Historic Landscapes and Mental Well-being Conference
Friday 13 April 2018
10:00 – 17:00
Fusion Building, Bournemouth University,
Talbot Campus, Bournemouth, Dorset BH12 5BB

Using historic landscapes and heritage resources of various kinds to promote well-being represents one of the most significant advances in archaeological resource management for many years. Its potential contribution to health-care and wellness initiatives is boundless. Prompted by the ongoing HLF-funded Human Henge project, this conference provides an opportunity to hear about this and work going on across the country and at many different scales, share experiences, and to discuss the outcomes, implications, and theoretical underpinnings of heritage-based well-being projects


Dr Sara Lunt and Professor Timothy Darvill
Welcome and introduction

Liz Ellis and Alice Kershaw (Heritage Lottery Fund)
Mental wellbeing and historic landscapes: The heritage context

Dr Toby Sutcliffe (Avon and Wiltshire mental Health Partnership NHS Trust)
Therapeutic landscapes past and present: The mental health context

Laura Drysdale and Sara Lunt (Restoration Trust)
Walking with intent in ancient landscapes

The Restoration Trust supports people to engage with heritage, art and culture so that their mental health improves. This paper will review our current projects in the historic landscape, including Human Henge and Burgh Castle Alamanac, and will place them in the context of contemporary culture, health and well-being practice. It will attempt to describe what is distinctively therapeutic about facilitated group experiences that combine learning, creativity, and walking in historic landscapes.

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Professor Timothy Darvill and Yvette Staelens (Bournemouth University)
Monuments for life: Human Henge at Stonehenge and Avebury

Using cultural heritage as a platform for promoting health and well-being has a long history and great potential. Many approaches have been tried. Human Henge is not an archaeological project with opportunities for wide-ranging participation, but a bespoke immersive programme of mainly outdoor adventuring focused at and around prehistoric sites within landscapes rich in cultural heritage. Here we set the context for the activities undertaken, outline the programme and its diversity, and illustrate its achievements in words and music from participants who took part in the programmes at Stonehenge and Avebury in 2017 and 2018.

Dr Vanessa Heaslip (Bournemouth University)
Human Henge: Impact of Neolithic healing landscapes in mental health and wellbeing

Throughout history there have been links between mental illness, the environment and cultural landscapes in aiding recovery in patients. However, as clinically-based approaches to mental health gained popularity then the focus on environment and landscape as therapeutic tools declined. Recently there has been a re-emergence of interest in the benefits of cultural landscapes and historical artefacts on mental health and well-being, yet the empirical examination as to the health benefits of these interventions to date have been limited.

This paper reports upon a collaborative project (Human Henge) funded by Heritage Lottery, in which 36 people living with mental illness were involved in an innovative, creative programme over ten weeks at the Neolithic sites of Stonehenge and Avebury in Wiltshire. The impact of the project on mental health and well-being was evaluated using mixed method research consisting of a quantitative survey (incorporating the Warwick Edinburgh Mental Well-being Scale) over four occasions (beginning, mid, end and one year post project), as well as qualitative methods (creative activity, personal reflection and focus groups (at the end and 1 year post project). Data analysis consisted of inferential statistics using SPSS and thematic analysis. This paper shall present the findings from the qualitative and quantitative analysis highlighting how a creative exploration of historic landscape can achieve measurable mental health and well-being outcomes for people with mental health conditions.

Martin Allfrey and Briony Clifton (English Heritage and National Trust)
Past Perceptions: People changing places changing people

English Heritage Trust and the National Trust have supported and facilitated Human Henge throughout the pilot projects. The English Heritage Trust (EHT) took over responsible for Stonehenge in 2015. Inspiration, conservation, and involvement are core ambitions in relation to the management of the site, and of EHT properties more generally. Here we paper consider what Human Henge means for EHT as an organisation, how they reacted to the idea of Human Henge at Stonehenge, and how the programme contributes to the organization’s overarching ambitions. Since its inception over 100 years ago, the National Trust has acknowledged the importance of the places that it cares for and their influence on well-being. While supporting Human Henge at Avebury we strove to find the balance between the desire to support a smooth-running and beneficial programme for the participants, and the complexities we face as a busy, sensitive site within a globally important landscape. Through welcoming Human Henge to Avebury, we hope to have made a positive impact through creating a safe and welcoming environment for the participants to contemplate and share this incredible landscape.

