Preston Park Recovery Centre is a fantastic and crucial resource for the clients who use it. It has a real community almost family feel and I’ve always been made very welcome. Having a room that over-looked the park for my own writing time has been a luxury. I soon developed rituals on my journey to work – the place I bought a bagel from when arriving at the station, the route I took to walk through the park, and the the tiny sprig of lavender that I would pluck from the plant growing outside the centre.
Of course it’s been a journey in every sense of the word. From early planning days back in April to writing now in late September, I’ve sat and looked across the park from my beautiful writing room and seen what nature does best; it changes, without the need for permission or approval. All experiences changes us, some dramatically, some gradually; I know that I am not the same person I was when I started this, both through my experiences here and experiences in other parts of my life. I hope I have been part of an evolving journey for the people I have worked with also.
The residency was divided into two parts – writing time for me to work on new projects and time for me to deliver workshops and one to one sessions with clients. Some of the people I worked with had years of writing experience through journal keeping or song writing, others were coming to try out a writing workshop for the first time. Every person I worked with contributed to the richness of my journey and it was a joy to work with such a diverse range of people. I ran a mixture of one to one sessions where people could have in-depth feedback on their work and I would suggest pointers for development as well as group writing workshops where people left with a new piece.
There was a lot of laughing. There was a lot of emotion. In the workshops there was a real sense of community. One of my favourite workshops was where we talked about poems using a physical object as a metaphor for an emotion. I brought in three poems by different poets all of which used flowers and though each poem was about a type of tower, it was actually also about something else entirely. I loved the richness of the discussion we had. Unbeknown to the group, the very large bouquet of flowers that was displayed in a vase in one corner of the room had been placed there by me that morning. I was able to give each participant a flower which they then matched with an emotion that they had from a previous exercise. It was such a touching moment when the entire group, each with a flower in their hand, fell into silence as they gazed at the unexpected gift. For me, that’s what poetry is about – the unexpected gifts we find between the lines that link us to shared experience, I think poetry had the ability to make us feel a little less alone in the world and for the months I’ve been writer in residence at Preston Park I’ve certainly felt a part of something.
Our Writer in Residence scheme will be open again for applications in early 2020.
This unique residency places an emerging/mid-career writer from an under-represented background on site at Preston Park Recovery Centre, an award-winning mental health recovery day centre. Over six months, the selected WiR will have the opportunity to interact and inspire centre users, while also having time and space to write and reflect.