Category Archives: First Aid for Creatives

Consider This Option

If ever writers are stuck for inspiration, they need only to click on Heather Blakey’s Soul Food Cafe to find friendly support from fellow writers from all over the world and masses of sparkling ideas to trigger their imaginations. Heather is a truly creative dynamo, and this is a magic site. I’m so glad I found it. 

The Rookery was the final Advent Calendar in which Heather Blakey featured the work of writers and artists who gathered at the Soul Food Cafe. A hyperlink on each Raven took visitors to individual profiles featuring their work.

The face of the internet has changed dramatically since its inception. Back in the early day’s cyberspace was less crowded and corporate advertising was not as prevalent. When I open sites and find my computer inundated with pop-ups and requests to join mailing lists I confess I click right back out again. But maybe that is just me! I am old enough to remember when this didn’t happen.

Within this site are links to the work of individual artists.

Aside from the endless popups, there are countless courses to fix almost anything that may be ailing people – often at considerable cost.

When it was fully operational The Soul Food Cafe never generated an income. It operated using a different currency. Accolades support that it was a much-loved sanctuary for many people and you only need to visit the Artist’s Loft, take a slice of Pizza or visit many of the Advent Calendars and you will get an idea of how the site freely promoted the work of others. Moreover, if you feel so inclined, nine years after halting her work at Soul Food, Heather is undertaking an archeological dig and taking anyone who is interested into long forgotten corners of the cafe.

…one of those rare jewels in a special crown, Heather brings us all together, no matter what our ages, or experience, through Soul Food Cafe…Now we are really soaring up into the cyber heights with the eagles and ravens! Just as she imagined!
Teresa Seed

Bancroft Manor is in its early development stages but Heather Blakey (who created and grew Soul Food) and I have this vision of populating it with a diverse range of artisans who can work collaboratively if they wish, or simply extend their reach and gain access to like-minded readers.

A project which will give you insight into the potential of Bancroft Manor is Danse Macabre, a site which provides stimuli for anyone who is interested in the Macabre, who is looking for some extra ideas to kick start projects. Danse Macabre is currently being worked by Anita Marie Moscoso and Heather Blakey.

Another project is pitched to those who are interested in evocative ethnography, autobiographical and biographical writing.

If you are interested in joining Bancroft Manor you can choose how much you will pay, in your own currency, for a ‘life-long’ subscription. Subscriptions are used to keep the all associated sites free of advertising.

If you do decide to join us you will not be asked to ‘upgrade’ your membership, pay an annual subscription, be added to a mailing list (to be sold to others) or inundated with requests to pay for any additional ‘steak knives’. You will be added to a closed Facebook group and encouraged to set up an artistic space, post interesting links and let other members know what you are doing. You will also be invited to be interviewed and have your work showcased here on this home site. Of course, if you want to remain silent and be left alone to do things at your own pace no-one will tap on your chamber door making any demands.

Lived Life Experience – Memoir

I could live in a treehouse. I mean it, I really could! It would be like being on a permanent camping trip. I could fish for trout, hike in the woods and sleep under the stars every night. Of course, it would have to be a treehouse with a fast Internet connection and a kickin computer setup, or all bets are off. A girl has to have her standards you know. *wink* Diana Adams

I have no idea what has got into the drinking water of the Bancroft Estate but whatever it is I have decided it should be bottled. Heather Blakey, one of the creatives who has taken up residence here at Bancroft Manor, claims she has always wanted a treehouse. She says that when she realized that, as Diana Adams suggests, she could dream like a child and create the treehouse of her dreams here on the estate, she leapt at the opportunity. When found the picture of the one shown here she knew she had found just the right place. Happily, because anything is possible on the Bancroft Estate, Heather could click her fingers and the treehouse of her dreams materialized.

Now she has set up workshops out there and other residents are clambering up to join in to sit around yarning and working on Lived Life Experience projects. 

Of course, when she is not here on the estate, she does also run these workshops in Castlemaine and is prepared to work with those who take the time to contact her. She also finds time to work with Anita Marie Moscoso and Danse with the Macabre. As I said “something has got into the water. Perhaps the water is somehow connected to the magical waters of Castalia.”

Colouring Stories

It is interesting to watch as Heather steadily digs away in the Way Back Machine and draws out stimuli that she so effectively used with her students over twenty years ago. Young participants in her recent Stories by Me course enjoyed these quirky exercises just as much as the students she worked with back all those years ago.

Soul Food Bumper Catalogue of Creativity

“You have power over people Mrs Blakey. You can get everyone in the room to write. How do you do that?” asked Jason from Keon Park Primary.

