Writing the Garden

By Gerry Loose

This tool was commissioned as part of the Words Work Well for All project (2018-2019) funded by Glasgow City Health and Social Care Partnership via the Wellbeing for Longer in Glasgow Fund.

Gerry Loose facilitated 18 x Writing the Garden sessions, in blocks of 6, during the project – the first block at The Concrete Garden in Possilpark and the following two at Woodlands Workspace, encouraging participants to explore the similarities between writing and gardening and share the joys of sowing seeds and words. He has drawn up the following checklist for other facilitators and hosts interested in setting up sessions in writing in garden settings.

Writing the Garden Checklist: This is intended for work with adult groups. There will be added details for school groups which teachers will be expected to be aware of and to provide and advise.

For the facilitator

  • Explore the garden before starting work there to discover the following:
  • Where will you be working? Is there a warm space inside for inclement weather?
  • What are the facilities? Can hot drinks be made there?
  • How accessible is the venue and what toilet facilities are there which should also be accessible?
  • Is the garden itself accessible?
  • What plants grow there and are any problematic in terms of stings, thorns, allergies and so on?
  • Is there any livestock present? For example, bees, poultry or, anything else which could be problematic in terms of health.
  • Is there hand-wash facility relating to the above?
  • Next, who will you be facilitating? Are there access requirements / special needs for anyone?
  • Can you be a key holder? If not, do you have direct contact with a key holder in case of necessity?
  • Are you a first-aider, or are you aware of a first-aider on site?
  • Will there be a venue member of staff present at your sessions? Who will be your first point of contact at your venue? Request contact details for this person.
  • What facilities are being offered? Photocopying? Refreshments? Are these paid for or free at point of use? Is there a firm arrangement in place for these things? Will venue provide writing materials, pens, paper, etc?
  • If special equipment will be needed – for example powerpoint presentation facilities – make this clear and discuss well in advance if your venue can provide this.
  • If these facilities are not being offered, what alternatives can be made by the facilitator or the group itself?
  • Remember that the most prolific times in a garden: spring, summer, autumn offer the greatest prompts and subjects for writing about the natural world.
  • Any time of year in Scotland (as elsewhere) may be wet and/or cold. There must be sufficient heating in your dry space to remedy this.
  • Can you be in touch quickly and efficiently with all group members in case of emergency, cancellation of events and so on?
  • Have you made it clear that any wish for anonymity or privacy will be honoured (in terms of writing and or documentation, either written or on video or photograph)?
  • It’s important to ensure that you are clear about writing outcomes, in terms of possible publication, payment for publication or otherwise, copyrights and your group’s rights, expectations and realistic wishes.

For the host

  • Please read the points for the visiting group facilitator to gain an idea of what they might expect from your garden and other facilities. There may be points to advise the facilitator on.
  • Are you clear what you are offering in terms of facilities, and have you communicated this in writing to visiting groups? This is especially important in terms of accessibility, refreshments and materials offered.
  • Can you provide a key for your garden / building?
  • Will your insurance cover a new, temporary key holder?
  • Do you have a first aider present for outside groups?
  • Who will be the designated first contact for visiting groups?
  • Have you provided contact details for this person?
  • Have you made clear any fire alarm gathering points or alarm rehearsal times and dates?
  • Are these instructions printed in the room or any inside space a visiting group will use?
  • What are the restrictions (if any) on use of your spaces?
  • If writing inside, can you offer sole use of a room or other inside space, like a gardeners’ bothy?
  • Are there clear lines of communication between host and facilitator in case of emergency, or early closure of venue or any unplanned events?
  • Building the group / advertising: who is responsible for this? Host or facilitator’s organisation?
  • Are there any special instructions about what may be done in the garden? Eg, can poems be tied to trees?
  • Who else might be using the garden at the same time?