Bridport Arts Newsletter

The Living Tree 10th Anniversary Exhibition

The Living Tree cancer support group celebrates its 10th anniversary by hosting a number of events and an art exhibition at Bridport Arts Centre.

The Living Tree cancer support group is approaching a major milestone – this autumn it will be turning 10 years old. Co-founders Jo O’Farrell MBE and Jo Millar developed a service which was missing at the time after attending a cancer writing workshop at Dorset County Hospital in September 2012.

This workshop proved to be pivotal in providing an opportunity for the “two Jo’s” to explore their common belief that a more holistic approach to supporting people with cancer was needed in West Dorset, and so The Living Tree was created. It brought together like-minded people, all going through cancer treatment, who were similarly convinced of the power of creativity to heal.

By the end of 2012 a Macmillan start-up grant had been secured, and Friends Meeting House became the regular Friday afternoon drop-in venue. Living Tree were very aware that as a group of people, they were vulnerable, and that life might be fleeting, so it felt vital to offer support in a gentle and responsive way. Over the years, and as their numbers have increased, this has gradually developed into what is now a comprehensive programme of creative activities, Friday drop-in speakers, complementary therapies, mindfulness, yoga, and gentle physical exercise such as ambling, table tennis, swimming, and gardening in their allotment.

To celebrate 10 years of The Living Tree, the group have an exhibition of creative work, displaying the many facets of what they do, in the Allsop Gallery at Bridport Arts Centre from 6th to 10th September which will be officially opened by the Mayor.

Their Ambling group is planning a “celebratory amble” on the morning of Wednesday 7th September which will finish in Bucky Doo Square and allow the amblers to visit the exhibition.

They also have a Poetry evening at Bridport Arts Centre on Thursday 8th September, during which there will be a chance to hear poems by Rosie Jackson along with poems from their “Book of Words”, plus Jo O’Farrell’s two beautiful collections “Here is a Beginning” and “At Low Tide”. Tickets for this event are free, but Bridport Arts Centre encourage booking in advance.

Finally, there will be an evening of music and delicious food from Maria’s Pantry for Living Tree members on Saturday 10th in the WI Hall.

The exhibition will be a way of saying thank you to the many local people and organisations who have supported The Living Tree in the last 10 years. Since they began, they experienced a flood of generosity from local businesses, therapists, artists, health and cancer professionals and related charities. The the offer of funding from the Over 50 Forum for a “special project” last autumn paved the way for the incredible creative effort which has gone into producing this exhibition.

Sadly, Jo O’Farrell died in July 2018, but her courage and passion will continue to inspire them. She would have been overwhelmed by what promises to be a wonderful week of celebrations.

Now it remains for the people of Bridport to come and enjoy what the Living Tree group want to show you – that having cancer is life changing, but can open some surprising new doors, and allow new friendships to develop. They hope to illustrate that they “do not let the joy of living become lost in the fear of dying”.

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