Stevenage Survivors began life in April 2000. The group was formed by poet Roy Birch and local Drugs Counsellor Darren Messenger, to, in the words of its Mission Statement, ‘use poetry in all its forms to help survivors of mental distress survive more adequately.’
With no money and few obvious friends, the group survived a precarious first year, mainly thanks to donations from group members, most notably the late Bruce James, a very fine and greatly missed local survivor poet. A grant of £100 from the Heartlands Project helped ease our financial burden, and £300 from the Co-operative Society as it then was enabled the group to publish its first anthology. By now Stevenage Survivors had entered the Outreach arena with a fortnightly poetry group at Vale House in Hertford, a residential Drug re-hab. Soon after this the group began an extended period of funding from the Hertfordshire Community Foundation, which financed a series of powerful workshop projects. A series of anthologies and Workbooks also appeared during this period; the group frequently gave performances and readings, and group members represented the Survivors Poetry Network at various Literature and Arts Festivals, the most prominent being the highly prestigious Ways with Words, at Dartington Hall in Devon.
In addition to its regular activities Stevenage Survivors now runs an annual Creative Therapy Day at the MIND Well-Being Centre in Stevenage, and has recently received £400 from the NHS Hertford Health Inequalities Fund to enable next year’s event to take place. A grant of £1000 from The Co-operative financed the group’s regular programme for 2012 and enabled the creation of another anthology. Heartfelt thanks are due to all who have helped the group, with major thanks to John Pye, External Funding Officer of Stevenage Borough Council.
Stevenage Survivors is an affiliated member of the Survivors Poetry National Group Network and is also a member of TheFED – a Network of Writers and Community Publishers.