Radical Herb Gathering Programme 2015

This year we will carry on weaving four strands of ideas together: Radical Approaches to Health, Sustainability and Ecological Justice, Health and Social Justice and Herbal Medicine in Practise. The workshops are listed under the appropriate strands.

See below the timetable for descriptions of all the workshops.

Please arrive Thursday evening to ensure you are able to attend the opening plenary on Friday morning where we will outline the ideas behind this year’s gathering. 


6.30pm DINNER
Evening 8pm Film screening: Herbal Aide
Yoga 8-9
10am-12noon Opening plenary
We look forward to this  important space where there’ll be an introduction from some of the organising collective as well as different speakers to the key ideas framing and informing the gathering.  See you all there for this essential opening session!!
12-1.30pm LUNCH
1.30-3.30 Psycho-emotional and mental health – creating progressive frameworks for herbal medicine with Melissa Ronaldson and Lisa Fannen Herbal CSAs and community herb growing Capitalism, Inequality and Health with Jane Acton, Alison McNeill (aka Bob) and Heather Ware.
3.30-4pm BREAK
4-5.30pm Disability Rights – welfare cuts & impacts on the health of disabled people with Sophie Partridge and Julie Cleves Botany, plant ID and endangered species with John Handley Politics of prison and prison abolition with Empty Cages Collective & guests Magical Herbalism with Elizabeth Brooke (3 hrs, 4-7pm) limited to 20 people
Evening  Storytelling for kids and adults with Christopher Hedley
Further Evening Herbal Jeopardy for everyone!!! Nathan Hughes Guided meditation (20 people) Screening of two fims: In the Light of Reverence and Crooked Beauty
Hail seizures folk/punk!
Yoga 8-9
10am-12.30pm Getting to the roots of psychological-social-structural ill-health with Cathy McCormack. Medical Astrology with Elizabeth Brooke. Cancer choices and stories’ with Francis Wright, Caro and Dee.
12.30-2pm LUNCH
2-4pm Seeds of inspiration with Karen Lawton and Fiona Heckels Community health projects  – lots of different grassroots health/herbal projects Exploring gender and gender queering – alternative perspectives with Vishwam Jamie Heckert, Chryssy D Hunter and bloo (clare cochrane). Magical Herbalism repeated from Friday afternoon (limited to 20 people) 3hrs 1.30-4.30
4-4.30pm BREAK
4.30-6pm Living with sensitivity with Rufus May and Elizabeth Svanholmer Looking at Power, White Privilege and Cultural appropriation with Pilar Lopez Intro to plant constituents with Dedj Liebbrandt
Herb walk with Christopher Hedley and a decentralised ‘no-leader’ herb walk running concurrently for an hour.
6-7pm DINNER
Evening Open Mic!! Sound bath with Caro Mugwort song with Nathan Hughes at the campfire
DJing & Dancin!
Yoga 8-9
10am-12noon Dialoguing with our different voices with Elizabeth Svanholmer  and Rufus May Community organising with Jose Barco The Role of Medicinal plants and Medicinal Plant Gardens in Eastern and Southern Africa with Lucie Bradley
12noon-1.30pm LUNCH
1.30-3pm Stories plants tell… with Christopher Hedley ‘Beauty in diversity’ – Alternative pathways to practising and trainings in herbalism with Nathan Hughes, Natalie Chidley, Therri Hood, Lucinda Warner, Karen Lawton and Fi Heckels. Breast cancer & the environment with Tammy and Grazia Health at every size with Isy Schultz and Emily Graves
3-4pm Closing Plenary

Yoga 8-9am daily class with Vishwam Jamie Heckert

Radical Approaches to Health

Getting to the roots of psychological-social-structural ill-health with Cathy McCormack

The workshop will allow people time to ask questions and then explore the root cause of the systematic ways in which our social, political, economic and cultural practise combine to cause early and avoidable death, harm, disadvantage, fear, insecurity, and victim blaming, particularly over the past thirty years.

Cathy is a long-term campaigner on poverty, housing, health and climate-change and her writings and broadcast have received international acclaim. She lives in Glasgow in one of Europes largest post-war working class housing schemes. Her auto biography The Wee Yellow Butterfly is a local-global story providing a critical analysis of the world war against the poor and working class.

Psycho-emotional and mental health – creating progressive frameworks for herbal medicine with Melissa Ronaldson and Lisa Fannen.

This workshop will look at some of the politics and history around what gets called ‘mental health’ and share some experiences & open conversation about what it might mean to foster progressive frameworks, solidarity and support in herbal medicine.

