Published: 22 February 2018

Student experience: Winning the Green Guild Social Enterprise Challenge

Bernadette McBride is studying for an MRes in Creative Writing funded by the John Lennon Memorial Scholarship. She recently won the Green Guild Social Enterprise Challenge and was awarded start-up funding for her social enterprise called The Hedge Arts Project:

‘Winning the Green Guild Social Enterprise Challenge and being awarded start-up funding and support for my social enterprise idea The Hedge Arts Project has been the highlight of my first year as a postgraduate student.

I am currently undertaking a research degree in Creative Writing, and as a recent graduate, the Green Guild’s Social Enterprise Challenge call for applications was of immense interest to me. I had already been considering my work options and ways to support myself financially throughout my postgraduate studies whilst engaging in work which would mirror the aims of my research.

As a John Lennon PGR Scholarship student, I had also promised in my application that I would start a social enterprise to benefit young people and the community. The Green Guild’s Social Enterprise Challenge offered me the opportunity to realise my ambitions. By entering the competition, I was challenged to come up with an idea that could improve lives, communities or the environment. The reward offered was up to £1,000 of start-up funding plus the support of the Green Guild social enterprise team.

Presenting the idea

I had to present a social enterprise idea to a panel of judges at the Green Guild. I decided to propose an idea for workshops that combined creative writing with green projects. The overall project aims to tackle environmental inequality and inspire creativity through nature. I will receive further business start-up support from The Women’s Organisation based in Liverpool, with expert advice from senior social enterprise business advisor Huda Mamoun.

My previous relevant work experience included working with high school children in disadvantaged areas offering English GCSE tuition, youth work, and running and curating reading groups for inner-city primary school children and the elderly.  Sometimes, if the weather was good enough, these sessions would be held outside. Several studies have been conducted that show the positive physical and mental health benefits of being outside and taking part in green projects, whilst similar studies have also shown the positive physical and mental health benefits of Creative Writing.

As a mature student, I wanted to do something that was flexible and would fit in with my lifestyle and studies. There has been a rise in student freelancers in recent years, whereby students take skills from the courses they are embarked on and match them to a service or business that they can provide. This is something that I would wholeheartedly encourage, especially for undergraduates as often when it comes to graduation there are a lot of students who don’t have any relevant work experience in a competitive graduate market.

The Hedge Arts Project

Bluebell Woods

The Hedge Arts Project already has several projects lined up for 2018. I will be working with Aintree University Hospital NHS and their healing arts team PARTIA to deliver two projects; one, a creative writing class for staff in the Bluebell Woods attached to the site; and a second project offering creative writing classes outside for homestay patients who currently live in the hospital long-term.

Additionally, the project will be working with local schools and offering a women’s writing group in a community garden. The project has already worked with LIPA Primary School this term offering a series of creative writing classes for the children in year 1 around their current curriculum map ‘Into the Woods’. The children retold the story of Little Red Riding Hood in their own words and made a pictorial narrative ‘model village’ of the story using recycled objects to make the figures of red riding hood and the wolf and other characters, whilst using planting skills to grow the woods.

LIPA Primary School

The project will also be offering a free alfresco green-creative writing workshop on campus during Wellbeing Week 2018. Please check the university website for booking! I am also undertaking further training and will be a qualified PCEAT (Person-Centred Expressive Arts Therapist) by 2019 – a qualification that I hope will enable me to further combine the positive aspects of creative writing and wellbeing. The Hedge Arts Project is really interested in combining interdisciplinary projects and public engagement. Any students who are looking for relevant work experience, particularly those from English or Environmental Sciences, are welcome to apply for volunteer opportunities: email psbmcbri@liv.ac.uk  or for more information visit www.hedgearts.org.uk.

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