Wednesday 22 November 2023

Myths, Marks and Medicine, with Hannah May Batley

As we steadily approach the Winter months and the Green UPLIFT calendar comes to a close, we’re reflecting on some of our UPLIFT highlights, one of which includes a fantastic allotment social with transdisciplinary artist, Hannah May Batley.

Hannah’s work centres around engaging with the ecologies of place through story-telling, foraging, herbalism, mark making and writing. The group got a wonderful introduction to this, making oak gall and elderberry ink, herbal vinegars and honey as well as foraging and discussing all things herbal lore and herbal medicine. 

It was such an enriching day, UPLIFTER’s took a huge amount away from the session, feeling rooted and inspired. 

We were so blown away by Hannah that we recently caught up with her to find out all about her relationship to Myths, Marks and Medicine:

For anyone who wasn't at the event can you give us an insight into your work & what it involves?

I would say the heart of my work is grounded in the act of remembering. Not, remembering in 
the cognitive sense. But, re-membering in an embodied sense. My work is about re-connecting the body & the human with place, ancient practices of custodianship, making & self-care. My work is transdisciplinary. I am a transdisciplinary artist. By that I mean that I practice more than one art form, I am a writer, oral storyteller, singer, educator, community herbalist, forager & maker. I forage wild food, herbs & also natural pigment that I process into paint & ink using ancient processes. Usually, that's too much for folks to digest so what I usually say is my work focusses on Myths, Marks, Medicine.

Myths relate to the stories I tell but, the word myth also has a wider implication when applied to culture. As a storyteller I work directly with myth. As a writer, myth informs my approach to poetry & prose.

Marks relates to mark making. Growing up in a working class village in Barnsley I found it very difficult to see myself as an artist. The word felt cumbersome in my mouth. Other people were artists, not me. Mark making gets underneath the elitism & gatekeeping involved in art. I believe humans are innately creative. To live is to be creative. Making marks as a term removes the barrier between me and the paper, it offers an invitation rather than a judgement. I feel an invitation to mark making rather than art making is more accessible. It encourages more engagement. So that's some context to why I choose to use that language.

Alongside this, mark making also refers to my pigment work. I paint using handmade natural tools, inks & paint. I've had some of work exhibited in local exhibitions & I've sold some of my art. Images of paintings can be seen on my instagram: woman_ofthe_hedge.

Medicine relates to my herbalism practice. I've been practicing herbalism for 12 years now and am entirely self taught. In December I will start with Heartwood to study my formal qualification in Community Herbalism so I can go on to train as a Medical Herbalist. The plant & other-than-human world informs so much of what I do & how I teach. I believe plants are our allies & we can learn so much about being in the world when we re-connect with the eco-system that sustains us.

How did you get into this, how did it all come about?

In 2021 I had a nervous breakdown, what led me to breakdown was addiction and the reporting of a historic rape. Following the breakdown I went into a 12 step recovery programme. In the early days of my recovery all I could do, all I wanted to do was be outside. The world humans have created felt very overwhelming & impenetrable to me. I'd quit my job, I was unemployed & I spent as much of my time outdoors as I could. In the early days of my recovery I felt the roots of the trees in West Yorkshire, where I live, held me when nothing else could. In the weeks, months & years that followed my breakdown I forged a very meaningful & deep relationship with the place I live. Through my 20's I enjoyed time outdoors, enjoyed camping holidays, walks, hiking, wild swimming. But, the relationship which emerged post breakdown was very different. Before I started recovery I felt incredibly alienated from the world. I was profoundly lonely. That's not to say I didn't have friends or family, I did. Friends and family who love me & have stood by me. Thing is, I was too ill and too scared to let any one in to my life. I held the world at an arms distance. I would go to the woods for solace and quietness. A means to seek respite & ground myself. I felt strongly about climate justice, protecting land & access to land. But, on reflection I don't think I ever felt connected to place, I never felt I belonged anywhere. I didn't know where home was.

My work was born from the grief of rape & addiction. From being displaced from place & body. It was born from seeking ways to restore and remedy the damage that I had done to myself & what had been done too me.

Recovery gave me more headspace, self-esteem & confidence. With that headspace, I began focussing on my herbalism again. I started foraging more. Reading more. I started painting again & writing again. All the things I'd neglected in my illness slowly started re-emerging. I started feeling joy again, serenity & a sensation of being full. Content.

