Chair’s Update

Dear Community,

Right now, I am in the middle of a torrent of grief, following the recent unexpected deaths of three people, all of whom I have known and cherished for more than three decades. I have little energy or emotional capacity to write something fresh and enlivening for this issue of the newsletter.

I am counting on your forbearance, as I draw on content I wrote in preparation for the Annual Community Meeting (incorporating our AGM), scheduled to take place on the 18th July. Unfortunately, too few people registered for the event, and we have had to postpone it until the Autumn. As it has been a year since our last Community Meeting (and AGM) I would like to take this opportunity to update you on recent developments and engage your support in considering ‘where/what next for UKAGP?’.

This update is therefore in three sections:

  • Reflections on the newsletter
  • Reflections on, and review of the work of UKAGP since June 2020
  • Questions for you, our members and subscribers.

Reflections on the newsletter

Before sitting down to write my regular update for the newsletter I always read the contributions from you, our readers. Each time I notice my body responding powerfully to the images, poems and papers that have been submitted. This time is no exception. I feel heart-warmed by, and appreciative of Malcolm Parlett, Dan Bloom, Pixie Frączek, Wiola Jaworska, Dominika Struzik and Ula Krasny. Each one of them has crafted a deeply personal and evocative account of their recent experiences in response to Piotr’s call for papers.

Our last newsletter celebrated Pride month, and all these papers seem to follow effortlessly from that ground to reveal the embodied, nuanced, lived experiences of LGBTQ+ individuals in different parts of the world. Most very here and now, and one very revealing about the historical relationship between two key Gestalt writers, separated by the ‘Atlantic pond’.

These are accompanied by two other accounts:

Raksha Sidhu’s vivid, engaging account of a menstruating mother’s body-focussed conversation with her toddler, in India. I resonated so much with this that I shared it with my (now adult) sons. They both laughed and made an appreciative comment about gestalt mothers as excellent educators of the next generation. I felt touched by them, as I had felt touched by Raksha and her son, K.

Kay Lynn’s moving tribute to Anna Halprin, whose work as a dancer was influenced by Fritz Perls. Anna Halprin died recently at the age of 100, and apparently was still dancing in her 96th year! Having watched an embedded YouTube clip of Halprin dancing I was struck by her inspirational manifestation of vitality and vibrancy. Equally, I was moved by Kay’s account of Halprin using dance and movement to support herself through cancer, and to support people with HIV. I can only imagine and wonder in awe at the power of her approach to embrace and release the fear of death that was so rampant and undiscussable during that HIV pandemic. I feel honoured to have learned about her contribution to our global Gestalt community, and human flourishing, in general.

All of these papers left me with a sense of Gestalt being lived and expressed fully, even in the most challenging and sensitive field conditions and situations.

Similarly, the ‘postcard’ series awakened a deep sense of loss (and longing) for the globetrotting I had taken for granted pre this pandemic. I long to visit Tomek Trabuc’s Poland and witness the love between grandmothers and their LGBTQ+ children and grandchildren, to bask in the silence of Vikram Kolmannskog’s isolated Norwegian country retreat, and the beauty of Nika Jelendorf’s dramatic Croatian coastline. I’d also love to sit at Tanis Taylor’s breakfast table and catch up on her life and her wedding plans, as I haven’t seen her since our last residential conference at Lane End. Thank you all for inviting me into such private, precious moments, people and events in your lives.

Reflections on, and a review of the work of UKAGP, 2020-2021

It is with great pleasure that I share my reflections on UKAGP over the past year and point to some exciting developments that are in process. On the one hand, this has been a year of disappointment, as planned opportunities for contact and dialogue (e.g. UKAGP Organising Committee Residential, EAGT General Board, Annual Community Meeting) and events (UKAGP, EAGT and Gestalt Research Conferences) have either happened online, or been postponed until 2022.

On the other hand, I have been heartened by our community’s commitment to come together for contact and dialogue online, to provide training and CPD programmes online, and of course, to see clients and supervisees online. Such changes have involved a significant amount of dedication and work to ensure that the quality and excitement of the Gestalt growth experience is sustained. Dan Bloom gives a wonderful account of his online office (his car!) over the past year!

