Friday, 27 December 2013

The Rucksack Project, Bradford

One day early in November my wife, Ally, approached me with tears in her eyes. One of her friends had posted The Rucksack Project video on a Facebook group that she belongs to & it had moved her profoundly. She asked me to watch it & I did. Within minutes we had agreed that we needed to create a Rucksack Project event near to home.

After some discussion with friends we calculated that Bradford was the nearest city to us that might truly benefit from the Rucksack Project. Within a few days I’d made contact with Mathew White, founder of The Rucksack Project, & created an event page on Facebook. Ally & I launched the event on our Facebook pages. The response was astounding. Within one week over 100 people had pledged their support. As people joined the event they shared it on their own Facebook pages, causing it to go viral. By the day of our event, almost 500 people had signed up to it.

Prior to this event I’d only been to Bradford on a couple of occasions. It was a steep learning curve trying to identify & locate all the homeless projects that served the City. So, I hauled my mate Danny (who doesn’t ‘do’ Facebook) on board &, with his help, managed to find & either visit or contact just about every homeless project in the area.
Despite having identified December 21st as the day of our main event, we quickly decided to ask people to put some rucksacks together so we could hand them out earlier. Winter was rapidly approaching & it seemed crass to hold onto all the rucksacks until that date. Additionally, many people wanted to be a part of the Rucksack Project but couldn’t make the main event. So,  I identified a number of collection points where people could drop off their rucksacks & other items of clothing, enabling me to pick them up & distribute them almost immediately to several homeless projects. Nige Mason offered up his garage in Idle as the Bradford collection point, Hanna Bennett from People First at the Furniture Project in Keighley volunteered to receive rucksacks from Keighley folk and Ally offered up her shop, Crystal Space, as a collection point in Silsden.
One of the homeless projects we connected with was Hearthounds UK, a charity working with homeless people & their dogs. Danny & I met up with them one Thursday evening, together with people from the ‘Streetwise’ project who were handing out warm meals in Centenary Square. It was the most humbling of experiences as we handed out rucksacks to several homeless people whilst Carrie & John from Hearthounds talked to a homeless person & his dog. Fortunately, we had a bag full of dog food & treats with us that someone had donated & were able to hand them over to him together with a rucksack. His gratitude totally rocked my soul.

When we began planning our event in early November, I had a vision of us all forming a flash mob & descending on Centenary Square to hand out our rucksacks directly to homeless people & rough sleepers. I gradually began to realise the impracticability of my grand plan, particularly when the number of volunteers ascended into the hundreds. The more I thought about it the more it made sense to distribute our rucksacks as widely as possible so that they would reach & benefit as many people as possible. With hindsight, it was the best decision, given the veritable mountain of rucksacks that we built in the space of one hour at The Great Victoria Hotel … too many by far to take out & distribute among the homeless in one fell swoop.
 The huge swell of rucksacks at The Great Victoria Hotel

And what a wonderful venue The Great Victoria Hotel turned out to be, run by an equally wonderful bunch of people who not only let us have the rooms for free but also threw in free parking for us all & mince pies to boot! Huge thanks to Becca Porter, the Meeting & Events Sales Co-ordinator at The Great Victoria, who bent over backwards to accommodate our every need &, also, to the indefatigable Helen Rigby from FUNdraising 4 U who approached the Hotel in the first place & who worked so tirelessly & selflessly to make our event a success.

Yet, having taken a rucksack along to the Manchester event the following day, there is nothing to compare with actually handing over a rucksack to someone who desperately needs a change of clothes, a sleeping bag & a waterproof coat. I was privileged enough to mingle with many of the Manchester people who received a rucksack. Their gratitude was so clear to see & their stories heart-wrenching at times. How incredibly tragic that the vast majority of people’s over-inflated egos cause them to swerve the issue of homelessness.