Fortunately, I'd qualified with a Postgraduate Diploma in Adult Education so I had the tools to put what I was learning into a curriculum. I started archiving my ideas on pedagogy, developing my own teaching practice. I researched and looked for courses and books on how to skill up. I learnt more and enough to feel competent to share with others.

In June last year I took the curriculum 'Rooting into Place' to Calderdale recovery college and I delivered the first series of the 'Rooting into Place' course. Since then, I've taken it into Universities, Rape Charities, Recovery Communities & Colleges.

I offer community workshops too. My next one is called Callieach. Which is all about Winter. I'll tell the story of the Callieach, an ancient Celtic goddess who ruled the season of winter. We'll learn about herbs for women's health, focussing on immune support, detoxifying & mental health. Then we'll learn how to make our own watercolour from locally foraged natural pigment. 

What does this work mean to you and why do you think it is important for our wellbeing?

When I quit my job one of the reasons, alongside being too ill to continue, was the idea that work is something separate from self. The idea that I could spend 37.5 hours a week doing something that I didn't care about contributed to exacerbation of my deterioration. I went to work primarily for money. Thing is, when I did that I numbed everything that roared against my doing that, day in day out. I numbed my creativity, my writing, my singing, my art. I numbed myself out to friendships and family. Work overwhelmed me. Emotionally, spiritually & physically. It gobbled up my time like a hungry ghost & with it my connection to Self. To place.

When I'm writing about what I do, I often refer to it as work because people find it more digestible. But, if I'm honest I don't see what I do as work and that was a deliberate, conscious choice. When I quit, when I had the breakdown I made a decision that I would never force myself to do what I did before. I would make compromises for sure, but none great enough that I would sever myself from place & self again. There is no amount of money worth my sanity. There is no job that is worthy in having so much of my time. I felt strongly that if the society I lived in needed me to earn money to live, I would do it on my own terms, doing what I love.

Today, I feel incredibly blessed for my breakdown. I feel blessed that I was forced to stop. It was in the pause that I found the things I loved and it wasn't that I found them anew, I re-discovered them underneath & amongst the debris of myself, beside all the things I was told I should do.

So, to answer your question this journey I've been on and will continue to be on is deeply meaningful. It holds the stories of my recovery, the pain, strength, experience & hope. It is as much apart of me as I am apart of it. To think about a reality where I'm not doing what I'm doing now, in some capacity invokes a sense of physical discomfort: a tightness in my chest, a shortness of breath, panic. How does a person measure importance? To me, the way I gauge what matters is through my bodies response. To be without this work causes me harm, puts my nervous system into a state of dysregulation. I can't speak for anyone else's wellbeing, I'm no expert on anyone else's story or what works for them. What's certain for me, is that my wellbeing is in symbiotic relationship with the work I'm doing. In the same way the moss needs the wood to survive, it would seem that I need creativity.

Thank you to Hannah for taking the time to share such powerful words with us. And thanks also to our musicians Chris and Ralph, who alongside Hannah made it such a soul warming UPLIFT event! We can’t wait to do more soon!

Friday 6 October 2023

An Update from UPLIFT Central Area: Growing Creativity!

You’ll remember a little while ago we introduced you to a new project that we are very excited to be working on here at Creative Recovery - UPLIFT Central area: Growing Creativity! This is a project that sees us collaborating with residents of Summer Lane, Worsborough and Gilroyd to help build community and creativity. 

Since our last post we've been really busy out and about in all three areas  meeting local residents and finding out what they'd like to see happen on their estates. Here’s a run down of what we’ve been up to so far and the plans that are starting to take shape!

Summer Lane 

On the Summer Lane estate we've established a planning group who have shown great enthusiasm for the project and are very active in steering their ideas. Their aim for the estate is ‘To bring people together and help the community grow’ which they were keen to reinforce in a logo which they have brilliantly designed. This was printed onto eye catching postcards and hand delivered to every household on the estate inviting them to come along to UPLIFT events and activities.

We kicked off with the ‘Live Lounge’, a lovely session which saw people come together over cake and live music to chat and share their creative ideas. Residents were treated to some live music from Creative Recovery participant, Allan, a self taught musician who lives locally. Allan wowed residents with his keyboard skills, a real talent! 

