Rappin’, Reiki and Vegan Dining – just a regular weekend in Hebden Bridge

Rappin’, Reiki and Vegan Dining – just a regular weekend in Hebden Bridge

It’s a Love (Lution) Thing


On a Friday evening last August (high summer – yes it was cold, grey and raining), I reluctantly made my way to a farm and campsite in Cragg Vale with a borrowed tent and sleeping bag. Camping has never been a great love of mine since I spent a week in North Wales one summer in torrential storms with two kids and an ex boyfriend. What is it they say? Ah character building, yes that’s the one.

I’m on my way to the last farm on the map that has a Hebden Bridge postcode – Aaron’s Farm, to take part in a wellbeing retreat organised by Lovelution.

I first came across Lovelution in my quest to research events in the Calder Valley for the website whatsonhebdenbridge.com and I was immediately intrigued. I’m a wellbeing journalist, specialising in yoga and I like to think that I’m pretty up to date with everything going on namaste wise, but I’d never heard of them.



Lovelution – ‘The Institute for the Elevation of People’ is a newly founded grass-roots based collaborative organisation which is focused on the idea of the ever-evolving self.” What was this ever-evolving self I wondered? I needed to know. Certainly when I read that there was a fancy dress box and an open mic night.


James Mallinder is the guy behind it and I ask him how it all started:

“My friend Joe, his uncle Iggy owns the farm, and I met him in Trinity Shopping Centre in Leeds. He was freestyle rappin’ wearing a mask and holding a big sign that said ‘Lovelution – be the change you wish to see in the world’ and he was rappin’ about the same kind of stuff that I’d been thinking.”

This began a firm friendship between the two and when Joe had a birthday party James was invited. This was the first time he had seen the farm and met the rest of the family. And so Lovelution was born.


Let’s get this party started

Proceedings didn’t start well when I got lost on the tops and accidentally set up my pop-up tent in the wrong field, I couldn’t get it back down (as anyone who’s ever tried knows) so I had to carry it through bushes and trees in the rain to get to the right campsite.

When I finally arrived at the correct place there’s about fifteen other people all setting their tents up. When everyone’s sorted we go straight into the barn (the pop-up restaurant) for a welcome dinner. All of the food is plant-based and it is absolutely delicious. There are four courses, and each one is made with precise care and attention and the Thai curry is perhaps the best I’ve ever tasted.

This isn’t festival or camping food – this is gourmet dining, and later James tells me that the chefs are professionally trained. Other retreaters are warm and friendly as we eat and chat at the banquet style tables and I’m immediately glad that I came.


Eager retreaters


A warm welcome

After dinner we’re invited to take part in a fire ceremony. We’re each given a pen and some paper and told to write down something that we’d like to ‘let go of’ this weekend. I consider writing my overdraft balance as it’s the first thing that pops into my mind but change my mind and write something more meaningful and appropriate. We then have a meditation and all throw our paper into the fire – it feels surprisingly good to do this and I find myself wondering if it could possibly work?



For my reiki session (everyone gets a reiki session or a massage included) I’m taken to a secluded hut at the side of the farm which is beautifully decorated with a big healing bed and crystals, it smells of incense and it’s very inviting. I’d only had reiki once before and didn’t know much about it. I got onto the bed and Felicity Weston starts her magic – Felicity is the owner of Ookushana Workshop in Leeds, a Reiki Master and Holistic Wellness Coach. She is a lovely young woman and I find myself spilling my deepest and darkest secrets to her, and I have a feeling that many people do – such is the kind and gentle way that she responds.

It’s hard to explain what happened in the session or how it works, but she placed her hands gently all over my body and it felt like rushes of powerful energy somehow running through it and I went into a deeply relaxed, trance like state. I felt extremely calm and collected afterwards and like I’d experienced something very special.


Felicity Weston – Reiki healer extraordinaire


Throughout the day I realised that reiki can have very different effects on different people and some of the women cry, although not through sadness, but through a release of negative emotions and they tell me they feel relieved.


Yoga in a barn, massage in a bell-tent

I’m lucky to also get a massage and this is delivered by Chelsey Elizabeth Needham, from Inner Sense Guru and who is also the resident yoga teacher. Chelsey trained in India and teaches her own style of InnerFlow Yoga. InnerFlow Yoga is an all-encompassing sequence combining ancient techniques including Mudra, Pranayama, Asana, Meditation and Mantra music.This reminded me of a previous experience with the mother of all Yoga – Kundalini.  If you’re never heard of some of these Yogic words or of Kundalini Yoga you are not alone!  But I can tell you everything combined gracefully to make you feel incredible after each yoga session and it was a great group bonding experience.

