Reclaiming the Foxglove

Reclaiming the Foxglove, Cultivating Narratives

A joint project between the Barber Institute of Fine Arts and the College of Medical and Dental Sciences (MDS)

We welcome students and staff of the College of Medical and Dental Sciences to join the Barber and MDS to explore the forgotten tales and healing of herbalism through a series of four creative workshops.

From screaming Mandrake to calming St John’s Wort, the use of foraged plants to make teas, tinctures, and elixirs is one of the oldest forms of healing. Herbal knowledge has been passed down generations of women for millennia through anecdote, practice and storytelling.

These events will offer you a chance to relax and meet others in the MDS community. We will come together to drink tea, create art and share stories, celebrating the healing properties of nature and the power of storytelling.

Inspired by the Medical School’s William Withering (1741-1799), we’ll recount the myth of the unnamed herbalist whose healing hedgerow tea formed the basis of Withering’s research into the medical uses of Digitalis. Reflecting on the forgotten women and the hidden lives behind these powerful plants we will ask who gets to write the narrative as we reclaim the foxglove.

These workshops are free and for all levels and abilities – absolutely no prior experience needed. There will be accessible creative exercises in each session to get the artistic juices flowing.

All events will be hosted over Zoom and are exclusively for staff and students of the College of Medical and Dental Sciences.

Please book these events individually using your University of Birmingham email address to receive joining details. We look forward to seeing you there.

The Power of the Cup: how the humble cup of tea can help us

A talk with writer and horticulturist Alys Fowler.

Wednesday 21 April, 7 – 8pm; online via Zoom.

This talk will look at the history of tea as medicine exploring herbal medicine, folklore and home remedies. We’ll look at some of the simple recipes still used today and how to forage, harvest and brew herbs for their medicinal properties.

Alys Fowler is a writer and broadcaster who specialises in all things plants. She is a trained horticulturist in the many ethnobotanical uses of plants from food growing to herbalism.

The Foxglove Variations

A creative writing workshop with poet Adrian B. Earle.

Wednesday 28 April, 7 – 8.30pm; online via Zoom.

A micro-fiction workshop, reimagining the myths and history of Digitalis and its journey from potion ingredient to modern medical treatment. Using short creative writing exercises, we invite you to explore the gaps in what we know about the botanical narrative of the foxglove.

Adrian B. Earle (ThinkWriteFly) is a Writer, and Media Maker from Birmingham. Director and Producer at Poetry Media Project VerseFirst and Creative Development lead at poetry in Place app Overhear. He is interested in innovative ways to tell stories, shape language and the things that can be created from the foundation of verse.

Home Brewing: Personal Recipe-Making

A creative writing workshop with poet Jasmine Gardosi.

Wednesday 5 May, 7 – 8.30pm.

Inspired by folklore and the ingredients used in traditional herbal remedies, we’ll draw from our own wisdoms, histories and experiences as our personal herb garden to brew poems in the form of recipes.

Jasmine Gardosi is a multiple slam champion, Birmingham Poet Laureate finalist and winner of the Out-Spoken Prize for Poetry, whose work has appeared across BBC Radio and Button Poetry. She uses spoken word and beatboxing to explore LGBTQ+ issues, sex education and mental health.

Creative Paper: the visual art of storytelling

A collage and zine-making workshop with artist and Student Engagement Co-ordinator, Kirsty Clarke

Wednesday 12 May, 7pm – 8.30pm

Historically women have played a significant role in developing plant science, notably through creating the botanical illustrations that physicians, pharmacists and scientists used for identification, analysis, and classification. While these works no longer have scientific application today, they have become an inspiration for artists who pay homage to plant life in a new way.

In this workshop, we will use botanical drawings, found images and photos to create informal and playful montages and zines that show the beauty of these scientific documents and the power of collage to tell a visual story.

All you’ll need are the following materials: scissors and scrap paper.

Please note bookings will close two weeks prior to this event as we will be posting out images, paper and glue for you to use during the session. Do feel free to collect newspapers, magazines, coloured paper and card to use in the workshop.

Kirsty Clarke is an artist and artistic programme coordinator based in Birmingham, UK. Recent projects include The Growing Project, Grand Union, Birmingham (2019-2021) Ways of Learning, Baltic 39, Newcastle (2019); Fermentations: Remembering Cucumbers, Ikon Gallery, Birmingham (2019); Ways of Learning, Grand Union, Birmingham (2018).

Images © the image holder, used only with permission.

Join us online

These events are exclusively for staff and students of the College of Medical and Dental Sciences.

Please book these events individually using your University of Birmingham email address to receive joining details.