By Brian Docherty

Words for Wellbeing Hastings is a local writing for wellbeing group that offers ‘the opportunity to discover ourselves, to get clear and motivated, and to connect with others in a safe, respectful and friendly environment.’

In the past, I have had doubts about the therapeutic potential of creative writing in group workshops; Words for Wellbeing has turned that view around, completely.

Nicky Torode & Felicity Stephen promote Words for Wellbeing at Hastings Library

Prior to recent experience, I knew that, for example, Survivors’ Poetry – an organisation founded by survivors of the mental health system, which puts on events by and for survivors – plays a vital role in some writers’ and others’ lives; Roy and Lucia Birch from Stevenage Survivors lead exemplary and inspiring writing workshops and I have taken part in several of their sessions with good results; however, other workshops had not inspired me. Even so, when hearing about Words for Wellbeing Hastings – and remembering Survivors – I showed up to see what might happen.

That was in September 2017, and I have been a regular participant ever since. These writing workshops are facilitated by Felicity Stephen and Nicky Torode; they are skilled and experienced practitioners, and their sessions are always well prepared and thoughtfully led; in my previous experience of others’ sessions, this has not always been the case for workshops that use the words ‘writing’ and ‘wellbeing’.  

As a grizzled veteran of poetry groups, and other writing groups, I have been impressed by the high quality of Words for Wellbeing Hastings’ sessions. Being part of this group has been good for me as a writer, and has provoked me into writing new and different work I would not otherwise have written. I believe that this has been the experience of the other writers who are part of the group. Here I should be clear: Words for Wellbeing is open to anyone who wishes to participate in expressing themselves through writing – the sessions are not primarily aimed at ‘writers’; the primary focus is to use words in a creative way that can have the potential to help nurture and sustain us.

Most importantly, Words for Wellbeing Hastings has supported and nourished my writing and creativity during a difficult period of my life, and I am grateful to Felicity and Nicky for this. During the time that I have attended the workshops, I have written a series of poems that have been an important vehicle for my beginning to express my heartfelt feelings in bereavement; Felicity and Nicky’s sessions have indeed provided a safe and supportive space in which to create and reflect upon my words and other participants are to be thanked, also, for their respectful responses.

As writers, perhaps especially as poets, we can be solitary creatures, and I believe we need support from fellow writers and audiences. As a poet, the quality of what is generated on the blank page in front of me, during our writing sessions, is important to me; writing that I have produced during Felicity and Nicky’s sessions has received positive feedback from my friends in Hastings’ Stanza Group, at Sheer Poetry in Hastings, and positive responses from audiences in Brighton and further afield – one of the reasons that I am happy to be a regular participant in Words for Wellbeing.

However, it’s not just about a ‘finished result’ or ‘excellence’; as I have said, the sessions are not only for poets or other writers but also very much for those who – in some cases – may never have put pen to page in expressive writing; there is much therapeutic potential in what is offered in the Words for Wellbeing workshops where expression is encouraged and respected through the written word and its sharing, without critique or judgement – this being the guiding principle – and with no pressure to share or read but only if participants wish to do so. 

Felicity and Nicky offer a safe and welcoming, non-competitive space to write and express oneself in a variety of forms (of individual choosing) and, best of all, their workshops are both local and affordable; in the words of some fellow participants: “A first step towards ‘unsticking’ myself and freeing my thoughts up to allow the future to flow!”, “Being kind to ourselves was a very pertinent theme for me this week… felt very powerful”, “returning to who I truly am”, “inspiring as always”, “cathartic, energising, supportive”, “always a creative afternoon”, and “starting to feel I am able to express myself more”.

Words for Wellbeing happens at the following locations:  Words for Wellbeing with Felicity, Tuesdays, 2-3.30pm, at the excellent Grand Rue de Pera cafe, Queens Road, Hastings; Start the Week, Mondays in St Leonards, please phone Nicky (number below) for new venue details; Words for Wellbeing, fortnightly, with Felicity and Nicky, Wednesdays (starting 27/2/19) 2.15-3.45pm at the Wellington Centre, Wellington Square. Come on down to one or all of these sessions and allow your words to refresh you.

n More workshops, at a variety of venues, are planned as the year progresses. For details about all of the sessions, contact: Felicity Stephen [email protected] or Nicky Torode 07938 734871.

We hope you have enjoyed reading this article. The future of our volunteer led, non-profit publication would be far more secure with the aid of a small donation. You can also support local journalism by becoming a friend of HIP. It only takes a minute and we would be very grateful.