City Woman - Alternative learning helps you EvolveBy Leigh Mencarini
October 20, 2010
Fancy learning something different? Fortnightly group Evolve offers all kinds of alternative workshops that are cheap, flexible and fun, writes Leigh Mencarini
Miserable classrooms, homework, detentions, end-of-term tests and late night revision. Who’d want to go back to school, eh? Well, learning doesn’t have to be exactly like secondary school.
There are plenty of evening and weekend courses out there – but, if that all seems a little too academic for you, a new group has formed offering alternative learning.
And the subjects are all pretty alternative, too.
Chiara Irvine, who lives in Queens Road, Caversham, with husband James and sons Massimo, five, and Alex, two, set up Evolve in June. It all started when Chiara, who describes herself as “spiritual and holistic” (she teaches and practises reiki for a living) was struggling to find somewhere to learn about alternative therapies.
“I couldn’t find anywhere in the area – other than very closed circles – to go to learn about meditation, crystal therapy, that kind of thing,” the 32-year-old explains.
“It was all about the learning and I didn’t really want to start our own group – it just kind of happened.”
Evolve offers workshops and talks in spirituality, psychic abilities, creativity, alternative therapies and self development – all in bitesize, inexpensive chunks.
“It’s low-cost; everyone who comes needs to care about sharing their talent and ability, and everyone gets the feeling they are learning something,” she says.
“Most people find they have little time at weekends, and if you want to just try something out you need to sign up for a course which can be very expensive. At Evolve, people can chop and change and you don’t have to sign up for membership.
“We seem to get a steady number and we all have a great laugh.”
The workshops and taster sessions, held at Chan Cham in Merchants Place, in the town centre, attract people from all walks of life and backgrounds – even those who might initially feel out of place.
“I am very alternative and spiritual, but I’m also very down to earth,” Chiara says.
“There are lots of business-types who would love to learn about crystals and things, but they think ‘will we be the only ones there?’ It’s not true. We say just give it a go – and then they come all the time!
“More people are looking for alternative things nowadays. There are a lot of people who were interested to learn something different and it has opened their eyes and made them realise there is something out there.”
Chiara says Chan Cham is ideal as a venue as it gives the sessions an intimate feel. Plus, the bar can be put to good use by both visitors and healers (after the sessions, of course).
“It is funny to watch,” says Chiara. “A lot of couples often come after work and she’ll go off, having taster sessions, while he sits at the bar. But then eventually he has to leave the comfort zone of the bar and then he finds out what it’s all about.
“It’s a nice, local atmosphere.”
Most talks and workshops cost around the £10 mark, while the taster sessions – the next taking place on Monday, November 29 – are free entry, with taster therapies costing £5 each.
“The idea is people could take £20 along and try four taster therapies if they wanted, and not feel like they’re spending a fortune. And it could be anything – crystals, massage, healing, reiki, tarot card readings, sound healing, drumming; it’s fantastic.”
The session in sound healing, by Heather Parker of ISIS Sounds, was particularly enlightening, she says.
“I was always a bit sceptical about sound healing, but I learned all the sounds related to the chakras,” says Chiara.
“We were doing lots of different exercises then we took turns sitting in the middle of the group while the rest of us had to make the ‘heart’ chakra sound.
“She [Heather] sang to us the most amazing words. When you’re all there, that many people collectively resonating together, it’s wonderful. And weird how it can affect your body.”
Not just your body, either – it even drew attention from people outside.
“Oh yeah – people walking past who heard us started chanting and singing too. It’s all part of the fun!”
Now that’s an alternative to the classroom we’d all enjoy.
For information about Evolve, which meets every other Monday at 7.30pm, visit the website www.developandevolve.co.uk or call Chiara on 07947 404160.