Survivor Poets on Songs of Praise

For the next three days you can see members of Leeds Survivors Poetry featuring in last Sunday’s Songs of Praise.

In its 20 year history Leeds Survivor Poets haven’t made TV very often. There was the Poetry World Cup in 1998 which merited a mention on Calendar. (We were runners up and got the Poetry Saucer, after I couldn’t find a rhyme for ‘orange’ in a poetry shoot out). But last Sunday we got a whole 3 minutes on Beeb 1 as they had a special programme from Leeds. They featured various Leeds religious folk and the things they get up, including Leeds Carnival, hip-hop, photography, and they followed the lovely Sue Matthews, one of LSP’s regular members, as she came to one of our workshops at the Civic Hall.


Here’s Sue at a previous workshop, and (below) at one of the group’s readings in Kirkgate Market a couple of years ago.


LSP continues to meet every first and third Friday evening at the Civic Hall, 5.45 to 7.45, next meeting on Friday 5th September.

Our bit of the Songs of Praise programme comes after 24 mins 30 seconds.


The Reality of Small Differences

Hope you make time to see the Reality of Small Differences  exhibition, of which Gill Crawshaw is a champion! follow on Twitter @Championwonder. Gill comments that the


“exhibition is also part of the current Arts Trail in Chapel Allerton (until Sunday 31st August) and is an exhibition of textile art by disabled artists (including people with mental health problems)”,


it is currently on display at

Inkwell and Union 105.

Gill adds

“This exhibition came about as a response to the fact that Grayson Perry’s popular tapestry series* is being shown in Leeds in a venue that’s inaccessible to many disabled people.”


You can see the Reality of Small Differences exhibition between

10-4 Tuesday – Saturday until Saturday 4th Oct. at Inkwell
and at

East Streets Arts: Union 105 (105 Chapeltown Road LS7 3HY) where it is open

Tuesday 26th – Thursday 28th Aug 12-6pm,

then by appointment the following week until Weds 3rd Sept.

* the Grayson Perry exhibition is currently here in Leeds until the 7th December. Five of Grayson’s six tapestries on display are only accessible by stair or stair climber but here are Temple Newsam’s details about accessibility.



Spirituality and Nature

Clarence House

Clarence House

A few weeks ago I attended a spiritual drumming class in the glade round the back of Clarence House. The class was very enjoyable and the setting led me to think about spirituality and nature.

“If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change.” – Buddha.

It is said the first Zen sermon was given by Buddha, silently. As he simply held a white flower in his hand, the onlooking monks bar one were confused at what Buddha was trying to communicate.  The monk who understood smiled. Zen gardens are intended to imitate the inner essence of nature, an aid to meditation on the meaning of life. Japanese researchers claim the subconscious mind is sensitive to a subtle association of between the rocks in these gardens.
Many cultures have ‘sacred groves.’  In Genesis, 21.33, it says,’Abraham planted a grove in Beersheba, and called there the name of God.’  In druidry, sacred groves are seen as places to reconnect with divine essence in nature. This is an example of animism, the belief that non-human entities like animals, plants, stones etc. contain a spiritual essence. In India, sacred groves are also used to protect biological resources, to provide sanctuaries for flora and fauna, especially medicinal herbs.  They are also used to provide oxygen and deep ground water reserves.

Clarence House

Clarence House


Sources and bodies of water are also considered sacred in many religions.  In the Hindu festivals Durga Puja and Ganseh Chaturthi, thousands of devotees immerse themselves in water to influence a deity.  Baptism is far from being just a Christian practice.  It is also practiced in Buddhism, Sikhism, Judaism, Islam, Baha’i, Shinto, Taoism and Rastafarianism.  Being in harmony with nature is central to Rastafarianism.  This is an African influence.  Traditionally, African religions embrace the ebb and tide, waxing and waning of the moon, rain and drought.  These phenomenas are seen as natural rhythms.  Perhaps these rhythms are expressed in African drumming, which can uplift the ‘spirit.’

