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October 11, 2016

A question we have asked ourselves time and time again at Creative Retreats UK is how we unlock creative potential. What is it within ourselves that, if successfully plugged in to, can power us a truly creative and fulfilling life?

***And the intention is not to provide the answer to that question, even if just fresh from Retreat*** Because we know we simply do not have it. We cannot tell you how to unlock your own creativity. We cannot give you the key. But we can reassure you of something: that we definitely believe in you. One of the things we can tell you right now, is that the key to your creativity is you. You are the best resource you have ever and will ever have in understanding your own creativity. And the more thinking time and space you give to that process of unlocking it, the easier you will eventually find it to turn on your creative key.

Here’s what we do know. We know that creativity isn’t bound by any single definition. That it comes in all shapes and sizes and doesn’t necessarily fit into the stifling molds that our schooling might have limited us to. Nor should it have to. The creative process allows us the unique freedom to express ourselves individually and explore what’s on our minds and in our hearts. Our commitment to plugging in to that dimension gives us access to a whole new level of creative electricity.

We also know how important a factor environment is in supporting creative pursuits. The humdrum of the city becomes an inevitable distraction off that path and it’s easy to feel puzzled in the search for a suitable place for creation. Especially in shared spaces and with little time in a day.

Beyonce Fitness by Kate from Eat and Learn

Ed from Inspire & Build shares his ideas about creative productivity

But with openness and comfort, it is possible to switch off the external world. To free up the space to begin the important work of plugging in to something deep within. We begin to ask bigger questions. We give pages, song lyrics, head space to our ideas, and in turn contribute to the process of unlocking. We begin to realise, that the only thing standing in the way of living out a truly creative and fulfilling life: is ourselves. It is our will to search for the door, find the lock and push forwards: our will to continue that creative pursuit lovingly as we walk through. To be present for an idea we have that has been pestering us on the bus to work. To listen carefully to the narrative that keeps coming back to us in our dreams. To keep giving time to the projects we procrastinate with. To put paint to sketchbook and go with it, despite the competing elements of our lives that pull us away from that thing.

***DISCLAIMER*** The journey to unlocking one’s own creativity is not always a straight forward one. But, through the act of giving time and space to our innards, we begin an inevitable process of purging our creative sins. Of drawing out and moving on from failed projects, bad ideas, previous rejections: of moving away from faulty electrical wiring and towards an understanding of what helps us with ignition. Some will stop when it gets hard, and it does. They will stop producing if they feel they are stuck, or lose themselves in their own creations. They will find themselves looking for something to liberate them, blind to the fact that commitment to the process itself is what will eventually set them free. That every time they show up for this side of themselves, they add form to an internal key.

Bridget from creative organisation Flow – in flow.

We are learning what helps us to be creative. It seems like being creative could be as simple as picking up a pen. And for some it might well be. Some people have reached a point of simply grabbing their tools and plugging in. And that feels magical. What seems to be the case more often than not though, is that living a creative life is not about being either gifted or terrible at doing this. Creativity is a practice. It is a way of life akin to that of a marathon runner or a martial artist. It requires dedication, persistence and encouragement. It requires hours, it requires grit, it requires sportsman’s resilience. The creative muscle must do its reps if it is to be strong enough to dismantle the portcullis that stands in our way: if it is bold enough to continue formulation of an internal key.

Mindset is everything. Creativity is not a gift, nor is it just reserved for the gifted. It requires work for us to feel its benefits. It requires warmth, safe space, encouragement, continuous nourishing, and nurturing to set the foundations of a healthy bond within. Some might start creating and soon give up. They begin to play the piano and it sounds beautiful, but then they short circuit. They forget the notes, they cannot read that piece in the music, they become tired. Their hands start to feel too small for the keys. They quickly brand it something transient, they talk about it in the past tense as something they ‘had a go at last week.’  They believe it’s lost.

The way we relate to our creativity is a reflection of how we relate to ourselves. If we do not eat, we will starve. If we do not continue to give our time to the creative spirit within, the same happens. What emerges as crucial from all this, is the shaping of our creative keys via an internal source of love, dedication and kind nurturing. The inner confirmation that we do not need the approval of others to validate our productions. Of understanding that the best and most fulfilling creative experience is first and foremost with ourselves and for ourselves. It is the fun process of painting what we want, penning what we wish, of listening to the melody within and inviting that character to sing.

Jenna from Komorebi Nature and Wellbeing runs session on Forest Schools

The key to unlocking our creativity is closer to home than we might first think. With the appropriate belief, love, support, connection and resilience – we can get on our way to exploring what we enjoy, what we are truly made of, and find our own answers as to how we wish to live it out as we realise it’s there within.


Big love to our October ’16 Creative Retreaters <3

 By Maxine


May 12, 2016

Wood came before concrete, yet somehow we have evolved to navigate better through the streets than the woodlands: through Tesco Metro supermarket aisles better than our own back gardens. We know how important our survival is to us and how much we love to be outdoors on the rare occasions the British weather allows, but the current priorities of city living mean that if it wasn’t for the conveyor belt food culture that provides for us, we’d be left, quite frankly, starving – without a clue of what to do. Why is it that our ability to self sustain has dwindled? How is it, that if one day we ventured down to the Sainsburys Local and the shelves were empty, we’d be left with an empty stomach and not even a morsel of knowledge as to how to engage with our natural surroundings to fill it?

