On Saturday 14 and Sunday 15 April, poets Janet Lees and Christina Thatcher hosted a weekend of creative exploration on subjects including addiction, death and grief – made possible by funding from the Isle of Man Arts Council and supported by Manx Litfest.
All the events took place at Noa Bakehouse. On the Saturday, Janet and Christina co-hosted a three-hour creative writing workshop on the theme of addiction and recovery.
Christine Thatcher reading at Noa Bakehouse. Image © Ian Pilbeam
'This workshop was one of the most powerful I have experienced. I am in recovery myself, and Christina lost her father to addiction. The people who joined us have either experienced addiction themselves, or have lived with the addictions of close family members. The writing produced in those three hours was inspirational, and we shared the full range of emotions, from tears to real belly laughs.
Equally valuable were the discussions in between the writing exercises. There is nothing more deeply connecting than being among people who have had a similar journey through life. Everyone was so supportive of and kind to each other.
- Janet Lees
That same evening, the ‘Road to Recovery’ event opened with readings from Christina and Janet on addiction, grief, love and family, followed by an open mic at which a whole range of people stepped up to read work on the topic.
We could not believe how many people wanted to share. These were powerful words, shared with honesty, from the heart. There was sorrow and loss, and there was joy and humour too. We went over our time at Noa, and we’re very grateful that they let us! We really wanted everyone to have the opportunity to share.
- Janet Lees
Workshop attendees at Noa Bakehouse. Image © Ian Pilbeam
On the Sunday, Christina and Janet hosted a workshop entitled ‘Into the Darkness: Death & Poetry’, in which the usual social taboos surrounding death were lifted. Again, the session was a mix of writing activities, discussion of contemporary poetry and sharing, and again it proved to be a powerfully connecting and uplifting three hours.
The weekend with Christina really set the seal on my belief in the power of writing to heal. This belief has grown over four years of hosting writing sessions at The Hub in Port Erin, where participants tell us time and again how much writing is helping them, with anxiety, bereavement, pain – all kinds of different challenges. It’s clear there is a real therapeutic need for more of this in the Island.
‘Social prescribing’ of creativity for wellbeing is booming in the UK and there are countless studies enumerating the benefits. Writing can be particularly powerful, as words are our social currency. People with depression for example may find it hard to talk about their challenges. Writing gives them an alternative ‘way in’, and can open the door to new ways of thinking and experiencing the world.
- Janet Lees
Janet is a poet, artist and trained writing for wellbeing facilitator, while Christina is a poet, facilitator and teacher with deep expertise in working with people affected by addiction and bereavement. Christina’s critically acclaimed debut poetry collection, ‘More than you were’, focuses on her journey following the death of her father from a drug overdose. Janet and Christina met at a words for wellbeing conference in Bristol last summer, where, finding so much in common, they started talking and couldn’t stop.
Janet Lees (right) and Christine Thatcher (Left) at Noa Bakehouse during Wellbeing Weekend. Image © Ian Pilbeam
Shortlisted for the Bare Fiction Debut Poetry Collection Competition in 2015 and a winner in the Terry Hetherington Award for Young Writers in 2016, Christina’s poetry and short stories have featured in a number of publications including The London Magazine, Planet Magazine, Acumen and The Interpreter’s House. Her first collection, 'More than you were', which charts what came after the death of her father from a drug overdose, was published by Parthian Books in 2017.
Christina grew up in America but has made a happy home in Wales with her husband, Rich, and cat, Miso. She is a part-time teacher and PhD student at Cardiff University where she studies how creative writing can impact the lives of people bereaved by addiction. Christina keeps busy off campus too as the Poetry Editor for The Cardiff Review and as a freelance workshop facilitator and festival coordinator.
Janet is a poet and artist based in the Isle of Man. After eight years of recovery, in 2011 she rediscovered her love of poetry and went on to take an MA in creative writing, graduating with distinction in 2013. Her poetry has since won prizes in many competitions and she is widely published and anthologised. Her film-based works have been selected for international awards including the Aesthetica Art Prize, and she represented the Isle of Man as one of 72 Commonwealth nation poets in BBC Radio’s Poetry Postcards project.
Since 2014 Janet has been hosting creative writing workshops at The Hub in Port Erin, generously supported by Isle of Man Arts Council. A member of the Creative Network and a founder member of Poetry Unlimited, she is trained in writing for wellbeing and is currently training in counselling in order to work one-to-one with people as well as in groups.