Sufi poet Rumi often referred to nature – “raise your words, not voice.  It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder.”  Of God, Rumi wrote, “a mountain keeps an echo deep inside.  That’s how I hold your voice.”  To man, he said, “but listen to me.  For one moment quit being sad.  Hear blessings dropping their blossoms around you.”

Along with its gardens, poetry in Zen also reveres nature with its haikus, very short poems that capture a moment.  Zen paintings literally makes human beings look very small compared to nature.  This is sometimes seen as ‘nature mysticism,’ when man is held in awe by the divinity he sees in nature.

One famous Zen master by the name of Dogon Zenji said, “when we pick up a lettuce leaf or a carrot, or engage in relationships, each moment and interaction is the body of the Buddha.”  Perhaps this can be compared to one of Christ’s sayings in the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas, “cleave the wood, I am there; lift up the stone, and you shall find me there.”

By Daniel Tavet

Spiritual drumming

Rhythm section

Rhythm section

A nature and beer adventure led our trio on an unexpected, spiritual journey to sound health.

Our jaunt’s initial goal, on this hot summer morning, appeared straightforward enough…. to re-discover Houghley Gyll, LS13. A few false starts later, from our point of departure on Bramley’s main drag, we stumbled across the green snicket that is the Gyll. We sat there a while allowing the stillness and cool of its shady trees to replenish us. Feeling refreshed we mosied down via Amen Corner to Kirkstall. It is said that Amen Corner got it’s name from medieval times, it being the last point across the half-mile distance from Kirkstall Abbey, when the communal affirmations of the monks was still audible. Nowadays you’d do well to utter a silent prayer as you walk over it since there is only one very narrow footpath on the cramped u bend road bridge, the canal is a sheer drop from the bridge’s low rise stone wall.

We took heed of a Whyther Lane billboard’s admonition to ‘go fun yourself’, and went to a nearby riverside inn. On inquiring what snacks were available, we were informed there had been a rush on the smoked duck, and fancy cheeses. Plain sort of folk by nature we  content ourselves with much simpler fayre as accomapaniment to our pints, a bag of roast peanuts. We had the pub garden completely to ourselves, the river’s slow hypnotic eddy lulled us.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

An occasional train scuttled passed but did not drown out our discussions, which included whether or not psychiatric diagnosis was useful in the overall wellbeing of those so labelled.

Hollybush farm’s gable end was just visible above the shrubs. It triggered the story of it’s heyday as a rhubarb farm, when at early dawn it’s produce was bundled aboard a cargo train, which stopped nearby at the former station. The rhubarb, a highly valued  ‘fruit’, was destined for the Ritz Hotel, in London. Toffs seemingly liked their crumble, possibly after pheasant or smoked duck!

About to depart our separate ways, one among us, bound for a spirituality group drumming circle, invited we two ‘lost souls’ of LS13 to join them. People with mental and emotional sensitivities often find making spontaneous decisions hard, and also doing several activities in one day, taxing. This was true for all present, but on this occasion, bonhomie, the sun’s warmth, and possibly the effect of the beer led to the invite being enthusiastically pounced upon.

Arriving at the venue, Leeds MIND’s, Clarence House, we were ushered into it’s temple like glade or copse.

Since the centre’s inception many wishes for peace of mind have been uttered here, and these seem to linger, permeating it’s atmosphere of contemplation.

We joined a friendly group of around half a dozen other people. The facilitator, Marion, told us how she had came to drumming as a hobby more by coincidence than design. Marion also explained the origins and materials of the impressively tall ‘ethnic’ drums. In addition other percussion instruments were available for us to choose. To heighten the already existing spiritual intent and atmosphere, candles were lit, and incense passed so that we could smell which blend might best suit our mood. We chose Nag Champya, this was also lit. One regular member of the group explained Nag in India means snake. It’s easy to see why it has this name, because as the stick smoulders, its thin shaft of smoke slithers, then hangs heavily, motionless before ascending slowly toward the leaf dappled sky above in moksha. Nag Champya is a mix of sandalwood and frangipani, and has a chypre/sweet perfume which emits an overwhelmingly heady scent. It is often used in promote an out of body experience which enables those present to  be transported away from their material concerns.