“We belong to the force of Blakey” said Avril, a member of a small working group at Keon Park Primary School.

When writing or talking about the Soul Food Cafe one does have to keep in mind that its original purpose was not only to publish fun projects, for both primary and secondary school students that I was working with at the time but also to ensure that students had a readership. Primary school students who I met, years after I had worked with them told me that they still loved showing off work that had been published on the internet, back in the days when the internet was still youthful and uncluttered.

Colouring stories went down well with all ages. One favourite…

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Diverse Creative Projects at Bancroft

We have wandered roads together
played and learned and found each other
hand in hand the journey winds
through the back roads of memory
through the pathways of new learning
up the stairs where magic beckons
into caverns dark
and to the morning.
Waking we have joined the circle
glowing dawn forever holds us.
Fran Sbrocchi

Anita Marie Moscoso and Heather Blakey, each of whom have established themselves at Bancroft Manor, have been working collaboratively and spending some time Dansing with the Macabre. If you visit the site you will find that it is full of interesting stimuli and has lots of prompts that folk can work on in their journals.

When she is not off ‘Dansing with the Macabre’ or running a creative Lived Life Narrative course in Castlemaine, Heather Blakey is working in her apartment at the Manor, wandering down memory lane, remembering the times she travelled with a host of Soul Food patrons. She is busily putting together a retrospective of the decade when she created and managed the Soul Food Cafe.

Suzanne, who revels being in nature and had recently made Descansos, inspired by all the talk about visiting cemeteries “had the compelling urge to stop and take photos of stone angels“.

There are diverse spaces available at Bancroft and you certainly do not have to confine yourself to the Manor House. She hasn’t revealed her location yet but I assume that Raven’s Apothecary is located deep within the woods that are a part of the estate.

If you established yourself in space at on the estate what would it be like? What projects might you be inspired to undertake? Check out the Artist Loft in the Soul Food Cafe to see just what an interesting group of creatives found their way into the site.

Warm the Stone Artist

To highlight the therapeutic power of creativity

When you look for the person inside do you see a living, vibrant being or has your creative side been calcified and turned to stone by the ‘White Witch’. In The Lion the Witch and The Wardrobe it is Aslan who miraculously revives the statues and infuses them with life. At Bancroft Manor, like its predecessor, the Soul Food Cafe, it is art and writing that warms the stone artist

Once Upon A Time – Not So Long Ago

Bancroft Manor House - a virtual collective for creatives

Perhaps this portal will help you locate Bancroft Manor.

Once upon a time, in this lifetime, participants of the Soul Food Cafe found their way through portals into Lemuria. The portal closed and it became harder to navigate one’s way into Lemuria when the Enchantress took a long sabbatical. The roads faded and the number of travellers passing through this realm diminished.

Bancroft Manor may not be in Lemuria but it is another place for creatives to congregate. For those who remember places like the Lemurian Abbey, the Gypsy encampment, Riversleigh Manor, the Lemurian City of Ladies, The Temple of Solace, White Owl Island or the Isle of Ancestors it is not so hard to envision what Bancroft Manor might become.

Into the Blue
by Lori Gloyd 2007 
a Lemurian Resident

It was still dark when I rose from bed. I slid open the doors to the balcony of my room and stepped into the pre-dawn chill. Before me was a lake as flat as glass and mirroring the blazing vault of the heavens. 

I had come to Madame Lysandra’s lake-side home in the Mulberry Highlands a few days ago to participate in her annual viewing of the cherry blossoms. A number of poets and artists from all over Lemuria were there as well, and Lysandra’s gracious hospitality, once again, was praised and lauded by all. 

But as much as I wanted to stay and enjoy her company, it was time to depart. I was all packed and ready to return to the City of Cyberiaand the Taverna. I groaned inwardly as I thought of the condition my establishment would now be in– heel marks on the tabletops, the rum supply utterly depleted, and the staff– oh dear, the staff. I could only imagine what kind of trouble Maximo, my bouncer, and Hans, my chef had gotten into by now. 

I heard a quiet knock on the door. I returned to my room and opened it. It was Lysandraholding a folded blanket.

“Good morning or good night, as the case may be,” she said in a hushed voice. ” I heard you moving about and thought you may be looking for a comforter.” 

“Oh, thank you, Lysandra. In fact, quite the opposite. It was a bit stuffy and I needed some cool air.”

Lysandra smiled as she usually did when she had something more to say. “Are you enjoying the starshine?” she asked. 

We both strolled on to the balcony to survey the sky. “Yes, it is truly amazing. You don’t see this in Cyberia– too many lights.”

“Too much of many things, I should say.”