Residents have also been busy at creative workshops where they've been preparing for their 'Virtual Campfire' event which will take place at the Creative Recovery Centre on Prospect Street Centre on Tuesday 10th October, 6-8.30pm. 

This free event will feature an evening of music and storytelling around the campfire with hot chocolates and treats. All Summer Lane residents will receive a warm welcome. We hope to see you there! 

On the sessions so far one resident from Summer Lane told us:

"I've been coming to the meet ups and sessions and I'm really enjoying it. It's so friendly and it's brilliant to get to know new people. We've all lived on the estate for so many years and didn't know anybody. You'd pass people by and not talk to each other. Now you'll see people and say hello and have a chat." 

Our final update from Summer Lane includes the set up of a new dog walking group where residents can meet up and have a chin wagging time with their neighbours and their dogs! You’ll be sure to spot the group who will be wearing illustrated high vis vests designed and made themselves! The group meets every Thursday at 5.30pm, outside Creative Recovery Centre on Prospect Street, with all resident's welcome to come along

A round of a paws for such a great initiative! We wish you all a pawsome time! 


From early work on the ground in Worsborough, the New England estate was identified as the focus area for our project, as it was felt that it is an area with the most need to connect people and spread some creative fun within the community.

At New England some residents have expressed a little apprehension in getting out and about and perhaps a wariness of 'artistic' endeavours. Bingo is a particular favourite of many residents and has proved a popular choice, therefore we’ve decided to combine bingo with creativity and will be running a series of sessions where people can come together socially, play some bingo and also get stuck into some creative crafting. Pieces of art will be created to share with neighbours who might feel isolated with a friendly message to show connectivity.

The Barrow Club have been incredibly generous and supportive of the project, spreading the word and offering their premises for free. The first session took place last week and was a great success. Special thanks to one of our Creative Recovery volunteers, Maxine who did a sterling job as bingo caller! The participants really enjoyed making autumnal ornaments and having the opportunity to talk about the activities they would like to see in the area, with the current forerunner being line dancing! Watch this space!

We hope to welcome along lots of lovely residents to the Barrow Club for our sessions every Monday 2.30 – 4.30pm and we hope that those who come along will enjoy getting to know new people and with a little direction from us, feel empowered to make plans for adventurous creative events going forward. 


At Gilroyd we've been working with the local history group who are very keen to preserve the heritage and memory of the area by recording and sharing their stories about living on the estate.

Inspired by this, we are developing a large scale creative archiving project where we'll be capturing resident's stories in a variety of ways such as film, photography, audio recording, written word, poetry and performance. We are currently recruiting residents to share their stories, so please get in touch if you'd like to get involved. 

Watch this space for more exciting news on how we get on!

Thanks to our funders, Central Area Team and Arts Council England.

Monday 25 September 2023

Our Rookhow Residential!

We’re casting our mind back to late Summer when Green UPLIFT hit the road for our weekend residential at Rookhow!

Twelve excited UPLIFTER’s boarded the minibus and headed towards Ulveston in the Lake District where a 17th century Quaker Chapel with connecting bunk barn set in acres of forest would be home for the weekend.

Set in the most beautiful scenery and very much away from technology, Rookhow provided the perfect space to be off grid for relaxation and creativity.

On arrival, UPLIFTER’S explored the surroundings with walks around the forest, which features campfire areas and yurts. Followed by a big al fresco community meal, making the most of the lovely August weather. 

The following day UPLIFTER’S took a trip to Grizedale, enjoying the sculpture trail, with an evening of art. Using charcoal from the fire  and taking inspiration from the landscape around them, the group worked together on a huge joint charcoal drawing which reflected the different textures and shapes of the landscape. The final day saw a trip to Hawkshead where UPLIFTER’s ventured into a chapel and had some fun around a very unique organ before heading back for a yummy bonfire beans tea!

Sharing the same space for the weekend created a wonderful sense of community spirit, the weekend menu ensured that everyone cooked together and shared in the cooking with everyone chipping in and helping to tidy up. Games were played and lots of chats were had around the fire and over meals and walks, with plenty of opportunities to chill too.

Huge thanks to the Quakers for their generosity in in providing us with the space at a heavily discounted rate and their support for mental health projects and the work we do. 

The building itself is fascinating with so much history and has a very special feeling to it, it is a place that has obviously been very loved, and now loved by us too!    