In 2020 I reported our intention to build a stronger Organising Committee, supported by an equally strong network of motivated and committed volunteers, so that we can work together to respond more promptly and efficiently to issues emerging from conference, and other challenges as they arise. We have worked hard to sustain this momentum, to find ways of staying connected to you, and to support dialogue and connection between all our members.

As I write this, I feel a heaviness across my chest and a deep sadness that we were not able to meet as a community on the 18 th July. I also appreciate that after more than a year working and meeting online, UKAGP could not compete with a weekend of picture postcard summer weather and the opportunity to socialise and travel again. Hopefully, we will meet as a community, not only at our one day conference (with Eugene Ellis and Carmen Joanne Ablack) in London, but also online on another occasion later in September/early October.

I am particularly energised by the following developments:

– This newsletter has evolved into an enlivening and engaging mode of communication with you. Thanks to Piotr’s reach to colleagues in other Gestalt organisations, our contributors have represented and connected us to colleagues and events across the globe in a deeply personal and stimulating way. It is the interconnectedness of the personal and political that first drew me to Gestalt, and it is this potent mix that underpins our newsletter.

– The personal-political dimension also underpinned our online community day and AGM in June 2020. Sixty-four people attended a half day of free CPD ably facilitated by Di Hodgson, and our Community Meeting and AGM followed on seamlessly from the morning’s small group discussions. The probing and rich contributions from the community gave us a clear steer towards our Autumn Conference on the theme of ‘Speaking Out’, facilitated by Gaie Houston, Toni Gilligan and Di Hodgson. This, in turn, supported us to reconsider how we might organise our Annual Meeting this year to enable more opportunities for shared reflection and dialogue.
The community gave the Organising Committee (OC) a clear steer re the direction you wanted us to take when identifying the theme for this years’ conference, ‘Healing Dialogues’, which is taking place in London on 18th September, 2021. I am delighted that so many people want to join this event. The conference is now fully subscribed and there is a waiting list in case of cancellations. As an OC we have begun to clarify and expand the benefits of UKAGP membership. Some of these are detailed below. Our efforts have been focused primarily on enhancing opportunities for communication within and across the organisation. For example:

  • Gaggle was introduced as a way of connecting all members (trainees, associates, full and joint EAGT members) with the aim of supporting information sharing and dialogue. More than 90 UKAGP members have joined Gaggle to date, and there is a regular flow of dialogue on a range of issues. We hope this will develop over time. Marc Williams kindly offered to set up a special interest group for everyone interested in group facilitation. This group has now met twice, and I am very grateful to Marc for his initiative and drive to make this happen. This is a great example of how you as members can contribute to our community.
  • Ruth Nightingale (vice chair) and I have established a Gestalt Leaders Group. This group is made up of the leaders of all psychotherapy Training Institutes offering a Gestalt pathway. It is a forum for sharing ideas and challenges, and for discussing practical issues, such as trends in recruitment. Members are taking a field emergent approach to this process and currently focused on connecting and building trust. A schedule of monthly meetings has been agreed for the coming year.
  • As promised at the 2020 Annual Meeting, our intention to offer a seminar series has been realised. The aim is to connect members as part of a national community. I am grateful to Malcolm Parlett, who offered to facilitate the inaugural seminar on the 21st July, 2021. His focus on the Citizen – Practitioner relationship attracted 39 attendees, and a rich, meaningful process of contact and dialogue emerged in response to Malcolm’s presentation on the origins of Gestalt theory, and how this was lived between the founders. Attendees were asked to make a contribution to the UKAGP bursary fund (anything between £2 and £20). See below for more information.

Questions for you, our members and subscribers

I would really appreciate your responses to the issues identified below. Your feedback is invaluable to us (the Organising Committee) and will enable us to clarify key priorities and preferences for UKAGP action during the year ahead.

Conference, 2022
Last year’s community meeting followed an experiential morning on the theme of ‘Speaking Out’. Our work together identified the importance of Healing Dialogues to support deep, inclusive and impactful contact between UKAGP members, with clients, and with practitioners from other modalities and organisations.

As you know, Eugene Ellis, founder of the Black African and Asian Therapy Network (BAATN), is joining us at this year’s conference in London. Carmen Joanne Ablack is also a member of BAATN, and President of the European Association for Body Psychotherapy (EABP), will be facilitating the process of inclusive practice and healing dialogues on the day.

