Like any other seed we came from another plant. In the late 1990s Pitsmoor Surgery commissioned a needs assessment, which confirmed a high incidence of mental health problems in the area and a low uptake of available services. So they decided to set up a project that had a non-clinical and non-threatening feel but would still give focused, professional support.
SAGE was established in 1999 as a small voluntary gardening group providing therapeutic horticultural activities. We took on allotments and began creating a safe and engaging space where people could grow and develop. The idea of supporting mental health through engagement with green spaces and creativity was in its infancy. We have grown and learned as these ideas have become more widely embraced.
In 2006, we became a Registered Charity and Company Limited by guarantee and we started offering various sorts of creative therapy including arts and crafts, singing, cook and eat sessions, fishing etc. SAGE was offering long term, non-time limited support and was very lucky to receive extensive lottery funding that allowed us to employ a full staff, supplemented by allotment volunteers and students.
We extended into more arts activities, launching a very successful singing group who have put on performance sin the cathedral and beyond. We took our supported gardeners and artists on day trips, held theatre and pottery classes, created structures and built up a haven in the city.
The vagaries of voluntary sector funding have affected SAGE over the years, and we have learned to be adaptable in the face of income fluctuations. We have stayed true to our core philosophy, putting members needs foremost. 2023 sees us increasing services, we have 2 thriving greenfingers groups, and the choir is going strong. We have recently started another more social group on the main allotment, and have erected a shelter on our second site to start a gardening group. Many thanks to our funders for supporting this, a list can be found under "impact and successes".
January 2023: Work has started on a major refurbishment of our main allotment thanks to funding from the Wolfson Foundation. We are looking forward to new raised beds, fences and paths, a more secure and accessible site for all our members to enjoy. Our groups have temporarily relocated to Christchurch in Pitsmoor.