Among the rhythms we played were Sufi and Ghanaian, we weren’t sure if the Sufi rhythms were what accompany the whirling dervish dances, but they were infectious. Since the rhythms were complex Marion broke the patterns into smaller  sections, as we mastered one we gradually progressed enough to also improvise, playing by ear and feeling. We were also encouraged to “give it some welly”,…. very therapeutic for pent up emotions. On this occasion the drumming rhythms helped to breakdown inhibitions. Drumming to invoke spiritual states of mind has a long history.

Despite  the enjoyment of the whole day, poignancy mingled with the spiritual awareness of some present, who found themselves remembering  former MIND members who had previously shared this space, even helping to plan the garden and pond, and who have since prematurely left ‘this mortal coil’. Thoughts especially of the Michael, the drummer of the former music group Sound Health.

The Leeds Mind, Sprituality group is part of the Wellbeing Service at Clarence House and is open to members of MIND. The group is held every Monday between 2-3.p.m. If you are interested, contact details can be found here

Daniel Tavet, and Sue Margaret




Herbal Remedies for Common Ailments

Healthy Sauce

Herbs have been used by specialists throughout history in treating numerous health conditions. Today, they are still a relevant source for treatment in many countries. In fact, there are some common pharmaceutical drugs we use regularly which are derived from plants. Being able to use natural herbs instead of over-the-counter medicines can be healthy and affordable.

Below are some of the common herbal remedies and the health conditions they help cure:



Rosemary is derived from the Latin word ros and marinus which means dew of the sea. This herb can be identified by its leaves, which have a needle like appearance as well as purple, white or pink flowers surrounding it. Rosemary has a bitter and astringent flavour when used as an ingredient.

Medical uses of rosemary

Rosemary is known to stimulate the body in producing Nerve Growth Factor. This works as an antidepressant effect where your mood, wellbeing…

View original post 134 more words

DIAMONDS – Diabetes and Mental Illness

Without doubt, lived experience of any mental health problem is challenging. Couple that experience with any additional medical or physical condition and you might expect treatment outcomes to be affected….they are! A startling example of this is in the case of people with diabetes who in addition have a psychiatric diagnosis.

Diabetes mellitus (DM) also known as simply diabetes, is a group of metabolic diseases in which there are high blood sugar levels over a prolonged period” (Wikipedia) and approximately 3.2million people are affected in UK

Evidence suggests that “diabetes is more than twice as prevalent and has poorer outcomes in people” diagnosed with “schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and severe depression than those without. “Although behavioural interventions have proved very effective in the general population, it is not known how effective such interventions are in people” with the aforementioned psychiatric diagnosis, to that end

“Dr Najma Siddiqi is working with colleagues as part of the NHS Yorkshire & Humber Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care (CLAHRC) on an exciting new research project to help people with both diabetes and SMI  (Serious Mental Illness) better manage their diabetes”.

In addition ……

DIAMONDS, .Diabetes and Mental Illness:Improving Outcomes and Treatments, Stake Holder Group.of Bradford NHS Trust……are asking for the help and support of people with lived experience of mental illness/diabetes, and/or their carers to take part in the following, on-line questionnaire survey

and possibly for their attendance initial consultation event to be held on

Thursday 4th September, 2014  11am – 1.00pm at

The Cellar Trust, The Old School, Farfield Road, Shipley BD18 4QP.

Tea and coffee will be served from 10.30 a.m. and lunch will be available after the meeting.

You can book on-line here

or contact if you would like to attend, or have any further questions.

DIAMONDS also suggest you might like to follow them on Twitter 

Poppy remembrance


White poppy

Earlier this year, at the Headingley Festival of Ideas, I attended a discussion between the Peace Pledge Union, and others who thought achieving peace might be an ideal to strive for, but however considering war was at times necessary to eradicate a greater evil.