Wednesday 6 September 2023

A Collection of our Rewilding Walks!

Some of the most popular UPLIFT’s on last year’s Green UPLIFT programme were the 'Rewilding the Mind' rambles with Poet, Winston Plowes. So, back by popular request, we secured Winston for a number of dates for yet more rewilding adventures!

Rewilding Walks are poetry rambles; they provide an opportunity to amble through our natural world to a backing track of poetry, spoken word, shared stories and tales.

As the person ‘leading’ these natural rambles, Winston says; 

At the heart of what we’re about is the fact that we ourselves are living things, we are from nature and so by getting to know nature better we might be getting to know ourselves better too.

Each new edition provides surprises and another chance to listen and learn from each other, to feel renewed by being together and surrounded by nature. We have our regular features of poetry, art and mystery objects themed to our location, but the sessions are driven by your stories and memories and your choices of which path to take.

There are highlights each month but I especially liked it when one participant said he had passed a particular spot many times but never really opened his eyes or when another participant said that it seems impossible to stand next to something so ancient, huge and alive like a tree without feeling a connection.

We learn the names of things, we laugh, we listen and even get a little lost sometimes, but wet or dry, we always finish happier than we were at the start.”

Rewilding the Mind is well into its second year now and UPLIFTER’s have ventured out with Winston ten times so far. Here’s a round up of the rewilding we’ve recently done on this year’s UPLIFT calendar:

Rewilding @ Wentworth castle gardens: 
Rain and Rhododendrons! 

As creative partners of Wentworth Castle Gardens we are lucky enough to have special access to the beautiful rooms of the estate including the Blackburn room where UPLIFTER’S met and shared a lovely meal together before going out and wondering around the Union Jack garden. 

UPLIFTER’s were in full admiration of the rhododendrons which were out in full force as well as taking in the stunning view from the Earls seat. All the while, Winston was regaling the group with titbits and poetry. A particular highlight being the poem, ‘In praise of Rain’ which Winston recited from the bridge as the rain came down!


Rewilding @ Cannon Hall: Tree's, Pie's and Canada Geese!

Our Rewilding UPLIFT at Cannon Hall started with homemade roasted vegetable pie shared in the shadow of the trees by the dear shelter.

On a full stomach we then wandered through the tree walk with the ancient trees and Winston shared some beautiful poems about the Sentinels of the Parkland. 

We came across the felled tree that has been sculpted by Jason Turpin Thompson, a sculptor who carves wood and other materials. We took some time to rest here and wrote some poems based on a piece that Winston had brought.

Finally we wandered down to bird island where the Canada geese were out on mass and Winston shared stories of the comings and goings of the mischievous Canada geese that visit him on his on his narrowboat home! Winston’s well known ‘bag of tricks’ revealed a goose whistle which we tried to see if we could speak to the geese – as you do! 

All in all, a very fun and lovely day!

Rewilding @ Yorkshire Sculpture Park: A Perfect Blend!

Our Rewilding UPLIFT at the Yorkshire sculpture park was a beautiful blend of art and nature.

We took a slow walk through the Parklands taking in the beautiful views and connecting with the work of Andy Goldsworthy, an artist famous for creating work with nature. Winston took a moment to focus on Andy Goldsworthy's shadow stone fold which is located in the sheep fold at the sculpture park as a permanent piece of sculpture. Winston explained how the shadow stone fold works – that is to lay for hours on the stone and then the rain, wind and possibly the snow and ice create a shadow of the warmth of your body. 

Following on from this we went to visit the exhibition of Leonardo Drew at the Chapel which can only be described as astounding! Thank you to the wonderful staff at the YSP who gave us our own private tour and talk about the piece, it was amazing! 

The day really captured everyone’s imagination and from the very first exhibition of the day, a piece based on the famous 1990's Brookside storyline where domestic abuser, Trevor Jordache is murdered and buried under the patio, conversation amongst UPLIFTER's really centered on, 'What is art?'

It was a day that featured very different artists, inspiring thought provoking conversation, with beautiful moments in nature, and was certainly enjoyed by all!

Rewilding at Bolton upon Dearne - Tiny Forest!

