This piece was originally published on Spiralseed.

Earlier this month Graham Burnett joined a panel discussion with social historian Ken Worpole and Recovery College manager Jessica Russell as part of ‘A Place of Sanctuary: Essex as a landscape for mental health and well-being’, one of a series of ‘Radical Essex’ events themed around mental health and well being hosted by Focal point Gallery in Southend on Sea.

“With its many land settlements and self-sufficient communities, Essex in the early twentieth century provided an escape from the poverty and mental distress of the slums of East London. From retreats such as Greenwood in Stock, The Othona Community at Bradwell and the work at Runwell Hospital, Essex has long been a home for new approaches to mental health and well-being – a tradition which continues to this day in the work of Trustlinks, Spiralseed and others”.

This was a lively, wide-ranging and informative discussion with plenty of useful contributions from all sides, including the role of Permaculture in creating healing human and natural landscapes.

If you were unable to attend, a recording of the event is now online at Focal Point’s web site, have a listen…

Above are notes taken during the session by James Taylor, Essex-based permaculture teacher and author of the Dengie Bioregion blog, who has also reviewed the event here…

Panel Participants

Graham Burnett teaches permaculture and works with projects and organizations including Comic Relief, Capital Growth, Bioregional, Naturewise, OrganicLea, Birmingham Decoy, Trust Links, Green Adventure, the Vegan Organic Network, Thrive, Ars Terra (Los Angeles), and Ekosense Ecovillage (Croatia), as well as a number of Transition Town initiatives. In addition to cultivating his own garden and allotments, Graham contributes to publications as diverse as Positive News, The Sunday Times, Permaculture Magazine, Permaculture Activist, New Leaves, The Raven, Growing Green, Funky Raw, The Vegan, and The Idler

Jessica Russell is manager of the REACH South Essex Recovery College, a pilot initiative between statutory and voluntary mental health sector organisations and further education providers in Essex. Set up to improve the quality of life for people with living experience of mental health conditions, REACH provide people with information and tools to self-manage. They also aim to improve people’s lives by preventing, reducing and avoiding the use of secondary mental health services. REACH is hosted by Trust Links, a local independent charity for well-being and mental health based in South East Essex which offers therapeutic gardening, recovery classes, social activities, employment training and support to people living with mental health conditions and unpaid carers.

Ken Worpole is a writer and social historian, whose work includes many books on architecture, landscape and contemporary culture; and he is professor emeritus at London Metropolitan University. Recent publications include Modern Hospice Design (2009), The New English Landscape (with photographer James Orton, 2013), Contemporary Library Architecture (2013) and Radical Essex (2018).

Thanks to Hayley Dixon and all the team at Focal Point for hosting and organising this very worthwhile event.

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