Propeller Spotlight: The Bee Tree Community

How the Bee Tree Community came about

2020 saw a huge dip in people’s wellbeing as they were told not to leave the house or see their loved ones. Many of the events and activities that keep us sane were cancelled and things that could heighten our stress – like getting ill or made redundant – loomed large. Rather than admit defeat and wait for everything to blow over, three UCLan students decided to tackle the problem head on.

Debbie, Katie and Clare offered a packed schedule of social, skill, activity and support groups over Zoom during the summer. With just a handful of volunteer hosts, they weren’t sure how it was going to go, or if they’d make a difference. But they did.

Now, in 2021, they’re back with a passion. With three times the hosts and around 15 sessions a week, the Bee Tree Community is tackling isolation and fostering personal growth with their ‘online community centre’. What’s not to love?

A hive of activity

The Bee Tree Community is a way to connect with others up and down the country, with whom you have things in common. Although many people are now offering online classes and events, these tend to focus on only one activity. You might be interested, only to find you’re unable to attend because the delivery hours are really inconvenient, or you’re already paying a subscription to a different class.

This is where Bee Tree splits off from the rest of the crowd. Each week there are sessions such as history, art, creative writing, cooking, bingo, carers groups, over 60s groups, yoga, book clubs… the list keeps going on. The variety of groups offered means you can find something that suits you and are more likely to connect with like-minded people. Since you’re able to dip in and out of sessions each week, it’s ideal for people who want consistency and also those who prefer variety.

“I always come away from a group feeling a lot lighter. It’s nice to allow myself to be distracted, have a quick moan about the world and then move on. It definitely gives me more energy, it’s always a good laugh, and I come away feeling able to carry on.” – Clare Watson, Director

A sense of belonging

The idea had been on the directors’ minds for some time, as they are acutely familiar with the effect of community on public health. With professional backgrounds spanning the areas of nursing, midwifery, counselling and education, the three directors know how important socialising is to wellbeing. Although NHS mental health services can provide medication and therapy (after a long wait), it is too under-resourced and lacks the infrastructure to take care of the social aspect and sense of belonging.

With some social issues like post-natal depression, young male suicide and being housebound due to illness or disability given as examples, it’s clear that this enterprise isn’t just a product of coronavirus but tackles deeper societal issues.

“I have friends who are carers or have long-term illnesses who can’t leave the house. For them, this is normal. This is their ‘everyday’. We all have some understanding of what that’s like now, and I think many new ways of doing things will be more inclusive moving forward because of it.” – Deborah Bentley, Director

Learning how to run a business

Despite their intimate subject knowledge, none of the Bee Tree Community directors have a business background, which is why they came to Propeller. Creating the community around other commitments such as work, family and education; they’ve had to learn quickly.

“We still can’t believe this is all free. The support we’ve received has completely blown us away and we would have taken a completely different direction without the advice and input of our mentors. They help provide a clarity and simplify things: they’ll ask ‘why are you doing it like this when you could do it like that?’ and we’re like oh! We hadn’t thought of that!” – Katie Smith, Director

 Not only did the directors benefit from our Propeller mentors, but they were also eligible for further support from our ERDF U Start mentors. As such, they met with Nikki Hesford for specialist advice relating to marketing and publicity.

Although they are planning to operate the community as a CIC (community interest company), for now everything is run on a voluntary basis. That means everything from admin to delivering the sessions. Like a true community, everyone is involved, with some members even asking to host their own sessions in order to give back.

What the future holds

The next big change for the community is the addition of a website, which is currently under development. This will allow the booking system to become streamlined, saving time, making it easier to manage member growth and improving the user experience. The website is expected to go live in March.

The community operates largely on good will at the moment, but it is hoped that the Bee Tree Community can offer some remuneration to hosts. At the moment, this takes the form of free membership and reimbursement for expenses, but plans are underway to offer the platform for paid courses. This means that those hosts who run their own businesses can run their own courses alongside the regular Bee Tree programming, making use of their joint resources for operation and promotion. These courses will go further in depth and help fellow freelancers to minimise start-up costs and overheads whilst reaching a larger number of people. In addition to this, the new website will also feature a section all about the hosts and their businesses.

Further down the line still, the directors have an ambitious desire to fund online counselling for their members. Not only will this provide access to mental health support, but could also be used as a platform for trainee counsellors to gain experience in a supervised environment.

the bee tree community logo

Join in

If you would like to become a member of the Bee Tree Community, you can fill in this form or email Each week a list of available sessions is sent by email with a link to a booking form.

The Bee Tree Community usually costs £10 a month but is free throughout February. This gives you access to all groups. For more information visit their Facebook.