Reclaiming the Foxglove, Cultivating Narratives
A joint project between the Barber Institute of Fine Arts and the College of Medical and Dental Sciences (MDS)
Students and staff of the University of Birmingham’s College of Medical and Dental Sciences joined the Barber and MDS to explore the forgotten tales and healing of herbalism through a series of four creative workshops in the spring of 2021.
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 offered a chance to relax and meet others in the MDS community. We came 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), the series recounted 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 asked who gets to write the narrative as we reclaim the foxglove.
Artists and facilitators
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.
Adrian B. Earle (ThinkWriteFly) is a Writer, and Media Maker from Birmingham. He is Director and Producer at Poetry Media Project VerseFirst and Creative Development lead at Overhear (poetry app). He is interested in innovative ways to tell stories, shape language and the things that can be created from the foundation of verse.
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.
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.