LARRY & UBUNTU: AN INTRODUCTION

Larry Butler is an eminently suitable subject for Autumn Voices. Not only is he the publisher of the book Autumn Voices, but in almost all of the healing and therapy groups in which he is involved, a large proportion of those present are over 60; and Larry himself, now aged 75, is a role model of continuing to be active, creative and productive in later life.

Born 11th June, 1944, Larry Butler, poet, healer, tai-chi teacher, publisher, social reformer, publisher, pioneer of men’s health and of art as therapy, has touched and influenced the lives of thousands of people, either directly or indirectly. He arrived in Britain, aged 23, via the USA and Paris where he studied painting.

A London job in playgrounds led to an increasing involvement in the use of play and games for education and therapy. He ran workshops in hospitals, prisons and youth detention centres; and pioneered the use of play in management training. Over the years Larry added poetry, drama and improvisation, dance and movement to his growing repertoire of arts for therapy and wellbeing. Always he was at the forefront of this new approach.

In 1981 Larry moved to Glasgow in Scotland. He works as a movement and tai-chi teacher in hospitals, hospices, day centres, nursing homes, the Maggie’s Cancer Care Centres, working both with patients and training health professionals as well as carers and volunteers in using tai-chi principles.

In the late 80s he set up the Better Health for Men network, funded by what is now NES - NHS Education Scotland, which resulted in ground-breaking changes in this neglected area of health care (1 in 4 Scottish men die before reaching 65). This was followed by a feasibility study, Arts on Prescription, commissioned by the Greater Glasgow Health Board, which was influential in promoting the role of the arts in healing and therapy in Scotland and beyond.

 

Larry has been the founding member of a whole range of groups and organisations using the arts to benefit health: PlaySpace Trust, Many Ways of Moving, Diorama Arts Cooperative, Project Ability, Survivors’ Poetry Scotland (trauma, mental health, torture), Lapidus International (the words for wellbeing organisation); Die-a-log (small groups talking about death); The Scottish Men’s Group (emotional intelligence, mental health, personal growth); a Dad’s group (part of Parent Network Scotland); Poet’s Way (exploring how poetry enhances spiritual practice); the Scottish branch of Rising Dragon Tai-Chi; and a small press called PlaySpace Publications (raising money for several charities such as Age Scotland, Freedom from Torture, Friends of the Earth . . .)He also runs therapeutic writing workshops for the Maggie’s Cancer Care Centres.

 

His approach in all that he has accomplished has been collaborative action - people gathering in groups to help each other, to provide mutual support, share experiences, and use the knowledge and expertise of individuals to contribute to the whole; and usually to have fun in the process. In this, he reflects the Zulu phrase 'Ubuntu' ('I am because we are') used by Desmond Tutu during the reconciliation trails in South Africa.

 

Larry is a sower of seeds and, in the following months, we shall be taking a look at the rich harvest of his efforts. We shall also be dipping into some of the aspects of his early life which have influenced his work.

 

The blogs planned for the next 14 months are as follows:

 

I AM BECAUSE WE ARE: Larry Butler and Arts as Therapy

A monthly series for the Autumn Voices Blog

  1. Larry and Ubuntu: An Introduction.
  2. The Expressive Writing Course at Dhanakosa
  3. The Renga Session
  4. The PlaySpace Years
  5. Lapidus and Words Work Well
  6. About the Maggie's Centres
  7. Cancer, Expressive Writing and Bundles of Bog Cotton
  8. Tai-Chi and Chikung
  9. The Work that Reconnects
  10. The Diorama Years
  11. Men's Helath - Scottish Men's Group & the Dad's Group
  12. Living our Dying
  13. Larry Butler the poet
  14. Forty Years in Scotland