To be creative with what surrounds us is to look more carefully at the land we live in, make it our friend and understand how best to work with it…

In a house of five in Dalston, we struggle to keep the lawn mowed, let alone cultivate our own vegetables. Self sufficiency is selecting a recipe from Jamie’s 15 Minute Meals and finding the supermarket which sells its ingredients. It’s knowing where to get good food stuffs over knowing how to. So, bar the staple herbs out the back that pretty much look after themselves, or the token chilly plant on the kitchen window sill – the garden is a leisurely space made for sun lounging, booze and barbecues. But, even if we don’t have time to consider how we can put our hands and lands to use in this way, when we venture away from our doorsteps and into the wild, we generally have little idea of where to begin. Anything that’s not grass in a patch of land discarded as ‘weeds,’ an unfamiliar berry regarded ‘inedible.’ And this is symptomatic of the way we have learnt to see. With little time on our hands to observe our surroundings more closely, us city dwellers and townsfolk grow estranged to the lands in which we live. Commuters in the walk down by the river, laid out in the back garden simply for sun, irritated by the overgrowth of weeds. But, to what extent can we connect with our surroundings and be creative with what nature provides us?


It was only a few steps into the Foraging walk as part of Edible Landscapes last week and we’d already been pulled to a halt by Joan Yeardon, the local Permaculturist and expert on anything wild and edible. She was pointing to a pot full of Calendula from afar, explaining how over the years it has been used medicinally. Although this one’s not edible, we’re amazed by its brightness and versatility. To ‘forage’ is to obtain food or provisions by searching, and everyone on this walk is keen to make this more of a possibility. As we head towards the River Lea, we’re quickly fascinated by what we’re encouraged to see. We’re handed a bunch of Mahonia, a deep purple berry formerly considered to be ‘poisonous,’ so it’s a bit odd as we’re passed it to eat. It’s bitter, with a light green pulp and nowhere near as sweet as it looks, but it’s ‘perfect for jams and slows’ explains Joan enthusiastically.


We’re only on your average Homerton roadside and already we’ve got in a pickle with the Cleavers (a.k.a Sticky Willies). But we’re soon soothed by the soft scent of Lemon Balm – identified, crushed with the fingers and tickling our noses. A trip on a foraging walk like this encourages us to get searching – as if one were stepping out of the realms of the ordinary and into a Secret Garden that those who are interested in can see. Just a minute’s walk into the park, we’re halted by what appears to be a harmless bush, yet on inspection it’s much more than it appears to be. ‘Look with your eyes not your hands’ Joan says, as we’re familiarized with the instrument of Aristotle’s assassination – namely Hemlock, an unusual suspect that blends in with the rest of the green, but is actually incredibly noxious. Joan picks it up, glove clad and places it within safe distance. It’s chemical smelling and has light black ink splats along the stalk which helps us identify. We listen from afar as she explains to us this is something we ‘definitely shouldn’t attempt to eat.’


As we stroll down paths at an extremely slow speed, covering just a small patch of land, Joan points out the forest of resources available to us. Nettles for which to make gruel or pesto; Dead Nettles which can be used in the same way as Spinach; Elderflower from which to make cordial, champagne or vinegar; a handful of different strains of garlic that smell truly wonderful and are warming and flavoursome when we let ourselves go enough to tuck in to the treat. A flowering pear tree; Dandelion petals, that when mixed with Elderflower are a cure for hayfever; the glowing blush of Hawthorn amongst the leaves to flavour jellies, jams and syrups. We’re completely astounded by the abundance and plenitude of what populates the area and we start to collect up bunches of what we realize we can use for feed.








In conversation with the founder of Edible Landscapes, Jo Homan, whose aim is to get Londoners more engaged with their surroundings and begin to grow their own food, it becomes clear that foraging is still more of a sport than a way of life in the UK (unlike Italy and Greece, where permaculture and foraging are more of a necessity.) Working alongside places such as The Kabin at Hackney Marshes and enthusiasts like Joan, the aim is to create a community of people interested in reviving our bonds with nature and pulling up the magnifying glass on our green patches, so we can understand them better and use them in our lives more creatively.


Get out there beyond your Tesco Metro and walk further – near your house or around the park. Find the wild spots and try to look carefully to identify what exactly it is you can see. It might feel like a hobby to begin with and definitely more of a challenge than calling upon the Supermarket Attendant to locate your ingredients, but starting to engage more deeply with nature and understand what it is we are surrounded by, is probably one of the most sensible and responsible things we can do.

Helpful tools:

-Try this great free Pocket Urban Food Guide from the Wild Food School to get you started.

-Like that Garden app for smart phones can be downloaded to take pictures of flowers and plants and identify what it is that you can see. Download here.

-Podcast on foraging and permaculture Listen to the Founder of Edible Landscapes, Jo Homan on Shoreditch Radio

-The Scented Kitchen – Cooking with flowers recipes and how to bookMore info here.

Join the next Foraging Walk to have a go yourself and learn more about how to identify, collect and even prepare your own food.

By Maxine Clay