Before we reached the Manchester event in Piccadilly Gardens Ally & I stopped to talk to a homeless person sat outside the Costa Café on the edge of the square. His face lit up when we engaged with him & he proudly took up his guitar & played a song for us. He had a story to tell & we listened to him for a while. Given our backgrounds in psychiatry it seemed to us that his homelessness was quite probably related to a lengthy history of severe mental health problems. And hundreds, possibly thousands, of others merely passed him by … either repulsed by his difference or, sadly, too focused on their own personal Christmas missions to even notice him.

Back to the Bradford event & that incredible swell of rucksacks in the centre of the room. Every single person present (& lots more who would have loved to have been there but couldn’t make it) was brimming with a genuine desire to help, to ease the discomfort & suffering of a homeless person. Christmas, that thing that glitters & dazzles in every supermarket & department store from the middle of October, had suddenly taken on its original meaning again. This was a Nativity scene being played out right in front of our eyes: people arriving & laying down their gifts to the cause. It was a moment of true giving with absolutely no thought of reward or recompense but for the common wages of our most secret heart … that inner glow that thrums gently deep in our innards.
And how heart-warming & reassuring it was listening to the people from Hearthounds & Horton Housing telling us about the wonderful work they’re doing. It was at some point during these presentations that everything disappeared from my consciousness & nothing concrete remained: no windows, no doors, no pictures on the wall, no people … no rucksacks. Just an immense feeling of oneness, as though myself & my surroundings had melted into each other, joined by a unifying purpose of helping homeless people.

 Now, we are done. The event has passed & our rucksacks are already being distributed to those who need them. In a way this blog represents closure, though the feelings of solidarity & kindness generated by it will remain within me always. All that remains for me to write now is a massive ‘thank you’ to Mathew White, an inspiration to us all … & an acknowledgement that homelessness is a huge, world-wide problem that needs responding to constantly. Between us we have done a small but priceless piece of work with homeless people. Let us think about how we can build on this in 2014 & take the Rucksack Project forward towards even bigger & better achievements.
Mathew White & Ally Wilkin at The Great Victoria Hotel

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Briannca and the Crystal Dragons

At last! It's here: Briannca and the Crystal Dragons, a fantasy novel for children between the ages of 7 & 12 ... though possibly just as enjoyable to read if you're an adult, too.

It's co-authored by Marsha Berry & myself & published by Chiaroscuro Books. There are also some wonderful illustrations throughout the book by the ever-so-talented Claire Farr, who also designed the front & back covers.

Want to know a little bit about the story? Ok ...

What would YOU do if you found a dragon in your bedroom? Or a whole bunch of them guzzling mustard and belching loudly in your school's kitchen store cupboard?

That's what happened to Briannca Chardine, an ordinary schoolgirl who, guided by the mysterious Ruby, takes on the unbelievable challenge of rescuing seven time-locked dragons from their crystal caves.

Accompanied by her nerdy brother Enjee, Briannca sets out on a series of amazing adventures where she encounters the deadly fogbrain plants, the mind-boggling Quantum Tunnel, the Moon's destruction by the deadly quirks and much, much more.

If you would like to buy our book you'll find it on right here & here. You can also take a peek inside the book too on both Amazon sites.

Alternatively, if you want to see where some of the inspiration for the book came from ~ particularly the rather strange crystal shop owner, Ruby ~ & can contain your excitement and wait another week or so, we will be stocking the book at Crystal Space in Silsden, West Yorkshire.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Underneath the Heaventree

'Winter Star Shower' ~ ©peterwilkin

‘The heaventree of stars hung with humid nightblue fruit’ ~ ‘Ulysses’, James Joyce

Under the icy light of a switched-on moon
yesterday’s snow crunched like sugar
as we gazed upon touchless stars,
tasted their carbon, their iron
melting on our tongues.

You wanted to give them something -
an oblation - but all you could find
in the shadowed garden was a rusted lamp
that you offered up to every flimmering sphere
of plasma in that far-flung, gas blown space.

Heart-shook, I confessed to feeling less than you.
You smiled and said you could see star-threads
connecting me to all the constellations.
Glancing heavenwards I caught sight
of a rose-pink glow centred in Cassiopeia’s breast:

a nipple stiffened in a blush of humility.
Tipped in her throne she showed no rancour
as the flow of her milky light nourished me.
Lush with astral sugar I began to drag down
all those luminous, spinning orbs.

