Today, The Restoration Trust has received £53,400 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for Human Henge, a partnership with English Heritage, Richmond Fellowship and Bournemouth University supported by Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust. The project is also part funded by Wiltshire Council Amesbury Area Board (£2,224) and English Heritage (£3,000).
Based at Stonehenge, Human Henge engages disadvantaged people living in Wiltshire in a therapeutic sensory experience of the World Heritage Site. Over ten weekly three-hour sessions two groups walk the landscape with archaeologist Professor Timothy Darvill OBE and other experts. Their journey ends with a ceremony inside the Stone Circle, near the Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox, collaborating with musician Chartwell Dutiro. Drawing on recent ideas that Stonehenge was a place of healing, as they walk in the steps of others before them our participants contribute a new layer to the multiple understandings of this enigma. Human ends in June 2018. It includes exhibitions, conferences and research examining whether a creative exploration of historic landscapes achieves sustained measurable health and wellbeing outcomes for people with mental health conditions.
Human Henge enables 32 local people living on low income with mental health problems plus carers and volunteers to experience Stonehenge with expert guidance. They create an epic poem and ceremony that affirms the abiding connection between people, place and the past. Exhibitions at Amesbury Library, Salisbury Museum Festival of Archaeology and Bournemouth University, and proposed presentations at Theoretical Archaeology Group conference 2017, Culture, Health and Wellbeing international conference 2017 and an international Archaeology and Wellbeing conference 2018 share learning with the public and professionals. A website and social media link to partners’ websites, reaching a wide audience. Interdisciplinary evaluation and research evidences this pilot project’s heritage, community and health outcomes.
Stonehenge is the most architecturally sophisticated prehistoric stone circle in the world and, with its associated landscape and related monuments, demonstrates Neolithic and Bronze Age ceremonial practices between 3,700 and 1,600 BC. Stonehenge and its landscape are precious to visitors from around the world (more than 1,350,000 p.a.); to scholars as a unique and still incompletely understood site; and to people seeking inspiration as an ancient and magnificent ceremonial centre and burial place. Stonehenge and 6,500 acres of surrounding landscape are inscribed as a World Heritage Site (WHS). The Stone Circle and most monuments within the landscape are Scheduled Ancient Monuments. Parts of the landscape are Sites of Special Scientific Interest. The WHS includes parts of Amesbury and Larkhill, plus several villages. Two output areas in the Amesbury Community Area are amongst the 30% most deprived in England. Amesbury East is the most deprived OA in Wiltshire. Rural deprivation in the area contributes to isolation and poor mental health.
Commenting on the award, Laura Drysdale, Director of the Restoration Trust, said: “We are thrilled that the Heritage Lottery Fund has supported Human Henge, a brilliant opportunity for people living with mental health conditions to connect with one of the greatest prehistoric monuments in the world. Stonehenge is an incredible site, so it’s great that Human Henge helps Richmond Fellowship clients in Wiltshire overcome barriers to access and share that adventure with the wider public.’
Nerys Watts, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund South West said: “We are so pleased to be part of this exciting project which will add to the quality of life of those taking part now and enable us to understand further the health benefits of engaging with heritage into the future.”