Claire Nolan (University of Reading)
Transitional spaces: The prehistoric landscape as facilitating environment

No discipline has explored the relationship between heritage and well-being more extensively than the field of museum studies, especially in terms of the therapeutic value of heritage object-handling. Consequently, museum research has generated a rich and sophisticated body of theory which demonstrates the capacity of cultural heritage objects to help individuals develop self-identity and experience a sense of cultural inclusion. This impact is frequently attributed to the influence of, what is known in psychoanalytic terms as, ‘transitional space’; the meaningful cultural experience which occurs in the interaction between the self and aspects of environment (i.e. people, objects, places) that are felt to be particularly resonant and nurturing (Winnicott 1999). Transitional space can thus be seen as a type of heterotopic field or reality that arises through the relationship between subject and object, where the individual can safely, freely and creatively explore the self. In turn, this process creates the potential for the development of self-knowledge, new insights and personal transformation.
This paper considers the concept of transitional space in relation to the historic environment. Drawing on qualitative research recently undertaken at the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site and the Vale of Pewsey in Wiltshire, it looks at how the age, form, agencies and narratives of prehistoric landscapes serve to create a facilitating environment where individuals can find respite, healing and renewal.

Winnicott, D W, 1999. Playing and Reality. London and New York: Routledge.

Dr Ellie Williams and Dr Lesley Hardy (Canterbury Christ Church University
‘The People Before Us’: Exploring heritage and wellbeing in coastal Kent

At an intersection between historic and modern Folkestone, Kent, is nestled the Church of St Mary and St Eanswythe. Once commanding an impressive and important position within the landscape, the site now serves mainly as a convenient cut-through to different parts of the town – at first glance at least. In July 2017 a small team from Canterbury Christ Church University ran ‘The People Before Us’ graveyard survey, a pilot project in preparation for an 18-month HLF community programme. One of the aims was to start recording this significant – and threatened – heritage, but also to explore the role that such sites can play in people’s everyday lives, and their impact – both positive and negative. Over ten days we immersed ourselves in the daily rhythm of the site; we observed, discussed with, and learned from a large array of people who have taken ownership over it. From those who joined us in the short-term for the survey, to those with a longer-term investment in the site, it became clear how places such as this can have a significant impact on mental well-being, often in small, personal ways. As we prepare for the next phase of the project, this talk will reflect on our experiences thus far. Folkestone is undergoing rapid change – one that is creating complex, and at times negative, social dynamics. Now more than ever is a crucial time to consider the role that historic sites, and small-scale heritage projects of this nature, can play in addressing these issues.

Mark Evans and David Ulke (Waterloo Uncovered)
Waterloo Uncovered: Archaeology with veterans on one of the world’s most famous battlefields

Waterloo Uncovered is a ground-breaking archaeological project, on the Waterloo Battlefield, Belgium. Established in 2015 (the battle’s bicentenary year) to learn more about the battle that shaped modern Europe, it supports Serving Personnel and Veterans (SPV) in their recovery (from mental and physical injury), education, and transition into civilian life. The charity is also dedicated to educating the general public about its findings (that are changing the way we understand the battle, and how we support our armed forces). Co-founder Mark Evans joins us to discuss the project and its findings so far. And its research goals for the future.

Helen Johnston (Thames Discovery Programme, Museum of London Archaeology)
Messing about on the river: Volunteering and well-being on the Thames foreshore

Volunteering in archaeology good for you? What impact does visiting the Thames foreshore have on people’s reported well-being? How important is considering the sense of place and emotional attachment when working with volunteers?
Thames Discovery Programme has been running for 9 years, and has trained over 675 volunteers as FROG members to monitor and record archaeology on the Thames foreshore. Drawing on recent work around volunteering, well-being, and emotional labour, I will examine how spending time in the historic landscape of the Thames foreshore is a key motivation for Thames Discovery Programme volunteers.
The link between volunteering and a higher sense of well-being is increasingly being recognised and has now started to influence policy and practice through the development of models such as social prescribing in the NHS. This creates potential for new ways of working and opportunities for involvement in archaeology. I will use our experiences at Thames Discovery Programme to explore how considering people’s well-being in historic landscapes can influence our volunteer management practices and the possibility of new ways to work with communities.