Chelsey specialises in Tibetan massage, using a holistic approach which reflects the Tibetan medical system – viewing the body as not just physical, but energetic and spiritual as well, and god she’s good.


Chelsey eagerly awaiting the next retreater to use her magic hands…


The sun finally comes out and I breathe a sigh of relief. It’s an unusual scene – people are having reiki, or sat chatting in small groups, someone brings some sofas onto the field and we sit there with the sun on our faces staring out at the vast Yorkshire hills, it’s a spectacular setting. There is an option for a personal training session but I’ve never been one for self-induced pain so I happily just relax with a book in the sunshine.


Happy Campers!


Women’s Circle

A very special and spontaneous thing happened that weekend and I felt very privilidged to be a part of it. Almost by accident a few of us seemed to be sat in a circle outside on the grass. Angel, another reiki healer who’s part of the Lovelution family suggested that we do a ‘women’s circle’. This filled me with utter fear, what did she mean? If it meant speaking in public they could count me out. But it was too late, everyone was already holding hands, I took a deep breath, held hands, and waited in anticipation, having never taken part in anything like it before.

One by one we all went around the circle and opened up about why we were there, because let’s face it, if we find ourselves in a field in Cragg Vale with strangers then we have to admit that we’re looking for something. I’ve met many people on retreats and there are often common themes:


~ Getting over a relationship breakup
~ Trying to find the strength to finish a relationship
~ Trying to abstain from alcohol or drugs
~ Trying to find a new direction in their lives
~ Looking for creative influences
~ Looking for like minded souls
~ Grieving from bereavement
~ People who have had a scary health diagnosis
~ Looking for answers to the meaning of things


This was eight strangers, all sat there opening their hearts to each other in such an honest way. There was laughter, tears, confessions, hugs, and there were friendships made. I’ve never come across anything like it before or since and I felt so honoured that these women shared these stories and their hopes and fears with me, and me with them.



This is the key to what Lovelution offers, it’s a safe and supportive space for everyone and anyone to explore who they are and what they want in the peace and harmony of nature.


Open mic night

The open mic night was even greater than I expected. Nearly everyone (apart from me – I was thinking about doing a poem about veganism but bottled it at the last minute) took part, there was singing, rappin’, belly dancing, poetry and games. It was brilliant, it seemed like everyone had a hidden talent.


Iggy showing us how it’s done

Dancing the night away in the barn


Lovelution community and family

I have to mention the structure of Lovelution – The Institute for the Elevation of People. The whole show is run by James and it is run as a collective, or a cooperative even – everyone’s paid the same and everyone who now works at the retreats are previous guests.  James explains:

Everyone who comes is invited to be part of the Lovelution and help with the project. Lots of people who have attended a retreat have changed their lives and followed their dreams since being part of it. The weekend has the power to unlock a person’s true potential and empower them. They will be accepted and supported from a place of love. Our community keeps growing and the project is ever evolving and open to all people who want to find meaning and live the best possible life for them and the world.


Lovelution team August 2017

It’s a hard life

So who goes on retreats?

I get asked this question a lot so I may as well answer it here. Anyone and everyone really, and if you ever think you’d like to go on a retreat but don’t have anyone to go with I can almost 100% guarantee that you won’t be the only person alone. What I’ve also found is that most people are not who you’d expect, they’re just regular people from all walks of life.


How did I feel after my retreat?

I felt brilliant, but it was more than the calm, refreshed and refocused feeling that I normally get after a retreat. I felt like I’d found a new community, something that I wanted to be part of, people who accepted me fully for who I am, and it opened the doors for a bigger journey that I was to embark on afterwards – more on that in another post maybe.

I’ve been on tonnes of retreats all over the world and they’ve all been amazing in their own way but this one will always have a very special place in my heart. Thanks James and thanks Lovelution team!


**Please note: Lovelution is strictly an alcohol and drug free zone.**


If you’d like to attend a Lovelution retreat in summer 2018 the price is £222 and is all-inclusive of weekend camping, all plant-based gourmet meals, snacks and all treatments, classes and workshops.


For more information please go to: theiep.co.uk


Please do sign up to my newsletter below folks or LIKE my Facebook page for updates.


