Only Child & the Natural World 2008
A One Day Conference & Masterclass for Adult Onlies
Saturday 12 July | 9.15am-5.30pm | Marston Vale | Bedfordshire

'Alone was good. When very little, I used it for playing in summer in the shallows of the creek, making bridges and crewing ships with conscript ants; later, I enjoyed long dreamy walks and telling myself stories based at first on the free-form stories my father would spin as I followed him around the farm.'
(Les Murray – from an interview with Pauline Smith, 2007)

This year's conference combined two loves - nature and writing. For Les Murray, 'alone was good'. For this group of intrepid onlies, being together meant we could swap notes.

The Day
Session 1
Ann Richardson, Director BeingAnOnly, Psychotherapist

Ann is a UKCP registered psychotherapist and has specialised in working with only children. She is Founder of BeingAnOnly, has facilitated many workshops and organised two conferences.

Drawing from her own work, Ann presented an overview of common only child experiences, highlit resources and research and talked about the importance of peer validation. She invited the group to share some of their experiences and feelings about being an only child to begin the conversation.

Session 2
Pauline Smith, Freelance Writer and Researcher

Pauline Smith is a freelance writer and researcher, with an MA in Creative Witing from the University of Exeter. She is an only child and carried out postgraduate research into how a lack of siblings affects the output and processes of published authors and poets. The work also looks at how the only child is portrayed in Western literature. She currently lives in Northern France.

In a stimulating session, Pauline began by talking of her own experience of growing up as an only child and the importance of nature throughout her childhood in North Devon. She went on to introduce the work of leading Australian poet, Les Murray, whose emphasis on aloneness, difference and relationship with the natural world has come from his only-childhood in the Australian outback. She then invited us to brainstorm our connections with the natural world and soon the room and the flip chart were full of words and themes, sounds and feelings.

Session 3

In the afternoon, some decided to take a walk guided by one of the Seasonal Rangers. We looked at the different habitats on site, woodland, wetland and grassland. The Millennium Country Park is very young in country park terms at only 8 years old, so it was a great time to see the beginnings and structure of the different habitats. It is part of a 40 year project which covers over 61 square miles. The team, has been working to repair decades of industrial use by improving the landscape and environment. The weather held, despite some spectacular cloud formations, for our gentle stroll.

Group Work
A small group took the opportunity to meet and share with each other, aspects of their own stories with each other. Some were moved to speak from the exercises of the morning session, others from what was going on in their lives at the moment.

Writing Workshop
Some examples of people's work from the afternoon session will be on the wesbite soon. Pauline was encouraging people to write in a Haiku form.

Our outdoor barbecue unfortunately had been to be cooked and eaten inside for fear of being deluged by rain outside. We're not lucky with BeingAnOnly barbecues. We had the same problem at Earnley!

Pauline was so impressed by the quality of the writing that there was some discussion about collating the material. Watch this space for more information on that front.















Previous Conferences

Conference 2005
The Power of Being One

Conference 2006
Only Child: A Unique Inheritance




Ann Richardson

Pauline Smith
Writer Researcher

0915 Registration
1000 Session 1
1100 Coffee
1130 Session 2
1300 Lunch
1415 Session 3
1600 Tea
1630 Plenary
1730 End



Previous Conferences

Conference 2005
The Power of Being One

Conference 2006
Only Child: A Unique Inheritance