The Human Henge Project was and is a pilot project about archaeology and mental health; participants explored the area surrounding Stonehenge and its history, ending in time inside the Stone Circle. The project ran for 2 groups, the first ending near the winter solstice and the second near the spring equinox.
During the 10-week sessions each group engaged in music and singing, rope and cord making for weaving, pottery, building wattle and daub fences, making bread, photography, writing blog posts and poetry. So although it was not strictly an arts project, Human Henge contained many creative experiences.
Music and song
Music was present from Day One, and this continued into the Stone Circle in the form of a free flow jam session of drums and tambourines. Singing was led by Human Henge Coordinator Yvette Staelens, who is a natural voice practitioner and folk music historian. She introduced the piggy pig dog song to both groups, which was something we all dreaded but loved. The music continued into the woods and barrows where we sang in the wind and rain. Each group was introduced to a musician and instruments from Africa; Chartwell Dutiro from Zimbabwe on the mbira, and Alphonse Touna from Cameroon who plays the Balafon and singing bowls. During these sessions everyone got to play and try to create a piece of music. The music would not have won any awards, but so much fun was had that it made it all a wonderful experience.
A creative way of life
Many of the things we did were not deemed to be creative but were more the necessities of life; making thread, cord and rope from plant matter, building fences and baking bread would have been daily tasks in prehistoric times. Recreating these skills gave us a greater understanding of the lifestyle of the Neolithic people. The more we did the more we understood, and we noticed that some skills have not changed much in thousands of years. What became even more astounding was the precision and knowledge that our ancestors had, the skills of flint knapping and jewellery making were so intricate that it is almost impossible to recreate such objects today.
Pots and Pottery
One of the sessions was given over to making pots using local clay. These pots were hand moulded and decorated using sticks and combs in the style of traditional Neolithic pots. They were then fired outside in a clay bowl by a man in furs with a tent. Once fired, pots were taken home. The connection between the clay and Stonehenge made these unique pots a special gift to all participants of the project, including the Coordinators who actively participated in every activity.
There were many pictures taken, some for personal memories, other to be used in blog posts and the online gallery, and some were used to make greeting cards. Many appeared in our exhibition and booklet. No matter how the images are used, the joy of those memories will remain healing aids for those that took part in the Human Henge Project for years to come.
It’s More Than A Word
At the start of the project participants were invited to write blog posts, poetry, a short story and a saga poem. These all can be found on the Human Henge website or in the booklet available at museums and libraries that display the Human Henge exhibition. The short story and the saga both contain comments and observations from participants, which have been woven into the pieces so that everyone is involved.
This Is Not The End
Although Human Henge sessions have come to an end, there is still much work to do in evaluating the project and its benefits to participants. The end of the sessions has not stopped group members meeting up and continuing to explore the history of Wiltshire. This project has not only built friends and support networks but has also spawned a private Facebook group run by and limited to participants of the project.
Author: Mr BPD, Human Henge project participant
I have Borderline Personality Disorder and as a writer and poet I explore my madness through the creative arts. I have a personal belief that even in darkness light exists and it is a personal responsibility to always seek the light and I find the light in creating something.
Editor’s note: Human Henge is a pilot run by the Restoration Trust in partnership with Richmond Fellowship, English Heritage and Bournemouth University, supported by the National Trust and Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust. It is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Wiltshire County Council and English Heritage.