Bolton Upon Dearne is home to one of Earth Watch’s 200 Tiny Forests. These densely planted tennis court sized forests are much more than just trees. This amazing phenomenon reconnects people with nature, enhances wellbeing, helps mitigate the impacts of climate change and provides a nature-rich habitat to support urban wildlife. 

Meeting with BMBC community development worker Jenni, our rewilding event began with 
UPLIFTER’s helping to monitor the forest, this included measuring trees, testing soil and checking for beasties. Jenni explained that the forest grows quickly due to the intense competition for light and we were all impressed by the growth after only 2 years.

Our Rewilding Walk continued with Winston who introduced UPLIFTER’s to a threaded Hag Stone that inspired the sun, a pike poem by Ted Hughes, cheeky plant names (don’t ask!), a zig zag to the waters edge and a pineapple plant! Not to mention barbecue Pringles and a selection of hounds- from the fierce to the frail! What a jam packed, gorgeously green day! 

We've enjoyed such varied and wonderful days out 'Rewilding the Mind'. Big thanks to Winston for leading the rambles and to the adventurous and curious UPLIFTER's who've come along and got involved! We hope you've had lots of magical moments along the way!  

Monday 14 August 2023

Allotment Socials!

Did you know we use our allotment to host allotment socials?

Music amongst the Marrows! 

Our June allotment social began with a ukulele workshop which saw lots of UPLIFTER’s come along to use the multicoloured ukulele’s provided by the amazing Chris McShane who is just the most fantastic teacher and really puts the fun back into teaching! It was lots of giggles and lots of songs all in the theme of gardening and the weather!

Musician Ryan Lauder joined UPLIFTERS for more lovely sounds around the fire with lots of marshmallow action, lots of chip butties and even a little bit of gardening thrown in!

Berry Baskets! 

Of course we live in a country where we can never rely on the weather! Therefore our July allotment social sadly had to be moved indoors on account of the rain, however it didn’t stop UPLIFTER’s from enjoying a great social which involved a fabulous workshop with Karina from 'Whittle and Weave' who has been weaving baskets for over twenty years and has an astounding knowledge of all things Willow!

UPLIFTER’s learned that it's not easy to make a basket, it is in fact quite hard work! Strong hands are a must! It made for a real bonding experience amongst the group with blood sweat and tears going into the making of the baskets – quite literally – hands were cut and frustrations mounted, but it was totally worth it to see the finished articles! 

As the thundery forecast continued, the evenings music was also brought indoors where Craig and Luke from Undergroove entertained the crowds with funk, blues and rock music whilst pizza was being devoured! 

Never one to let the weather put us off, this alternative allotment social was far from a wash out!

With thanks to Barnsley YMCA for the generous use of their allotment, we look forward to lots of future fun on the patch!

Friday 28 July 2023

Garden Gathering!

They say a picture paints a thousand words so for this particular entry we're going to let the pictures do the talking as we got such fabulous snaps from our Garden Gathering Green UPLIFT at the Carer’s Garden back in May!

It was a lovely Spring day for this relaxed and creative event which saw UPLIFTER’S come together for a chilled afternoon of sketching, mosaic making, picnics and music. 

There were smiles on the faces of all involved as they created beautiful mosaics, laughter and chat was a plenty over picnics and sweet treats and there were some very special mindful moments with Rachel Howden Massey from 'Other Ways to Walk'. As the afternoon drew into early evening, UPLIFTER's enjoyed signing and dancing to the samba beats of Latin band, Armando.

‘Garden Gathering’ was an event in the diary to celebrate creativity and well-being week, a national initiative that raises awareness of the positive impact that creativity can have on our wellbeing. And it certainly hit the nail on both, with the Creative Recovery community knowing full well that the two-go hand in hand. With special thanks to the hidden gem that is the Carer's Garden for hosting, creativity and wellbeing was on full display!

Of the day, our friends from the Carer’s Garden said: 

"Awesome day with you marvellous lot! The garden is a place for communities to come together to nurture our souls in the beauty of nature.  With music, colour and a collective, we raised the vibration! Thank you all for being there."

"Thank you to everyone that made this day absolutely perfect." - UPLIFT Participant

"Look at all those wonderfully happy faces."
- UPLIFT Participant

This Green UPLIFT project was funded and supported by South Yorkshire's Community Foundation, Creative Minds, South Yorkshire integrated care system an NHS partnership, Barnsley Healthcare Federation.