Going Vegan: How I stumbled to a plant-based diet

Going Vegan: How I stumbled to a plant-based diet

I never intended going vegan. To be honest I’d never really put that much thought into it. Veganism to me sounded like one of those strange and extreme things that strange and extreme people do. Besides that, vegans annoyed me:


“I hate vegans. I struggle with their obsessive criticism of my consumption of one of the few things that I hold dear to life… dairy products. I’ve been a vegetarian for 32 years, cheese and milk are my thing and I’m very happy with that – I don’t eat meat, what more do they want?
I’m sick of having it rammed down my throat on Facebook, aggressive messages about how cruel we are for eating dairy and videos of animals being seriously mistreated. None of these posts engage me, I quickly skip past them with feelings of guilt and and resentment and then go to the fridge and jack up some strong vintage cheddar, mmm.”
                 Hannah Anstee 2016


But life is never simple is it… “I want to go vegan.” said my daughter one day some time after me writing (or at least thinking) the above statement.

“Oh right – why?” “Because the dairy industry is cruel to animals and also it’s really bad for the environment.” “DAMN!” I thought.

I didn’t really understand her wanting to do it, but still, I wanted to support her. The thing about Holly is, as she gets older, she’s more informed, better read and more conscientious than I am – so I like to give her the benefit of the doubt on most occasions. The reason why I became a vegetarian all those years ago was because I don’t like to eat flesh, that’s it. I don’t like the taste, texture or smell of it. There’d never been any thought to the cruelty of animals, which I never thought about at seven and after then, well, I never had to think about it because I was vegetarian.

Going vegan

In preparation for this big lifestyle change I went shopping and bought everything I’d normally buy apart from dairy. No cheddar, no parmesan, no milk, no pizza, no mozzarella, no feta, no halloumi, no butter, you know – all the good stuff. So when we got home, we basically had nothing to eat. One of the things I now know about teenagers is that they eat constantly. They’re never out of the fridge, and if they don’t get food they’re not happy. I hadn’t really thought this through properly.

I went on websites and forums about going vegan and found recipes that involved ingredients that I’d never heard of before, and admittedly intimidated me. I went out and bought them anyway, spent a fortune, and hours in the kitchen producing some of the blandest food I’ve ever tasted in my life. I’m not the best cook anyway but I’d exceeded even my own limitations. Still not prepared to give in, I bought various vegan cheeses and tried to concoct my old recipes substituting them with this so called cheese, they were disgusting, all of them.

“Right Holly, forget this, let’s just limit the dairy intake, we simply cannot go vegan.”

The starving teenager reluctantly agreed.

How disappointing

But I have to say I felt some sanctuary in all of this, yes – who were these vegans? They must have no quality of life. I’m glad I’m normal and can’t be vegan – at least we tried. I quit smoking a few years ago, not because of the fear mongering photos of lung cancer on tobacco products, but because I read an article that informed me that if I quit smoking by 35 I’d have a good chance of not getting lung cancer – I was in. And this is the same way in the end that I came to be a vegan, by looking at the positive aspects, not the negatives. 

Some months later, in January 2017, I read a book – a very gentle and beautifully written book called ‘Mindful Eating, Mindful Life’ by Thich Nhat Hanh. I started reading it in my neverending quest to try and live a more mindful life – which for me is the key to happiness. I had no idea that it would not only help me live more mindfully, it would also help me to understand veganism more; why it’s beneficial (to me and the world); and how to be be vegan if I wanted to. This book had a really big impact on me and changed the way I view food.

What now?

Next came the Deliciously Ella book, a gift to Holly from my mum. Ella Woodward has to eat a dairy free and gluten free diet to battle illness and is a massive Instagram sensation (yes one of those). The book isn’t particularly good in terms of the recipes, but it’s a good introduction into how to think differently about food.

Up until this point I’d never really found my feet with cooking, I had a couple of set meals that I could make reasonably well but I lacked imagination and confidence. This all changed dramatically after becoming vegan, it was a choice, we could either struggle on through, or I could up my game and start trying new things. I found that I loved cooking  if I had the time to do it properly, and found it a very grounding and relaxing experience. I also found it satisfying knowing that I was providing my family (as small as it is) with a lovingly cooked meal that was healthy, nourishing, and not impacting on any other being or the environment.

It’s all in the planning

So now we had our staple meals under our belts and we planned a lot, I spent every Sunday cooking for the week ahead. At that time we always had to take a packed lunch with us so as not to get caught out, plus I wanted us to have frozen meals in for the evenings in case I couldn’t be bothered to cook. It might seem unappealing to some, but I enjoyed those Sundays in the winter, cooking for the week with the radio on and the odd glass of red.

