Volume 56 - Autumn 2023


Bound by Veterans

A charity that supports Wounded, Injured and Sick (WIS) ex-Servicemen and women

bound by veterans

Bound by Veterans is a charity that supports Wounded, Injured and Sick (WIS) ex-Servicemen and women from all three Services together with their spouses and immediate family members. It uses the restorative powers of manual bookbinding to assist rehabilitation, improve health and well-being and to develop employment opportunities.

How it Started

The idea for the charity came about in 2011 when Jonathan Powell, a former Army Officer and the late Rob Shepherd, an expert bookbinder, met and became firm friends. Jonathan had served for almost 40 years in the Army on active service and other roles all over the world. Whilst learning and practising bookbinding on retirement from the forces he quickly appreciated the therapeutic nature of the craft and experienced its benefits at first hand. His practical approach and military background, combined with a good sense of humour means he is uniquely placed to work alongside the veterans attending the courses. He is highly motivated and wants to see as many veterans as possible benefit from these skills and to help them prepare for work in a civilian environment.

Rob Shepherd, the other half of the team, was committed to excellence and his expertise in bookbinding led him to running a flourishing and world-renowned craft family business in London (Shepherds Bookbinders Ltd). However, he freely gave much of his spare time to support wounded, injured and sick veterans via the charity. He was himself a victim of childhood polio, meaning he spent his early years unable to walk. He had an innate understanding of what it was like to be treated differently and how difficult times in life can be overcome with the right support, mind and skill set.

Together Rob and Jonathan took their idea of starting the charity, Bound by Veterans, to the outside world and importantly gained the support of the London livery company, the Stationers Foundation. In late 2011 and early 2012 a series of trial courses and discussions were held with veterans and rehabilitation experts at the MoD Personnel Recovery Centre in Tidworth, and from this a programme of craft-based therapeutic activities was launched.

Following registration as a charity in late 2012, Bound by Veterans moved to its permanent home in the Daffodil Barn in the beautiful setting of Woodborough, just outside Pewsey, Wiltshire. The Barn houses our training courses and the equipment needed to produce the books we sell.

What we Do

Many of the Veterans who came to us did so through the Rolling Recovery Programme (RRP) run by the Services Personnel Recovery Centre at Tidworth, near Andover. This programme included a two hour "taster" bookbinding session run by Bound by Veterans. In recent years, Veterans have heard about us more by word of mouth and we have replicated the "taster" sessions at other Service charities such as Veterans Outreach Support, an outreach centre in Portsmouth, and the Help 4 Heroes Veterans Tribe in Scotland. Those who enjoy these sessions can go on to attend Bound by Veterans courses in a variety of bookbinding skills at Daffodil Barn. These courses can last a few days, a week or be taken over several months, and in addition to offering an aid to recovery and rehabilitation, they can contribute towards City & Guilds qualifications which can help with opening up new careers. They now have the opportunity to attend courses all the way up to the Level 3 Diploma, and topics include vellum binding, laced on full leather, restoration, edge decoration and gold tooling.

The workshops are taught by a variety of instructors all sympathetic to the potential needs of veterans, creating a safe space and relaxed learning environment. Course sizes are generally limited to only six students, which avoids veterans being overwhelmed by large numbers or an uncomfortably busy environment. The courses are often also open to civilians which gives veterans the chance to interact with non-military individuals helping with their transition from service.

bound by veterans

A recent course photo with visiting instructor Kathy Abbott (centre) who was teaching a ¼ vellum laced-on board binding.

Bound by Veterans covers the cost of their courses, City & Guilds registrations and has secured some funding to help with accommodation costs.

We also teach beginners courses online so veterans can learn from their own home if they are unable to attend our workshop. We can deliver them as hybrid workshops where other veterans' charities set up at a venue and tuition is given on a large screen (popular with Veteran Tribe Scotland). Our Principal Tutor, Mylyn, who teaches many of the courses can see first-hand the benefits of these sessions on the veterans and family carers who join us. The following testimonials highlight these benefits.


I was medically discharged from the Army with a diagnosis of PTSD attributable to military service. This was a very bewildering and disorienting experience and one in which I felt disconnected from myself and from the everyday world of social interaction and work. I underwent various psychotherapies, but none seemed to help me.

One of the very few activities which have been of benefit to me is attending book-binding courses run by Bound by Veterans (BBV). I think that these courses are beneficial for three main reasons:

Firstly, the BBV staff are empathetic and patient without being condescending, so that one feels that one is treated with courtesy but not as if one were in some way incapable, which is often how others treat those with PTSD. The BBV tutors set high standards in craftsmanship and inspire one to strive to achieve the expected standard. It is a real boost to one's sense of self-worth to realise that one is still capable of achieving work of a good quality under professional and exacting tuition.

Second, bookbinding requires mental concentration, attention to detail, and precise manual skills, while the books produced at the end of the process are aesthetically pleasing and real works of craft. In some way that I cannot fully explain, this kind of detailed manual work is very therapeutic; just the tactile experience of handling the various tools and materials allows one to immerse oneself in the creative process and significantly helps in reconnecting one to oneself at a fundamental level.

Third, the relaxed, convivial atmosphere in the bindery at the Daffodil Barn allows one to feel secure enough to gradually drop the hypervigilance that those with PTSD often experience. Each individual is concentrating on their own project, and there is ample room at the work benches, so one does not feel crowded and one can have as much or as little social interaction with one's fellow students as one feels comfortable with. In addition, because many of the BBV courses last for from three to five days, one has the time to become familiar with the other students and to begin to relax in their presence. I found that these courses were, therefore, a comfortable way of slowly learning to interact socially with others once again in a safe and friendly environment.

In short, the book-binding courses run by BBV have been of real benefit to me as I recover from PTSD. Alan

My tactile injury, the psychologically stressful and the traumatic situation's I witnessed during my Military career later developed into depression and PTSD. To help manage this in a less clinical way, via a specialist veteran agency I was referred to Bound by Veterans (BBV).

The bookbinding courses offer me challenges and opportunities that tasks my thinking, my conduct and physical ability. I find myself once again in charge of my own learning achievements.

The courses and workshops offer companionship with like- minded people and a unique attitude to teaching specific to veterans.

Alongside clinical care, Bookbinding has become a significant weapon in my armoury to combat the unique mental health needs of one who battles daily with life's challenges. It has been a long time since I had felt proud to be a British Soldier.


Explorer Notebooks

In addition to the courses, veterans also come to the workshop to create notebooks for the charity to sell. We have a range of 'Explorer Notebooks' from simple spiral bound, to section sewn, and to leather bound which we sell at craft fairs and through our website. The making process is as beneficial as the courses and a good way to put the skills learnt to good use. It also gives the veterans a great sense of pride knowing their work is being sold and giving something back to the charity.

bound by veterans

Veterans making our leather Explorer Notebooks for retail

Further information on this wonderful charity, can be found on the Bound by Veterans website www.wiltshirebarn.co.uk
or by contacting Jonathan Powell at treasurer@boundbyveterans.co.uk


Skin Deep - Volume 56 - Autumn 2023

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