You grabbed a flowerpot and dashed round
like a whitefaced clown, catching them
as they tumbled ... and all the merry dancers
sashayed across the blue vault
as your breath spilled out in brumes of argentine.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

A review of 'A Druid's Tale', by Cat Treadwell

A Druid's Tale

Despite the author’s recommendation that A Druid’s Tale be “consumed slowly … in small bites”, I initially swallowed it whole! Purely because I found it to be such an addictive read. However, the book is so incredibly rich in content that it’s impossible to digest in one sitting. Each page is so full of tasty morsels that it needs to be read through several times and reflected upon in order to assimilate the words into your bloodstream.

Cat Treadwell is a Druid Priest and, by dint of that fact, she is well qualified to write about Druidry and explain exactly what it is. Thankfully, she does not do that. Instead, she shares with us her own lived experiences: real experiences that paint infinitely more colourful and detailed illustrations than any academically driven text could.

Very aware of the absolute folly of trying to impress her readers, Cat keeps it real from the very first page to the last as she describes her fears, her agonies and some of her epiphanies, all explained and related to her Druidic beliefs and practice. I felt myself connecting with her, even journeying with her as I made my own way through her story. And connection, she demonstrates, is at the very heart of her practice. True connection is a communion with otherness: to other living beings, to the inanimate, to the forces of nature, to our ancestors and to the whole of creation.

Guided by Awen, Cat lays out her pages in this gem of a book in a way that both informs & inspires the reader. I read her chapter on ‘Public Ritual’ and learned about responsibility and honour. I read about ‘Dark Mythology’ and emerged bathed in the light of the beauty of darkness. And I read of Celebration, after which I promised myself a whole new and more honest way of being with others as I mark not just certain dates in the calendar but each day as an opportunity to give of myself to others whilst rejoicing in the never-ending wonders of this spinning planet.

Yet as I completed my first read of A Druid’s Tale, I felt to ‘know’ nothing more about Druidry as a concept. I had learned about Cat and how she interprets her role and lives her life as a Druid Priest … but I didn’t understand the term ‘Druidry’ any more than I did before. I sat, reflected … and then it struck me. Druidry is not one ‘thing’ that can be neatly categorised and boxed. Nor should it ever be. Druidry, it seems to me after reading Cat’s book, is a certain way of being and becoming and learning how to discover and accept your True Self. It is a way of ‘being with’ the world in what Martin Buber describes as an ‘I-Thou’ relationship: blissfully unaware of one’s ego’s restraints and bound together in the glory of the other, be it a person, a creature, a rock, a star or a goddess.

After these insights and still stirred by the author’s passions and honesty, I gazed out of my window at the rain-lashed moors on the horizon and listened to the howling wind as it grabbed at piles of leaves and flung them around the garden. ‘Perhaps this is druidry,’ I thought as the unpredictable chaos of a gale-blown afternoon suddenly filled me with energy and the most reassuring feeling that I was not alone.

Product details

  • Paperback: 183 pages
  • Publisher: Moon Books; 1st edition (29 Jun 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1780991134
  • ISBN-13: 978-1780991139
You can order a copy of A Druid's Tale here

Monday, 20 August 2012

'Phases of the Moon' ~ Louise Hastings' first published collection of poetry

This is so exciting! I am so pleased to announce that Phases of the Moon, the very first collection of poems from the most lovely & extremely talented poet Louise Hastings, is available to buy now from & 

Louise is a rapidly emerging poet who I & a multitude of others have been following on Twitter & her blog for quite some time. It is such a privilege & a pleasure, therefore, to offer you my review of Louise's stunning collection of poems:

‘What name defines me?’ asks Louise Hastings in her poem called, simply, Poet. Well, after having savoured the delights of her first collection she is clearly a very talented poet who has the ability to hold the reader in the simple truths and beauty of her words. So many times I found myself stepping out at the end of a poem with a sense of its wholeness fixed firmly within me. That is her writing style. Her poems tend to capture you and hold you in the lilt and sway of her basic, uncomplicated rhythms.