Dialoguing with our different voices with Rufus May

This workshop will explore different ways we can become more aware of different parts of ourselves. This voice dialogue approach can be useful for understanding and negotiating conflicts beween different parts of ourselves and with others. There will be a chance to try out an exercise where we can ask parts of ourselves questions.

Rufus May has worked as a psychologist for 18 years and also organises retreats and training around holistic approaches to mental health. He has an interest in promoting more hopeful and enabling approaches to psychosis and other extreme states of mind. This includes mindfulness, group work, body work & communication skills. His interests are originally rooted in his own experiences of confusion, psychiatry and recovery.

Living with sensitivity with Elisabeth Svanholmer

Sensitivity means the ability to sense things, such as sights, sounds, other peoples feelings and energies. When we are highly sensitive we notice things others don’t and we are more strongly affected by things. This doesn’t have to be a problem we just need to learn to look after this ability. Some people who are highly sensitive may be told they are mentally ill, looking at them as highly sensitive is another way of approaching things. The workshop hopes to look at: identifying our particular sensitivities, rethinking vulnerability and discovering it’s strengths and possibilities, ways to look after our sensitivity and overwhelm, links between sensitivity, hearing voices, and other powerful experiences and ways to navigate insensitive situations. This workshop is for anyone interested in understanding highly sensitive people and thinking about our own sensitivities.

Elisabeth Svanholmer has worked as a trainer of the Danish Hearing Voices Network for 7 years and has an interest in bodywork and relational approaches to healing.

Health at Every Size with Isy Schulz and Emily Graves

A dominant image of the failure of Western society is that we are increasingly sedentary and lazy, eat low quality food, and are therefore getting fatter and unhealthier. Meanwhile we have a persuasive and unrealistic thin ideal, dieting is a mass industry full of false promises, and unhealthy relationships to food and our bodies are commonplace.

What are the implications of obesity on health? What are the effects of the pursuit of weight loss? What are the effects of weight stigmatisation in society and particularly the links to class and privilege? How do we reintroduce people and their struggles into a discourse that is based on shaming and judgement?

Isy has a degree in nutrition and is an enthusiastic vegan cook and teacher, and advocate of ‘Health at Every Size’. Emily Graves is a fat activist, and a trainee midwife within the NHS. She is a “Health at Every Size” enthusiast in both her professional practice and her own life.

Cancer choices and stories with Francis Wright, Caro and Dee

This workshop is an opportunity for people to hear the stories of people living with cancer, and the different choices they have made regarding treatment, reflecting that there is no one right way.

Sustainability and Ecological Justice

Herbal CSAs and community herb growing with Nicole Vosper, Amiee & Frank Gundry

Speakers from a variety of Herbal Growing projects will provide insight into how different growing schemes work. Focusing on Community involvement, Opportunities, Produce, Labor and Economics experiences from a diverse range of herb growers will provide inspiration to those interested in growing herbs and starting projects of their own.

Speakers include Amiee from Organiclea and Nicole Vosper from Wildheart Permaculture and Frank Gundry from Yorkely Court Farm.

Seeds of Inspiration with Fiona Heckels & Karen Lawton

The Wild and Wicked Witches have grown into the Seed SistA’s with a focus on Seed politics and Food sovereignty. This years workshop shall be run as a ritual, using our innate sensory perceptions to connect with 3 seeds used a lot in our herbal practice and meet these individual plants: Oats, Angelica and Fennel. We shall be looking at how we can use seeds to elicit change and where our individual power lies, within the politics of Food and Medicine today.

Fiona Heckels and Karen Lawton are teachers and herbalists with over twenty years of clinical experience. They run workshops, ceremonies and apprenticeships through Sensory Solutions, their educational community-interest company.

Breast cancer and the Environment with Tammy Otto & Grazia

There is a growing body of evidence that breast cancer is linked to carcinogens in our environment that are getting into the food we eat,  the water we drink, the air we breathe and ultimately our bodies. This workshop will give an overview of breast cancer and the environment and also what we, a small grassroots group are doing about it, and what you can do about it.

Tammy and Grazia are from Brighton Breast Cancer Action, a grassroots, feminist group aiming to take part in the critical debate on the social, economical and cultural issues related to breast cancer.

The Role of Medicinal plants and Medicinal Plant Gardens in Eastern and Southern Africa with Lucie Bradley

Whilst 95%of people globally still depend upon natural medicines as their first line of medical intervention, there is still a huge gap between people having a reliable and cheap form of medicine at the level of individual households and communities in the developing world. There are still a shocking number of deaths from simple preventable ailments, for example childhood diarrhoea and malaria. The problem is not just a lack of access to affordable, effective and reliable medicines but an ecological one (hygiene, sanitation and access to clean water).