Rebecca L Hearne (University of Sheffield)
The archaeological imagination: Alternative ways of seeing for mental health recovery

Archaeological excavation has been recognised as a potentially therapeutic experience for individuals with mental health problems due to its physical, social, and psychological elements, for example being outdoors, physical exercise, social engagement, increased confidence and self-esteem, and feelings of optimism, hope, and control over one’s symptoms. Such factors are considered fundamental to personal recovery by models which favour self-management strategies and development of resilience and control over more traditional, paternalistic styles of psychiatric treatment. Few of these, however, are unique to archaeology; one can derive them from other ‘therapeutic’ activities like football, hiking, surfing, and gardening. Participants in ‘therapeutic’ archaeology projects often mention archaeology’s very real, deeply affecting, almost addictive characteristics. Nevertheless, such emotional dimensions are less commonly discussed or evaluated, possibly due to their ‘unscientific’ and qualitative nature.
This paper argues it is the development of a subjective, meaningful, even ‘spiritual’ relationship with the past – expanding on what Michael Shanks termed the ‘archaeological imagination’ in his book with the same title published in 2012 – that is the key to why archaeology is such a positive and uniquely beneficial tool in recovery and well-being. Shanks describes the ‘archaeological imagination’ as the state in which society collectively learns from the past so as to address present concerns, resulting in a more secure future. I will explore how the archaeological imagination manifests itself individually, and how a subjective appreciation of the past results in an emotional and intellectual process that contributes positively to recovery and well-being.

Alex Coulter (Secretary of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Arts and Health & Director of Arts and Health South West)
Summing up

Speaker biographies

Martin Allfrey is Senior Curator of Collections for English Heritage and responsible for leading the research, documentation, and presentation of the fine art collections, historic interiors, and archaeological artefacts in English Heritage’s West territory. With over 30 years of experience as a curator, Martin has an in-depth knowledge of the management of historic properties and the wider museums and heritage sector. Martin is passionate about broadening access to historic sites and collections and is always willing to explore new ways to bring them to life.


Briony Clifton is Assistant Archaeologist for the National Trust in the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site, providing archaeological support and advice throughout these globally significant landscapes. From time to time she works with Breaking Ground Heritage and Operation Nightingale, who use archaeology in rehabilitation programmes for serving and ex-service personnel. She was involved with the development of the Human Henge Avebury programme, supporting its delivery and leading two sessions. Briony is also a member of the Human Henge Project Board.


Alex Coulter is Secretary of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Arts and Health & Director of Arts and Health South West.


Timothy Darvill is Professor of Archaeology in the Department of Archaeology, Anthropology and Forensic Science at Bournemouth University. His research interests focus on the Neolithic of Northwest Europe, and archaeological resource management. He has excavated in England, Wales, Isle of Man, Germany, Malta, and Russia. In 2008 he directed excavations within the central stone settings at Stonehenge. He is leading the research team on the Human Henge project.


Laura Drysdale is Director of the Restoration Trust and Project Manager of Human Henge. Laura managed an English Heritage collections conservation team and was a Senior Manager at the Museums Libraries and Archive Council before supporting marginalised people at Stonham, Julian Support, and Together for Mental Health. The Restoration Trust was founded in 2014, and now runs culture therapy partnership projects involving participants with archaeology, archives, museum collections, contemporary art, and music.