“Excuse me?” 

“I have noticed something. May I tell you about it?”

I stiffened a bit but nodded for her to continue.

“You rushed to get up here. Now you are rushing to leave. You seem restless and pre-occupied.”

“No, not at all. I just needed a few days away from the City…to recharge… now I need to get back to the Tavern. You know… responsibilities and all?” 

“Yes, I understand.”

We stood for a moment watching the stars pulse and twinkle. Lysandrawas deep in thought. 

Still staring at the lake, she broke the silence at last. “When was the last time you wrote?”

“Excuse me?”

“When was the last time you wrote a story?” 

“A few weeks ago– well, maybe it was longer– why? I’ve been busy, you know– with the Tavern and the Kitchen–oh, and the Atelier– yes, I’ve been focusing on art-making at the moment….” I shifted uneasily on my feet. What was Lysandraup to? 

She nodded and gazed at the night sky. 

Finally, she turned towards me, her green eyes looking straight into mine. “Yes,” she said with a bit of sharpness in her voice. “You need to leave here now.” 

“Yes, I’m packed and I’ll leave after breakfast. We’re having French Toast, right.” I wanted to change the subject. 

“No, you need to leave now. It’s time for the Journey.”

“Journey? What journey?… You don’t mean THE Journey, do you? I’ve done that already. I told you all about that, remember? How I got Syren and found Cyberia and the Taverna……”

“You need to go on The Heroine’s Journey.” 

“But I’ve done that once. I found my voice. I don’t need to do it again.”

“You found your voice, my dear, but what have you done with it lately!” 

I faded into a stunned silence. As gentle as Lysandrawas, she could lance a person with just the tiniest shard of the truth. 

“But I can’t do the Journey twice,” I whined. 

“Who said you can’t? This is Lemuria– nothing is linear. Everything spirals and comes back around again. You’ve come back to a beginning and need to go again.” 

“But the Journey is about entering Lemuria. I’m already here!” 

Lysandra looked at me with bemusement. “Yes, this is Lemuria, but there are many layers to it–layers that take your farther, deeper, higher– wherever you NEED to go.”

“You sound just like Enchanteur!”

Lysandra chuckled. “Yes, She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed and I go a long way back. And she as well as I want you to step through the Portal and journey again. And you need to go NOW.” 

“How can I go now? The Portal is miles and miles from here, in the Murmuring Woods!”

“The Portal is wherever you want it to be. Just look….” Lysandragestured toward the sky. 

I squinted my eyes. Something was moving. A speck of blue seemed to be spinning. It grew larger and larger until it filled all the night sky. A wind off the lake picked up and began to blow across the balcony. I wanted to run away but I could not move. 

I heard Lysandrawhispering in my ear, “Step into the blue, my dear, and go deeper into yourself, farther into Lemuria. Find out what you need to say…..” 

My mind was spinning. My first journey had been an amazing yet terrifying endeavour. Now I was being asked to go again. I did not want to go. If the first time had been hard, what would the second be like? 

But I could not resist the Call. Enchanteur was calling again, through my friend Lysandra. I sighed. With my eyes on the swirling blue vortex, I began to climb over the railing of the balcony……

A Key to a Room at Bancroft Manor

Back in 2014 Thalia found the key that enabled her to enter Riversleigh, a virtual retreat former members of the Soul Food Cafe remember affectionately. This key opened the door to a healing haven where she worked for an extended period.  Spend some time meditating, allow yourself to go through a portal and who knows, you may  just find the key to Bancroft Manor, the newest of  Soul Food’s retreats. It is possible that like Thalia you will establish a soulful healing haven.

A Key to Riversleigh

It was one of those lovely winter days when I was lying on a branch of a tree, content to have shifted into a small female human and be hidden – or so I thought.  Suddenly the raven flapped down beside me and squawked.   I took it to mean “hello” so I responded appropriately.  She muttered as she reached under her wing and pulled out a small key on a string with her beak.

holding out the key

Extending it forward towards me, she nodded and murmured.  I tentively reached out and she nodded in response.  A key!  Whatever for?  As if she could hear my thoughts, she replied, “It is the key you will need as you travel in a variety of ways and many places.  Use it wisely!”

I was already in this realm of Riversleigh, so it wasn’t for me to get in.  Where might I need this?  Always more questions than answers.  As I mulled this over, the raven flapped her wings and took off for places beyond my sight, so she didn’t want me to shift into a raven and join her.  I clutched the key in my palm as I fastened the string around my wrist for safekeeping.  Settling back down to once again to resume my time of being small and hidden, I pondered the nature of things appearing when you least expect.   What was next?

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