event that they did is testament to that which makes Stevenage Survivors the group it is.

Lunch followed, and a chance to converse and network, an opportunity avidly accepted by all present. By this time the atmosphere was firmly established, and the entire venue was awash with a powerful aura of warm, safe, and vibrant peacefulness, a feeling which was to remain and intensify for the duration of the event.

While all this had been happening, Rhonda Challis had been probably the busiest of us all. She was giving Tarot Readings and people were queuing for the privilege.

It is always nice to be able to satisfy our vanity by admitting to being wrong about something we actually


to be wrong about. When the idea of Tarot readings was suggested, I, in my infinite wisdom, had a vision of Rhonda sitting in some corner twiddling her thumbs because not enough people had attended the event to make her activity viable; a fear I continued to harbour in spite of being assured by those who know about such things that Tarot Reading would, in all probability, be the most popular of the day's activities. Which it pretty much turned out to be. To be happily wrong is such a good feeling, permitting, as it does, expressions of false humility.

While it is great to be happily wrong, being unhappily wrong is a different matter altogether. During Lunch I ventured forth to the Railway Station to collect our guest poet - but missed her. Intelligent pair that we are, we were not in possession of each other's telephone numbers and so could not make contact. I returned to the Well-Being Centre fully confident that Sarah would soon find her way there. Soon, however, eventually became less soon, and, overcome with feelings of anguish and inadequacy, I returned to the scene of my initial failure - and failed again.

There were, quite obviously, many possible permutations with regard to the reason for Sarah's non-show. I ran through them all, arrived at no satisfactory explanation, and decided to be sanguine about the whole affair. Clever me. At about 2.30 she appeared, large as life, after a tour of the fleshpots of Stevenage New Town, a tour which included a visit to an internet cafe to try to contact me by e-mail. Crisis over. On with the show.

The afternoon began with simultaneous workshops - Cynthia Price (another group member who battled illness in order to take part in the event) gave a Healthy Eating workshop, or, as she herself described it, 'Diet for Stress Reduction.' Considering it took place immediately after lunch, the workshop was well attended and gave everyone (if you will forgive the unintended pun) much positive food for thought.

While this workshop was in progress on the first floor, immediately above, in the gym, Lucia and Matt were holding an interactive music workshop, aimed at the creation of a piece of music of sufficient quality to be worthy of performance at the Celebratory Reading. And that is precisely what the workshop achieved. And in a way summed up the event, as did the Creative Art workshop. People who don't paint painted; people who don't play music played music. And did so remarkably and enjoyably well.

The workshop programme concluded with a healing session by the Vale House Project, which combines Meditation, Reiki, and Creative Writing in a single-unit therapeutic and self-development activity. Seventeen people attended the workshop, which was facilitated by Lucia, Geoff Dilley, and myself, and began with a simple meditation, focused on the union between the mind and the abdominal breath. Most of the group meditated. Creative Writing followed the meditation. The participants were invited to choose the topic for the writing exercise and Jackie Primett suggested 'Daisy.' The suggestion was accepted and we wrote about daisies and then read our work to each other. Some inspired and beautiful pieces were shared. As always at these workshops, people were surprised by what they wrote, and the way in which they wrote it. And then it was time for Reiki.

Reiki (Japanese for Universal Energy of Life) is a hands-on healing technique derived from the High Tibetan healing art of Qi Gong. Reiki is normally practised in seclusion, for approximately an hour, with the recipient on a therapy couch in a prone position. For the purposes of the workshop Reiki was practised with the recipients seated on chairs and receiving Reiki for about ten minutes each in front of an audience. Twelve participants received Reiki and all were extremely therapeutically impressed. This session, like the Art and Music workshops, helped define the Therapy Day. A number of people to whom Meditation and Reiki had previously been anathema, engaged in both and benefitted greatly.

Meanwhile, Rhonda was still packing them in for Tarot Readings and, had she continued to accept bookings, would probably have been busy until two in the morning.

The Vale House Project workshop finished at about 4.45. An interval and refreshments followed, with the Celebratory Reading scheduled to begin at 6pm. Considered opinion in certain quarters had been that attendance at the Therapy Day would be poor until the Celebratory Reading. The opposite was in fact the case. By the time the reading began, about half the participants had retired. Which was a great shame as the fare on offer was hugely entertaining and in places quite superb. Lucia sang as only she can, and assisted Matt and the Music Workshop team with their performance of the piece they had created. Bruce James treated the audience to some of his brilliantly acerbic poetry and demonstrated why he is published in magazines of the quality ofThe Shop.