Members of the  Peace Pledge Union choose to wear a  white poppy on Remembrance occasions. At times this choice to wear a white poppy alongside, or instead of the more traditional red poppy frequently means they face the ire of the mainstream.

Red poppy The money raised from the the sale of red poppies goes toward helping injured soldiers or the bereaved families of soldiers  killed in hostilities. Although pacifists might not have any objection to that, their symbolic wearing of a white poppy reflects their moral concern and desire to seek alternatives to war in the pursuance of peace.

This weekend and today has  seen many observations of the centenary of the start of World War I. Although I have committed to attend such an event with someone, I fear what conflicting emotion it might unleash for me. The discussion at Festival of ideas had already left me feeling out of my comfort zone. I’d been brought up by one parent not to engage in these kind of debates.

My parents were part of the second World War effort, my maternal grandfather was gassed in the trenches of World War 1. although he did return alive from the war he was never able to do a full time job again.  Prior to the war Granddad had been a master carpenter, upon his return he was not well enough for that. Claiming means tested benefits in those days was one humiliation he and other proud folk would not do.

Granddad later aligned himself with pacifists ideals on religious grounds as did my mum, choosing never to wear either a red or white poppy on remembrance occasions. Mum had been in the Women’s Land Army during the war, doing the farm jobs normally done by the men who had gone to war, while there she became friends  with conscientious objectors who also were set to land labor if not imprisoned.

Prisoners of war were also put to work in this way, inevitably fraternization with the ‘enemy’ was common. I was nearly half Italian,  Mum always described those days as the happiest of her life, she was 20 and remained life long friends with her fellow land army girls, and me in turn with their children….. but not with the Italian!

Su's Ma in Land Army

During world War 1 some objectors were tied to canons as punishment, deserters were frequently shot….very emotive issues. and ones on which I’d dislike to deliberate appropriate ‘punishment’, thankfully times and attitudes change.

What becomes apparent during war time is that apart from its immediate affects, with its casualties and atrocities, there will long remain the emotional and mental scars which are not only inflicted on soldiers but on their families.

I have little doubt that the world at war since 1914 was  a major factor in my family’s often times poor emotional and mental responses. I know very little about the  biochemical explanations for mental illness but intrinsically I find them an inadequate explanation, they don’t ring true to my experience or to those of other people of my acquaintance so labelled.


Thoughts ripple through the path

It might as well be the entrance to C.S. Lewis’ Narnia or J.M. Barrie’s Neverland, given the lamp-post that obscures the view.


The path of thoughts meanders, one a to another, as gently as the sea that I observe.

I take a breath of summer seasoning.                                                                                 My eyes and mind switched on, to the view. I turn away and I question if it really does exist. The night’s a box of hidden photos; so intense are the images that come to mind as I take in the sheer vastness of sea, sky, and clouds. I also have the notion that it’s like the night’s dark sky is coffee for thought.

I see my reflection in the glass, looking outwards towards the sea whilst I wait for my food order. It’s the first time I’ve seen myself so pensive.


Twice I breathe, at the implausibility of one pool existing for- I’m not sure
Television series reach omega. Events happen and the reach their conclusion. Yet in that time the same water swings back and forth, dripping with Atlantis’ ancestry.

Pebbled towers on the stadium-like harbour that surrounds the sea, erode until after generations the sands will write on windscreens ‘they stayed here’. Birds will dint the night. Nocturnal being will wonder into humanity – for one second.


Who knows how many times all this will happen to those random passers-by. Before once again they spring back to the Ancient Greek ‘Polis’ (country), a place where one feels most at home.

By A

*This blog is inspired by a recent visit I took to a coastal town. If one is of the opinion that they would like to take time to go to the sea, and if opportunities allow, a day by the beach in my view is a day well spent.


image 1 – Anocheciendo en Costa Adeje – José Luis Antúnez                                                      (accessed 2.8.2014)

image 2 – Sunset at Costa Adeje, South of Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain – Manu766               (accessed 2.8.2014)

image 3 – My wife enjoying the sea at Costa Adeje, Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain        Manu766 (accessed 2.8.2014)