For the past 6 years Lucie Bradley has been working in Eastern and Southern African countries in local communities with International Development organisations to promote, teach and learn about the use of herbal medicines and the establishment of medicinal plant gardens for self-sufficiency. Lucie will be talking about the role of medicinal plants, and medicinal plant gardens in systems for self-sufficiency in Eastern and Southern Africa.

Botany, plant ID and endangered species with John Handley

A practical exploration of four of the most common plant families in Britain. Explaining floral formulae and floral diagrams the aim will be to help everybody look at common plants in a different way. Focusing on developing the skills of observation, the workshop will help us appreciate the inherent beauty of the plant, as well as understanding the importance of providing the plant with a label that helps us share our knowledge. It will include a brief look at what constitutes protected species and threats from non-native species and pathogens.


Social and Health Justice

Capitalism, Inequality and Health with Jane Acton, Alison McNeill (aka Bob) and Heather Ware.
In this session we will look at the meanings, structural nature and health implications of wealth inequality in the UK today alongside exploration of solutions, ideas and models for accessible herbal medicine and other holistic health care.

Jane Acton has practised herbal medicine since 1983 mostly with friends and family when she was a single mum on benefits. She qualified as an ethnobotanist in 1999 and conducted research about how people are using plants for medicines and sharing the knowledge with Welsh speaking women on Anglesey and travelled with her daughter to High Andes to research for a Quechuan speaking women’s farming co-operative. She was a founder member of what is now called West Cornwall Women’s Aid and a SureStart Programme Manager. See www.natureworkshops.co.uk for more information of what she does now.’

Community Health Projects with Lorna Mauney-Brodeck, Eleni, Dedj Liebbrandt, Zoe Naylor, Zoe Blackwell, Danielle Kay and Edwina Hodkinson, Helen Kearney, Eleanor, Becs Griffiths and Annwen Jones.

This workshop is intended to highlight various different community herb and health projects from the USA, Greece and the UK. We will look at the reasons behind setting up the projects, how they are organised, and what can be learnt from each one.

Lorna Mauney-Brodeck is involved in two free clinics in Atlanta, USA: the Herb Bus which is a free mobile herbal clinic and the Harriet Tubman Foot Clinic for the homeless of Atlanta.

Eleni is from The Social Space for Health which is a grassroots community project in Athens striving to create an inclusive, integrative, free for all space far from the exclusive, bureaucratic “health as a commodity” approach. A space where the specialised knowledge of health practitioners will interact with the opinion and intuition of patients regarding their body and life; an interaction that won’t be based on power relationships but on an ongoing quest for balance.

Dedj Liebbrandt has over 20 years experience running an acute herbal medicine clinic at festivals throughout the UK, and has taught many herbalists from this invaluable experience.

Zoe Naylor, Zoe Blackwell, Danielle Kay and Edwina Hodkinson set up the Barton Moss Herbal Clinic, which is a free clinic that visits anti-fracking sites offering herbal support.

Eleanor, Annwen and Becs founded St Werburghs Medicine Garden a community herb garden in Bristol that has been growing and developing over the last three years.

Disability Rights – welfare cuts & impacts on the health of disabled people with Sophie Partridge & Julie Cleves

Austerity and a raft of cuts to disability welfare support in the UK over recent years have targeted the most vulnerable people in our society: 20% cuts in benefits for disabled people & the poorest (£18 billion), with disabled people, representing 8% of the population, bearing 29% of all cuts. Changes like closure of the Independent Living Fund pose serious threats to people with disabilities living independently and potentially being institutionalised, with resulting destructive impacts on health, exacerbation of social inequalities and increased pressure on the health service. Is this a healthy society?

Sophie and Julie are artists who have been involved in the campaign against the ILF closure and other disability rights struggles. They will talk about the background to the cuts, the current situation around disability welfare, their personal experiences of protest and health equality, and how we can support each other in this struggle.

The politics of prison and prison abolition with Empty Cages Collective & guests

A look at the Prison industrial complex, at alternatives to prison and what a society would look like where prisons are obsolete. Also information about campaigns against current UK prison expansion.

Exploring gender and gender queering – alternative perspectives with Vishwam Jamie Heckert, Chryssy D Hunter and bloo (clare cochrane).

A look at how we make sense of gender, how it can be constructed, and the wide spectrum of gender experiences that can be our diverse realities, with an outlining of understandings of what trans* can mean for individuals in terms of their identities. The workshop hopes to create a safe space to explore how gender can be lived and what the language is that can get used around it – both in relation to us as human beings and also to the non human world – what does it mean for example if we feel a plant/herb has ‘male’ or ‘female’ energy?