Liz Ellis has worked at Heritage Lottery Fund United since 2015. As Policy Advisor Communities and Diversity she leads on promoting ambitious, inclusive practice across the heritage sector. Having trained as a mental health nurse, Liz studied BA and MA Fine Art at St Martins School of Art, London with subsequent national and international residencies and exhibitions. As Curator Community Learning at Tate Modern 2006-14, Liz led high quality local, national and international partnerships. These included interdisciplinary programmes with NHS Trusts, mental health organisations, universities and international artists. In 2012 she obtained MA Human Rights at UCL. A commitment to social justice and the power of cultural rights informs her practice.


Mark Evans is a veteran of the Coldstream Guards with an MA in Archaeology. He left the army with PTSD and has written about the experience in his book Code Black. He has attended Operation Nightingale excavations, and is the CEO and one of the founders of Waterloo Uncovered.


Lesley Hardy is Senior Lecturer in History at Canterbury Christ Church University. Her interests are in the areas of heritage, historiography, antiquarianism and public history and regeneration, and local history. She is the Project Lead for the HLF funded ‘Finding Eanswythe: the Life and Afterlife of an Anglo-Saxon Saint’, a community heritage project based in Folkestone, Kent.


Rebecca L Hearne is a part-time PhD student at the University of Sheffield exploring the extent to which archaeology can be used as a tool for advocacy, activism, social change, and mental health recovery. Rebecca is interested in Marxist archaeologies, psychogeography, and radical pedagogy.


Vanessa Heaslip is Principal Academic in the Faculty of Health and Social Science at Bournemouth University. She has extensive experience in nursing and nurse education. Her research interests lie in the field of vulnerability and vulnerable groups in society whose voices are not traditionally heard in academic and professional discourse. As part of the Human Henge project team she is monitoring the mental well-being of participants.


Helen Johnston is a Senior Community Archaeologist with the Thames Discovery Programme, MOLA. She works with older Londoners on foreshore archaeology projects and supports volunteer Foreshore Recording and Observation Groups (FROGs). She has managed volunteering programmes at a number of organisations, including The Scout Association, Diabetes UK and RNIB.


Alice Kershaw is a Heritage Regeneration Officer with the Heritage Lottery Fund.


Sara Lunt is the chair of the Human Henge Project Board and a trustee of the Restoration Trust. Working for many years as a curator for English Heritage, she was responsible for the exhibition of objects in the new Visitor Centre at Stonehenge. Since retiring in 2014 she has pursued her research on pre-Spanish ceramics from the Peruvian Andes.


Claire Nolan is an AHRC-funded doctoral researcher at the University of Reading. With training and professional experience in both archaeology and psychotherapy, she has a particular interest in the relationship between heritage and well-being. She is currently investigating the therapeutic value and potential of prehistoric landscapes in the present day.


Daniel O’Donoghue is Wiltshire Locality Manager, Richmond Fellowship. He has been working in voluntary sector mental health services in Wiltshire with the Richmond Fellowship since 2004 and prior to this with organisations in Oxfordshire. Services have focussed primarily on social inclusion and employment opportunities. Previous projects have placed a strong emphasis on partnership working in the landscape, practical activity and client / service-user involvement in developing services.


Yvette Staelens is a Visiting Research Fellow at Bournemouth University and a trained Natural Voice Practitioner. She currently leads community choirs in Somerset and her career encompasses archaeology, museums, and performance. She is programme facilitator on the Human Henge project.


Toby Sutcliffe is a consultant psychiatrist working within the North Wiltshire Community Team. He has worked as a psychiatrist in Wiltshire for ten years and previously as Medical Lead, Postgraduate Tutor, and Clinical Director of Avon and Wiltshire Partnership Mental Health Services. He is employed by Avon and Wiltshire Partnership Mental Health Trust and holds an honorary teaching position at the University of Bristol.


David Ulke is the welfare officer with the Waterloo Uncovered project, having previously spent 27 years in the Royal Air Force as a Nursing Officer specializing in mental health.


Ellie Williams is a Lecturer in Archaeology at Canterbury Christ Church University. Her interests lie in osteoarchaeology, medieval archaeology, heritage, and community archaeology. With colleagues at CCCU she is collaborating on the HLF-funded ‘Finding Eanswythe: the Life and Afterlife of an Anglo-Saxon Saint’, a community heritage project based in Folkestone, Kent.