The other surprising thing about all of this was that it was very cheap, it hardly cost anything to make these vegan dishes. It cost about a fiver to make each dish and we’d split that between 6 and 10 portions for the freezer. So we settled into being vegans quite nicely, I got used to what we could and couldn’t eat and didn’t have to forward plan so much.

Going vegan was actually a wonderful bonding experience (and still is) between Holly and I. For those of you who have teenagers you’ll understand how hard it can be to find a common ground sometimes. We now have this shared interest that we’re very passionate about and that we’re learning about together – and with a great reward , gorgeous food to share and enjoy.

Hangovers and cheese

About three months in, we came up against some barriers. I was getting annoyed at going out for meals with friends and having barely anything to choose from. I started thinking to myself: “Maybe when I go out for a meal I’ll allow myself to have dairy’. I then came home from a night out with a stinking hangover and all I could think about was pizza. I said to Holly:

“I’m thinking of going to get a pizza, just this once – do you think that would be ok?”

“Mum, do what you want, if you want a pizza have one – it’s not prison.”

So off I went to the Coop and bought a cheese pizza and a bottle of wine ( hair of the dog). I felt weirdly ashamed when I was buying it, and kept it close to my chest in case anyone might see me buying this damn pizza. It did taste good, but it wasn’t as nice as I had imagined it would be. The flavour, smell and consistency of cheese now seemed foreign to me.


I thought long and hard about why I felt so guilty about eating the pizza. I think it was to do with defining myself as a vegan and what that meant personally and it felt somehow fraudulent. But deep down I mainly felt guilty because I realised that I genuinely don’t want my personal consumption of food or anything else to have any impact whatsoever on animals. I don’t see why it should have to, I don’t believe that animals were put on this planet to be eaten or serve humans. BUT I understand those who don’t share my opinion, because your opinion was my opinion also until a few years ago.

What am I trying to say?

I  think we need to change the way we talk about veganism as the way it’s being discussed at the moment creates barriers to those thinking about trying it. It doesn’t have to be this ‘all or nothing’ approach which is promoted by most vegans, vegetarians and carnivores. It can be a ‘I’ll do what I can but I don’t want to limit my social life or small pleasures approach’? If you eat some cake with dairy in it one time, so what? If you eat a pizza with mozzarella on a Saturday night, so what? You’re still contributing massively to a cleaner planet and healthier lifestyle.

Do we really need to label every single thing we do?

Holly doesn’t eat any dairy products whatsoever now. I on the other hand have had a pizza, and I might have one again, I guess that makes me a ‘casual vegan’? I’m still getting to grips with modern day terminology about almost  everything. A guy told me in all seriousness last week that he’s a ‘vegan sexual’  make of that what you will  – I’m still trying to figure it out.

Militant vegans

I understand your pain, I feel it too, I want a better future for the planet, for my children and grandchildren, and for animals. But I feel it would help if we stop giving everyone hassle for eating meat and dairy as it alienates ourselves and the cause – remember the cigarette packets? They don’t work.

Non-vegans out there, stop challenging ‘vegans’ if they eat a piece of cheese , mind your own blooming business.

Should I try eating a more plant-based diet?

My short answer is why not – what do you have to lose? My own experience has been such a positive one, due to the bonding experience I’ve mentioned with my daughter and because I have so much more energy, never get bloated and feel a lightness about myself and my body. Going vegan has been one of the best things I’ve ever done.

These are the facts: IMO

  • It’s cheap
  • It’s healthy
  • You’re being kinder to the planet
  • You’re being kinder to yourself
  • You’re being kinder to animals
  • You’ll lose weight
  • You’ll feel better

Even as a vegetarian for most of my life I brought Holly up to be a meat eater such was the strength of the social conditioning that we need to eat meat for a healthy, balanced diet – we don’t.

Namaste X

P.S I originally started this article in 2017 and can tell you that I haven’t yet had another pizza or deviated from plant-based foods, and that’s because anything else tastes strange to me now.



Hey, you’re still here? I thought you’d be out buying tofu and soya milk by now! If you’d like to learn more about living a more plant-based lifestyle or even going vegan then the film What The Health is a very interesting documentary and Earthling Ed is a handsome guy with a topknot roaming the UK and opening up the debate about veganism.


Are you thinking about going vegan? Would love to hear any of your thoughts or comments below.


Please do sign up to my newsletter below folks or LIKE my Facebook page for updates.


New Ebook Coming Soon


I'm sending a FREE copy of 'DIY Day Retreat' to all of my subscribers


Sign up below to be the first to receive a copy

You have Successfully Subscribed!