Backfilling The Blog

 

 

Book Launch 2014 8

On May 10th 2014 around 100 people gathered to celebrate the Past In Mind project and the launch of Kate Lack’s fascinating book: Past In Mind: A Heritage Project and Mental Health Recovery.

Whitbourne Village Hall was buzzing with excitement and anticipation as faces old and new filled up the room.

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Dash at book launchDash, my new guide dog, greeted people with his usual enthusiasm and helped everyone to feel at ease.

Book Launch 2014

It was very heartwarming to meet up with people we hadn’t seen since last year, and to hear their news.  Past In Mind became a very close-knit group and we all believed in the project so much that it has left a definite imprint on each of us.

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Book Launch 2014 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After some luxurious refreshments there were a few short presentations from a cross-section of people involved with the project.  True to the ethos of Past In Mind this included some thoughts from volunteers such as Chris, Mark, Malcolm and myself.

The book signings came next, and for many of us this meant exchanging autographs – a bit like at the end of your schooldays when you’re about to set off on new, personal adventures.

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It seems almost trivial to sum up the events of the afternoon, because what I really want to convey in this post is the electric atmosphere that purveyed the room.  There was an excitement tinged with sadness as this era of Past In Mind was about to draw to a close.  But rather than a full stop at the end of the line, there was and still is a bold question mark.  What?  Why?  Where?  Who?  When?  This particular project may have come to an end, but its spirit will never die.

 

Blog from the Bog started out as an experiment to capture snapshots of Past In Mind.  It morphed into a launchpad for ideas and a voice for volunteers and professionals.  It served as a notice board and reference.  It uncovered layers of Past In Mind and delved beneath the surface.  It yielded unexpected finds.  Now the time has come for the backfilling of the Blog.  This is not to say that Blog from the Bog will never re-emerge, but its current purpose has been fulfilled.  Just as we filled in the layers of soil after the excavation at Studmarsh, I need to fill in the layers of the Blog in order to leave it ready for another day.

Needless to say, writing this is making me very emotional.

 

Book Launch 2014 6I cannot finish this post without saying a heartfelt thank you to all my fellow volunteers, and to Kate, Ian, Chris and Dai for teaching me so much about myself and the world around me.  But most of all I want to thank Jenny who has surfed the waves of Past In Mind and risked drowning once or twice, but always managed to stay afloat in order to glimpse the next sunrise.

 

Finally, no backfilling would be complete without mentioning Fran, who loved the project and the Studmarsh field in 2012.  RIP Fran.

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Kate’s book (author name, Katherine Lack) is priced at £5.95 and is available from Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Past-Mind-Heritage-Project-Recovery/dp/0954621247/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1402360817&sr=1-1&keywords=past+in+mind+heritage+project

 

 

 

 

Lift Off! The Official Launch

As always when planning outside events, the British weather was doing its utmost to cause disruption right up until the morning of the launch.  Thankfully we were spared the wet stuff, which kept spirits very much alive throughout the day. 

The venue was Lower Brockhampton Estate just outside Bromyard, which is owned by the National Trust.  Brockhampton literally means “the farm of the dwellers by the brook”, and the 1680 acres of parkland, woodland and fields create a tremendous feeling of continuity.  This beautiful place has remained relatively unchanged for hundreds of years.  The first owners of the estate, the Brockhampton family (who took their name from the place) built the Norman chapel which now stands as a ruin in the grounds.  The manor, Lower Brockhampton House, was built in the 14th century by John Domulton, and although by modern standards it does not seem extravagant or luxurious, at the time of construction it was an ostentatious display of wealth and status.  Similarly the moat which once surrounded the manor was intended more as a status symbol than a defence. 

The Studmarsh site which we will be excavating is not far from the Brockhampton Estate and visiting it really helped me to connect with the location.  I was struck by its remoteness.  Even the National Trust ticket kiosk was a considerable distance from the manor.  As we trundled down the lengthy drive, I thought of the people who had made the same journey in previous centuries before the luxuries of cars and concrete paths.  Their world must have been a local world.  This time next year we may know more. 

For the project launch a huge tent had been erected to house the displays and information stands of the various Organisations supporting Past in Mind.  I thought it was impressive – but then I didn’t have the logistical headache of negotiating tent pegs, poles and limited time.  Once again I was pleasantly surprised by the high turn-out, and there were some new people in the group which was encouraging.  We began with a short talk by the Project Manager Jenny McMillan, who outlined the ethos of the project and the idea behind Past in Mind.  I still have to pinch myself every now and then to remind myself that only a few months ago we were waiting to see if Heritage Lottery would provide funding.

Ian Bapty the senior archaeologist gave a guided tour around the Brockhampton Estate.  It was a very useful exercise as it enabled us to get the feel of the area and to put the Studmarsh site into local context. I enjoyed simply standing still and absorbing the peaceful surroundings.  My Guide dog enjoyed sniffing the green grass and watching the ducks (mallards not eider ducks) out of the corner of her eye.

Obviously the main focus of this project is to carry out historical research and the excavation in August.  However alongside that we are aiming to eradicate the stigma surrounding mental illness.  I believe that an effective way to reduce and ultimately remove stigma is to talk about seemingly taboo subjects.  So often stigma arises out of fear and common misconceptions, so open discussion is a positive step forward.  Quite apart from anything else, sitting down and talking puts most people at ease.   One of the highlights of the launch event for me was a lively post-lunch discussion about mental health recovery in relation to the Past in Mind project. 

All the volunteers took part in the discussion regardless of their background.  It was fascinating to listen to the breadth of knowledge and experience expressed by so many different people.  Topics ranged from mental health recovery, perceptions of reality, Nature versus Nurture, history (including mental health in historical context), and archaeology.   There was an Olympic-style academic debate between the history and archaeology experts about their different approaches.  Game on!     

I felt really positive after this discussion and easily could have stayed for another hour. One of the things I like about the Past in Mind group is that everyone is very accepting of each other regardless of differing opinions (academic or otherwise).  It is a diverse group, but a united one.

A positive result for the launch was that many more volunteers signed up for the project and I can now declare Lift Off for Past in Mind.

 

The next important part of the project is the Studmarsh site survey which will take place from June 25th – June 30th.  Ian Bapty has provided details about how to get involved with this aspect of the project – please refer to his post, “Site Survey”.  As usual, anyone is welcome to join but please register as soon as possible as numbers are limited.