A New South Wales mother and Ayurvedic practitioner, Amy Graham describes herself as ‘a lover of life and a seeker of the light’. Living in a cottage nestled in the mid-north coast rainforest, she was the Peppermint Pitch winner at our Byron Bay PepTalks event – taking out the audience vote for her idea of a creative, educational ‘festival of sharing’ that offers support to women who’ve experienced trauma. Here, she discusses her vision for the inclusive event.
Tell us about your project. What will it involve?
It’ll be an intergenerational, seasonal festival of women that will run on our property. I envision a community project where local women of all ages come together – some to give and some to receive. The givers will share a skill or craft of some description – anything from herbalism, cooking, sewing and basket-weaving to building, construction, mechanics and even IT. There’ll be a series of tents, tipis and market-style stations where workshops will take place, and learning will unfold in a ‘master and apprentice’ style relationship where small groups learn with their ‘master’, who acts as a mentor.
The festival will be open to all, with a focus on celebration, self-expression and empowerment. A guardian will be allocated to those in need of extra support, and will commit to assisting with further development in the recipients’ chosen skill or craft. It will be similar to a mentorship program, but with the added element of emotional support or assistance with life-skills (and with an ongoing relationship where needed). I feel it’s a pretty unique vision. There are many fabulous festivals out there but this one offers long-term support and skills to those in need. I haven’t come across anything like it yet!
And why the particular focus on women who’ve experienced trauma?
In my late teens, I experienced traumatic events which led me to feel lost, scared and disillusioned with society. I needed to get my life back on track – to find my will to live and some passion for life again. I couldn’t have done it without the support I was fortunate enough to have had around me. My family and friends guided, encouraged and inspired me to pull through. Some people aren’t fortunate enough to have a family, let alone one that is supportive and available. I can’t imagine who or where I would be if it weren’t for mine. I want to help facilitate and create that ‘family’ environment by connecting those in the community – I believe it is achievable and powerful, and there’s an undeniable need for it.
Trauma is an isolating experience. Those recovering from drug or alcohol abuse are often surrounded by others who are also struggling and in need of additional support themselves. Positive role models, a supportive community, a creative outlet and a developed skill set builds confidence, gives hope and creates opportunities for those who want to get back on their feet.
What inspired you to get started?
The seed for this festival was planted many moons ago. The original vision was inspired by the book ‘The Red Tent’ by Anita Diamant. It conjured within me the beautiful image of women coming together to have a break from their busy lives to care for each other, and to share skills passed down from grandmother and mother to child. It spoke to me of a legacy and sharing of knowledge that seems to be often missing in our modern world.
About two years ago I went for a walk on our property. I came out of the bush into a clearing of lush green grass. From my vantage on the hill, I looked down onto a ring of five cedar trees, bordered by rainforest. And it came to me like a waking dream, the tents, and tipis, children and women of all ages. The colours, sounds, the smell – all of it!
How do you hope to see the festival have a positive impact?
I hope this festival of sharing can be a platform for those in need – rekindling their zest for life, so the individual can build confidence, surround themselves with like-minded creative beings and discover and create a new trajectory for their life. Whatever direction they choose to take, this experience will give them the strength to be able to make those first few steps to a happy life.
What’s your dream for it in the longer term?
My dream is for the framework of this event to be taken all over the world and applied anywhere. By taking this model into other rural Australian communities, it will offer a chance for those with time, love, knowledge and skills to offer their gifts to those in need, on a one-on-one basis. It will be a profound experience not just for the recipient but also for the giver. The path to healing can be truly overwhelming at times. I want to create a community that’ll provide a safe, inspiring and supportive environment for those in need.