New Script for Mental Health’s Travelling Apothecary definitely has more than a touch of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland about it, in the most wonderful, magical way.
A beautiful, hand-crafted wooden cabinet, made with branches of a cherry tree from Ballymurphy and willow from Gairdín an Pobail in Whiterock, West Belfast.
Stocked with medicine bottles, each one labelled with various human emotions like despair, overwhelm, grief, resilience and love. The words lovingly scribed in calligraphy.
Image caption: New Script activists have developed this innovative way to open up conversations about how as a society we can better respond to emotional distress and trauma
Inside each bottle there are no tablets. Instead, a carefully selected poem that speaks to that emotion, tightly curled up, awaiting to be chosen.
A Travelling Apothecary, that even in its very name, suggests something different, something new and ancient all at the same time.
Fittingly, the Travelling Apothecary’s first official engagement was for PoetryIrelandDay, the theme of which was Message in the Bottle.
So far, the #NewScript Travelling Apothecary has visited a group of powerful women in Start360, met with inspirational young people in Youth Action, joined activists at a peace wall with PeaceForAll, had a wonderful morning at Gairdín an Phobail and finally, took a trip to Helen’s Bay beach for a Friday evening swim and campfire (the box stayed on land!).
Taking inspiration from the Greek poet George Seferis’s quote about a poetry that is ‘strong enough to help’, New Script activists have developed this innovative way to open up conversations about how as a society we can better respond to emotional distress and trauma. It is part of their mission to demedicalise difficult human emotions and to also harness the power of community and connection for healing.
Image caption: Chef Paul Rankin with New Script for Mental Health activists in Gairdín an Phobail
The combination of herbal tea with freshly picked local herbs, along with poems being shared in Gairdín an Phobail, felt very in keeping with the underlying meaning. The term ‘apothecary’ comes from the Ancient Greek word ‘apotheke’, meaning ‘a repository or storehouse’. In addition to dispensing herbs and medicine, apothecaries offered general medical advice and a range of services.
Poems prescribed include some well-known and loved poets like Mary Oliver, Nikita Gill, Seamus Heaney and Brendan Kennelly. They also include poems by NewScript activists who are alumni of The Rest of the Story, a renowned, trauma-informed, story-telling programme facilitated by New York Times best-selling author, Michael Patrick McDonald.
NewScript activists are now looking forward to getting out and about more with the Travelling Apothecary.
Its next public appearance will be at the ‘Scríbhneoirí an tSléibhe: GFA 25 years on’ workshop in Gairdín an Phobail on Friday 19 May 1pm, part of Féile na nGloigíní Gorma.
If you are interested in booking the Travelling Apothecary get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org or 07864074235.