Looking at Power, White Privilege and Cultural appropriation  with Pilar Lopez

This space aims to bring awareness and insight around these forms of oppression and provide tools to challenge them in ourselves and others; it also aims to encourage white folk: to engage in further getting together to discuss, deepen our understanding and educate ourselves around these issues; to engage in positive action to build alliances with people and communities of color; and to participate in building truly inclusive and equal spaces and  projects.

The workshop will end by looking and discussing specific issues of cultural appropriation in relation to the study and use of different herbal traditions and to ways of allying with indigenous self determination. We’ll strive to create a safer space of learning and discussion for everyone, bring your best compassionate self and your yearning for equality and justice, see you there!

An Introduction to Community Organising with Jose Barco

-What is Community Organising, the principles and practice
-Understanding power and power mapping
-Listening exercises
-Moving people into action

This workshop is intended to give you a grounding in community organising and to understand how this approach is important when you develop community health/growing projects so that the project is a reflection of the needs and desires of your community or the community you are working in. This is different from a top/down approach where a project is initiated without reflecting wih people who might get involved or be affected by the project.

This workshop is facilitated by Jose Barco, an active and experienced community organiser working in Bristol.

Herbal Medicine in Practise

‘Beauty in diversity’ – Alternative pathways to practising and trainings in herbalism

This will be a discussion space about alternative practises, approaches and trainings in the UK with Nathan Hughes from the School of Intuitive Herbalism, Therri Hood, Nathalie Chidley & Lucinda Warner from The Herbarium and Karen Lawton & Fiona Heckels from Sensory Solutions.

Medical astrology with Elisabeth Brooke

Within the Western Herbal Tradition (European) there was an integrated system of diagnosis and treatment using a form of Astrology called Decumbiture. Each herb was allotted a ruling planet, as were the systems of the body and illnesses, working within the framework of the humoral system. This talk will look at how using astrology for diagnosis and treatment opens out our herbal tool-kit and gives our diagnoses and treatment clarity and finesse, while using the phases of the moon connects us to larger cycles and our environment.

No previous knowledge of astrology required. I shall discuss general principles and give some case histories.

Magical herbalism with Elisabeth Brooke

Learn to work energetically with herbs. Using guided meditation and intuitive skills focus in on individual herbs to discover their physical, emotional and psychic/spiritual uses. Within a safe, supportive environment we will work in a group and in pairs to get a deeper understanding of common herbs. No prior knowledge needed/assumed – just an open mind. Workshops space limited to 20 participants.

Introduction to plant constituents with Dedj Liebbrandt

Want to know what a saponin, flavanoid, or bitter principle is? With over 20 years experience as a herbalist Dedj will explain the basics of plant constituents and how useful this is in determining how to use them.

Stories plants tell… with the wonderful Christopher Hedley

The relationship between plants and people is an ancient and ever evolving one. Each plant has its story to tell. Christopher will explore these stories using the herb Mugwort as an example, starting with ancient Greek traditions and continuing to present day research and practitioner experience. Contributions are welcome – you are the people who will take the story on!

Chistopher Hedley is one of the most experienced herbalists in the UK. He always brings a unique and mind expanding perspective to his teachings.

Children’s Workshops

A leap in the dark with Carrie

Story-telling through a shadow-puppet show. Make and manipulate 2D puppets, inspired by natural surroundings at Crabapple.

Gather herbs and make potions; become a witch or wizard, and create a spell with Holly

Using the beautiful setting of Crab Apple Community, children attending the gathering can participate in two fun and supported workshops. They will be free flowing, imaginative and will offer the opportunity to make both an enchanting spell and an edible potion to take home.

Clay Creations

Work with your hands to create something from your imagination within the theme of enchanted forest. Or bring with you your favorite plant to impress into clay and make a little pinch pot.


Saturday Sound Bath with Caro

The universe in one note. Co-create a healing space with your voice – learn how to hone your pitching and toning, some powerful intervals and their therapeutic uses and maybe a brief introduction to the lydian mode.

Bring your favourite herb and be prepared to sing.

Thursday and Friday Film screenings:

Herbal Aide The Herbal Aide documentary features herbalists who are using their passion for plants as a tool to support their communities. The film features many well known herbal activists doing non-profit work, disaster relief, community clinics and more. Herbal Aide is a non-profit based organization founded to document, inspire and fund grassroots herbal projects/businesses that are working towards creating positive, sustainable social change.

In Light of Reverence. (73 mins) Documentary about land and cultural theft & appropriation in contemporary North America.

Crooked Beauty. (34 mins) Documentary about a founding member of the Icarus Project – a profound and poetic meditation on politics, creativity, distress and expanded consciousness.