Alyson Torns read John Sheehy's poem from the Vale House workshop, while John himself accompanied her on the mouth organ. STL (herself a member of the Music Workshop team) regaled us with her speciality - small verses which inhabit the borderlands between this reality and some barely knowable 'other place' where Darkness can see itself, and the light is a kind of mysterious aphrodisiac. Jackie Primett was pressed into service, as was Cynthia Price, and, in both cases, rightly so. Without their contributions the event would have been diminished. Dave Chambers (like Alyson Torns and John Sheehy, a visitor from London) showed why TheFED is a literary force to be reckoned with. Bruce Chinnery celebrated his return to public performance after a break of several years by providing a magical backing guitar for the poetry of Paul Evans. Last but by no means least, our guest reader, prize-winning poet Sarah Wardle (published by Bloodaxe and formerly Poet-in-Residence at Tottenham Hotspur Football Club) brought the day to a close with poems of such gentle magnificence it is virtually impossible to do them justice in any words but their own.

And so ended a truly wonderful day. We cleared up, did a lot of hugging, said our farewells, and went home.

During the course of the day a number of people asked me if the Therapy Day is going to be an annual event. I was able only to say that I hope it will. Stevenage Survivors as a group also hopes it will. Dave Hobbs, of Mid-Herts MIND, who dropped in at lunch-time to "have a look" and was so impressed he stayed until the end and in fact manned the door so the rest of us could attend the Celebratory Reading, declared that it must

become an annual event "because it is needed and brilliant." A truly wonderful endorsement.

Thanks are due to a whole range of people. To Tony Carswell, Director of Mid-Herts MIND for agreeing to our use of the Well-Being Centre. To Mark Mills, manager of the Centre, for preparing the gym for our use. To all the facilitators - Rosie Berry, Dave Pack, Andy Smith, Rhonda Challis, Paul Evans, Cynthia Price, Matt Blaschke-Templeman, Lucia Birch, and Geoff Dilley. To Jackie Primett, Lucia, STL, and Susan Kennedy for the wonderful dishes they prepared. To Jackie and Lucia for organizing the catering. To Paul Evans for all the hard work he did during, and prior to, the event. To Cynthia Price, Sarah Smith, and Bruce James, for manning the door. To Dave Hobbs of MIND, for his very practical support, including the report he wrote for me, and the feedback sheet he encouraged participants to put their comments on as they were leaving. To our guest reader, Sarah Wardle, who came all the way from London to take part. To all the participants, without whom none of it would have had any relevance. And, of course, to the Hertfordshire Community Foundation, whose funding made it all possible. Thank you.


Roy Birch


Footnote: TheFED is a national network of creative writers and community publishers, dedicated, as is Stevenage Survivors, to the use of writing to help the disadvantaged.

Stevenage Survivors had a fabulous event on March the 27th at The Well Being Centre in Stevenage Town Centre.

It was called Creative Therapy Day with Workshops on Art, Assertiveness, Food , Creative Writing , Meditation, Reiki Healing and Tarot Reading and Music.

In the evening there were Musical Performances and Poetry readings as well.  It was organised by Roy and Lucia Birch.

I hope this Email is the start of more contact with other groups who share information on similar projects.

Paul Evans

Hi you guys It's Paul Evans Stevenage Survivors here . We have just had a Creative Therapy day here in Stevenage which went really well. So my suggestion for a writing challenge is Therapies in whatever style or context what thought or ideas that spring from that opinions or views relating to New age medical, scientific , cultural or political you decide let me know what you think.

Lots of Love to you all

Paul Evans


I went along to the Stevenage Survivors Creative Therapy Day and a great day it was.

One memorable thing that happened, memorable for me anyway, is that I attended Andy's Creative Art Workshop. It was brilliant. Andy got me to paint a picture for the first time since I was in infant school, and that really does not seem like yesterday.

I had already written a poem at Rosie's Creative Writing Workshop so the picture, artwork I call it, followed on from the poem. It made my stint at the performance evening even more acute, as I pointed to the 'artwork' the poem explained what it was supposed to be - nearly, some people actually got it, wow.

I was quite pleased with my efforts and the National Gallery is currently negotiating a substantial fee for me to stay away from them.

There was lots to going on, quite a full program so we all mucked in and got on with it.

A thousand thanks to all the Stevenage Survivors for a really enjoyable day.

Dave Chambers

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