Phases of the Moon is a glorious concoction of poems that paint the richest pictures of an Awakening, ‘away from the grey and mechanic into the poetic and extraordinary’. In her opening poem, Shadow Dancing, Louise likens her soul to ‘a blown fuse’ as, through the process of writing, she begins to accept the frightening shadows that have haunted her for so long as spaces of potential discovery, ‘where there is life, death and love’. Striving desperately to throw off years of shackled emotions, her plea is heart wrenching and obvious in her poem Monday as she craves the ‘twisted love and yearning’ of life as opposed to one that merely ‘drips water along the windowpane’.

Her troubled childhood features strongly in many of her poems. In the poem Phases of the Moon she finds herself ‘walking the asphalt lights with jagged shards of memories’, a child cruelly deprived of ‘amber flight’. Similarly, in Inner Child we find her ‘cloaked in moth wings and dust’ as she ‘trips down present-day halls, corridors that smell of emptiness’.

Yet, far from being confessionals, these beautifully crafted poems shine softly like petals in sunlight: each one an epiphany that carries with it emerging hope as Louise, herself, becomes ‘a little poem that could’. Love, too, touches her like ‘a silken tendril along my skin’ as, freed now from the trammels of her past, she finds herself ‘embraced by the scent of warmer rain’.

Whilst certain themes do emerge from this collection, each poem is always glazed with a degree of purposeful ambiguity. Louise has perfected the technique of wrapping her poems in intrigue as her words take us towards familiar destinations via unfamiliar pathways. Step into any of her poems and there is always something new under the sun for us to discover.

Louise’s very first poetry collection, having touched just about every emotion it is possible to feel, leaves me thrumming with an inner contentment as her words linger like the aftertaste of strong chocolate. And the way in which she dips her poems into the universe and all its mysteries, for me, automatically draws out comparisons with the poetry of Mary Oliver.

It is so hard to choose a favourite poem from so many gems but I will leave you with the final lines of Seeing Zebras, a poem of time, mindfulness and liminal space, where:

‘In my underlying consciousness
lies linear time,
full of yesterday and tomorrow,
flowing through heart and lungs,
through endless breath
where love is earth’s glow off its edge.’

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Summer Lightning 

Deep In the day’s shadows
my blue-eyed boy dawdles
where dreams and stars blend
in glorious paradox.
Here, in his sea-soft space
galleons dip and rise
on the swell of an edgeless ocean.

Oh darling boy, time is so fast
and childhood such a skittish thing.
One day you will throw it out
like busted shoes
as you wake and smell the elegance
the algorithms
inside life’s iron cage.
And will you fly, I wonder?
Or will you sing?
The angels present at your birth
were rather coy, if I recall.

Nudged by the moon’s slow spin
you rise from your rocking boat
and I adopt a stolid air
as if my love for you
were rather ordinary.
How difficult it is, at times,
to bear the shock of summer lightning
arcing between our ribs.

When you are stubbled and long-boned
and I am kicking air –
unwrap this poem
on a bellrung Sunday during rain,
feel the beat of my devotion
pounding in the slack of its creases.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Picture courtesy of Rowan Pendragon

A poem to celebrate the Spring Equinox


Here, within the chorion, Life twitches
as the rushlight flimmers
beneath Winter’s melting egg.
Small fingers, stained with alluvium
unwrap like fiddleheads.
Eyelids begin to flutter, brushed lightly
by saffron tinted shadows.
Outside, She sits and rubs a cluster
of mallow green stones
shining them with spittle and oil.
When the Spring rains fall
she will fill her lungs with petrichor,
kneel in rich crumbles of humus
and, under a bone-white moon,
slide her arms deeply
into squelches of moistened soil
drawing out the new life
slicked and dripping with amnion.
This is the moment when we feel
the earth dancing inside our selves;
when the untouchable stars flicker
and whisper about infinitude.