In the garden

Photo Roswitha Chesher
Photo Roswitha Chesher

It wasn’t until after the invitation to speak at a symposium of open spaces and well-being, curated by the Garden Museum that I realised how much of our work at Entelechy has been in and around green spaces either working in hidden gardens or within the incursions of wilderness in the city. Roger Deakin reflected that it was no accident that in the comedies of Shakespeare, people go into the greenwood to grow, learn and change. He spoke of travel as a means of finding yourself, often, paradoxically, by getting lost.

Twenty-five years ago the Southwark & North Lewisham Health Authority challenged the fledgling Entelechy to work with the survivors of the old mental handicap asylums. We were tasked to help those exiled from the city to reconnect with the communities that they had formally been banished from.
It was a daunting task. The asylums had long since ceased to be places of asylum. The Victorian dream had been replaced by a brutal institutionalism.

In developing a new inclusive practice we were keen not to replace one institutional way of working with a parallel prescriptive methodology, however benign. People didn’t want to be shoe-horned into ‘workshop structures’. Wordsworth speaks of wilderness rich with liberty. Intuitively we found ourselves drawn to green spaces in order to find each other; to discover the possibilities of being together. We went for picnics in forests and parks. We played cricket, set up encampments under oaks with hampers full of dressing up clothes, lemonade and cheese sandwiches. We made dances in marshland in the intertidal zones of the river estuary. We just spent time together. And somehow the intelligence of these experiences stuck.

A quarter of a century later we continue to seek out opportunities to make incredible journeys. A couple of weeks ago Entelechy’s Creative Producer Rebecca Swift curated a beautiful dance event in and around the knot garden at the Garden Museum by the Thames in Lambeth. It was work commissioned by Siobhan Davies Dance as part of their Human-Nature programme that all year has been exploring the dynamics of the relationship between people and plants. From the moment of arrival after being greeted with ticketed nosegays of feverfew and camomile, participants were gently led through a multi-sensory mash-up between the formal and informal. It was an orchestrated garden of delights where Grandmothers footsteps delicately segued into the Lambeth Walk, into intricate knot dances. The air was full of the sound of plucked strings and gongs; there were cascading petals and the smell of crushed lavender and mint. Intricate planning allowed intricate possibilities.

Entelechy’s green wanderings continue

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