She is also hosting this year’s British Gestalt Journal seminar day on the related theme of Differentiation, Suppression, Loss, Adaptation and Change. UKAGP has therefore embarked on a process of finding ground on which to be with and stand alongside our colleagues at BAATN ( and EABP).

As we think ahead to our residential conference in 2022, a next step would be to collaborate with BAATN, and at least one other psychotherapy organisation, such as Pink Therapy and /or Respond (Therapists supporting clients with learning disabilities, autism and trauma), and co-host a joint conference. Our intention would be to explore commonalities and differences between us, to learn together and potentially work together as allies in support of mental well-being within and across our communities.

How does this resonate with your own views about the direction in which UKAGP should be headed?

I would welcome your thoughts and responses to this proposal. Please email me, Belinda
Harris: [email protected]

Name of the Organisation
Feedback from Black and Asian trainees and colleagues has alerted us to the reality that the name of our organisation is off-putting. This feedback is important for UKAGP, and your thoughts on this matter would be greatly appreciated.

Should the name of the organisation be changed so that more people feel they would be welcomed and included?
And if so,
Do you have a desire to be involved in the process of finding a name for the organisation, as part of a separate task group?

For further information, please contact Ruth Nightingale [email protected] with your
thoughts on this.

UKAGP Newsletter Editorial Team
The UKAGP Newsletter has undergone profound change over the past couple of years and now has more diverse range of contributions and contributors as well as more global reach. It is noticeable that it has become less of a newsletter and more of a journal.

Do you miss the newsletter? Should we have both?

Currently the Organising Committee is considering whether to appoint an editorial team from our membership. This team would aim to sustain, consolidate and secure the future of the newsletter/journal over time.

Might you be interested in being part of the UKAGP editorial team?

If so, please contact Piotr Mierkowski: [email protected]

Engaging Trainees
Trainees represent a significant proportion of our membership. Liz Smears, our Trainee Officer has reached out in different ways to build a community of trainees across institutes. Unfortunately, the process has been more challenging than expected. Liz is keen to hear from trainees so she can assess the degree of need and also the viability of such a group.

Should the Organising Committee continue to try and engage trainees to provide a sense of belonging to a national community?

What/how might UKAGP serve the needs of trainees across Training Institutes?

If you have any thoughts about this, please email Liz Smears: [email protected].

Support for Trainers
The role of a trainer, especially a new trainer, can be challenging and exciting on many levels. The UKAGP OC is keen to support the development of a community of trainers across institutes, so that individuals have a space in which they can share their fears, successes and where appropriate, resources.

Adam Kincel as Training Officer has begun to liaise with Gestalt trainers and hopes to develop this further over the coming year.

Is this a good idea/of interest to you?
If so,
What would you need from such a group?

For further information, contact Adam Kincel: [email protected].

Bursary Fund
Thanks to voluntary donations and contributions to our seminar series, our bursary fund is growing steadily. As a national organisation UKAGP would like to ensure that geographical location is not a barrier to attendance at one of our conferences. We therefore propose to use the bursary fund to support the travel expenses of people living at some distance from a UKAGP conference venue. A person’s chosen home address should not disadvantage or exclude them from attending a UKAGP conference.

Is this an appropriate use of our bursary fund?

If you have thoughts on this, it would be great to hear from you. Please contact Terri Windsor: [email protected].

Sustaining momentum
As a committee we are always touched by the enthusiasm of those attending our community meetings and conferences. We receive many offers of help and support, and we draw on those offers as much as we can. We are also aware that some peoples’ generous offers are not responded to fully in a timely way. Clearly, we appreciate and value their willingness to support UKAGP, and we do not want people to feel missed by us. We are however, a small group of nine people actively engaged in a lot of work behind the scenes.

We would welcome your thoughts on ways we might sustain the enthusiasm and passion of all those who volunteer.

Please send your thoughts/ideas to Hugh Pidgeon: [email protected].

With my heartfelt thanks for your forebearance,

Belinda Harris PhD
Chair, UKAGP

UKAGP Newsletter, Summer 2021
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