NATURE loving writers in south Warwickshire have been putting pen to paper for the good of their health.
Inspired by the 400th anniversary year of Shakespeare’s First Folio, seven local writers have come together and created poems exploring the connection between nature and wellbeing.
Produced in collaboration between the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust (SBT), the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) and Lifeways Therapy Centre in Stratford, Tongues in Trees, a community focused project, explores the transformative power of nature and how green spaces can support wellbeing.
Taking inspiration from Shakespeare’s friends who came together to create the Folio 400 years ago, organisers explored the ways in which they can collaborate and connect with local communities within Stratford by reaching out to those who do not traditionally engage with the life, work and times of Shakespeare.
Organisers worked with a local creative writing group to explore how nature and writing can be supportive of positive wellbeing.
The group primarily worked in three green spaces in Stratford – Lifeways Therapy Centre, Shakespeare’s New Place, and the RSC’s Swan Gardens, drawing connections between the Forest of Arden in the RSC’s production of As You Like It and their own personal places of solace.
Through journaling workshops, they worked with a practitioner to create the poems, which centre on themes such as friendship, family, nature, and their own “seven ages” inspired by As You Like It.
The writers selected one poem each to recite and record, with the audio recordings now available to listen to on the SBT’s website.
To share this work wider with both the local community and visitors to Stratford, the SBT and the RSC commissioned Midlands-based artists, Pickle Illustration, to create three pieces of artwork responding to the poems and to promote the project around the town.
The artworks use a special QR code to direct visitors to the SBT website and are placed outside the Shakespeare Birthplace Shop on Henley Street, in the RCS’s Swan Gardens and Lifeways Therapy Centre.
Lucy Parrott runs holistic writing workshops on Thursday evenings at Lifeways Centre in Albany Road.
She said: “Members of the writing group are all from diverse backgrounds, ages and perspectives, which enhanced everyone’s personal journey. As the group was already an established ‘safe sharing space’ from previous work, this allowed us to courageously engage with raw and challenging themes. I feel really proud of everything the group wrote and achieved and would encourage people to have a listen to the poems.
“Collaborating with the SBT and RSC was an exciting project to be part of. They listened to the group’s vision, allowing us to shape the project’s outcome into something tangible for others to enjoy. This was important to us as it reflected the tangible nature of Shakespeare’s First Folio.’’
Both SBT and the RSC were pleased with the success of the project.
Jenny Shufflebotham of SBT, said: “I’m thrilled to have been part of this project as it invited new audiences to our spaces and created new pathways to Shakespeare, arts and culture.’’
Elizabeth Richards, of the RSC, added: “It has been such a positive experience to work closely with the SBT and Lifeways Therapy Centre to create meaningful change with local participants and find new, exciting perspectives on Shakespeare’s plays and places.”
For more information about Tongues in Trees and to listen to the poems, visit www.shakespeare.org.uk/explore-shakespeare/museum-from-home/art-and-exhibitions/tongues-in-trees/.