Growing Better Lives

Meeting the gang from Gloucester

A couple of years ago, somebody called Jan Mariott asked a few of us from EMBRACE and Greencare to talk to their planning team for new user-friendly mental health services. We had a great day down there, doing a role play of our weekly community meeting – including throwing sweets out at all the audience.  

We don’t know if it’s the sweets that did it, but she got in touch again about our Green Cloud group – so we agreed to put on a special one-off group for her, with several other Gloucestershire people – so they can see how it works. That was today’s special GreenCloud group.

We started by introducing ourselves to the visitors, and them to us. As well as Jan, there was Martha, Denise, Prob (with special appearances from her husband Bill for the game, Ruth, Jo, and Melissa.

Then it was back to the normal drill – check-in with Planticons (quite a lot of anxiety and anger, as well as hope). As usual, we shared photos and nature stories – ours and theirs.

 We were introduced to 5 cygnets and a swan in one of the Gloucester parks, and some lovely woods on the Herefordshire border.

Then we started talking animals – and all the pets came out. Our reptile specialist Sharon showed us the blue-tongued Skink called Stitch – which led to a few other Stitches including Melissa’s scary cat (and Douggie the dog who is like a grumpy old man).

Then we (virtually) met Asha and Hilde, Martha’s family’s two magnificent white Romanian rescue dogs, which have been their saviours through the lockdown. “They’re not aware of the chaos in the world and they’re just there”. Then we voted what game to play, and had our five minute tea and comfort break.

As usual, Vanessa kept everything in order, through the ‘Who am I?’ game – where Mel was Meghan Markle, and Prob was Fireman Sam. Then we did the check-out planticons – a big change from the check-in ones. Everybody went for daisies (playful and fun) and many also for the seedlings (hopeful and promise of progress/new life).

The end (of the demo).

We had a Q&A and debrief afterwards, and we hope a useful conversation about how they might set up something similar in their area. It was acknowledged how quickly we managed to establish relationships and sense of belonging – and how much the informality and playfulness helps that. The Slough peer mentors, as usual, were brilliant at explaining it and the underpinning co-production that made it like it is. We also had a slightly more serious discussion about how things like GreenCloud are well-nigh impossible to set up in ‘pure’ NHS settings – and need to be in collaboration with more flexible organisations like social enterprises or non-NHS recovery colleges.

As Growing Better Lives, we really wish them well, hope to keep in touch, and look forward to hearing how they get on.