Hartlepool mum who is ‘allergic to life’ opens craft haven to help people socialise

Barbara Ward.  Picture by FRANK REID
Barbara Ward. Picture by FRANK REID

A woman who is “allergic to life” has launched a new craft venue for other people who feel cut off from the world.

Barbara Ward, 43, from Hartlepool, suffers from a rare condition affecting just one in 230 million people.

Barbara Ward (2nd left) with (left to right) Gemma Griffiths, Veronica King and Debbie Brown.  Picture by FRANK REID

Barbara Ward (2nd left) with (left to right) Gemma Griffiths, Veronica King and Debbie Brown. Picture by FRANK REID

Water – including her own tears – perfume and even exercise can send her body into anaphylactic shock.

But after finding solace in craft making, Barbara has opened up Be Crafty in The Archers, in Park Road.

Open six days a week, it provides a safe and relaxing haven for anyone suffering from anxiety, depression or just wants to get out of the house.

Barbara, a mum-of-four, said: “I was stuck at home and couldn’t go anywhere or do anything.

It is like a medicine in itself

Barbara Ward

“I started doing art and thought there must be other people out there stuck in a similar situation and not able to socialise.”

She got in touch with fellow local crafters online before going from the virtual to physical world by moving into The Archers.

Barbara, a former call centre worker, of The Fens, has a condition called Mast Cell Activation Disorder.

It means contact with water can trigger a painful rash, wheezing and even send her into anaphylactic shock. Exercise, stress and strong scents can also do the same.

“Basically, it means I’m allergic to life,” said Barbara, who is married to Michael, 46.

She is able to manage her condition after recently travelling to London to see a specialist and after increasing her medication.

But extra care has still been taken to make sure the Be Crafty unit is as safe an environment as possible.

All paints and glues used in the crafts are toxin free, visitors are urged not to wear perfume.

Barbara, who said she could not have launched Be Crafty without the help of friend Gemma Griffiths, added: “I’m quite an active person and by doing this it gives me a meaning and seeing other people benefit from it, it is like a medicine in itself.

“It means I can socialise without being restricted.”

Be Crafty, is open Monday to Saturday and runs crafts including glass painting, sewing, and ceramic decorating.

A workshop promoting good mental health takes place on Wednesdays and an arts and crafts fair will be held in the courtyard on the first Sunday of the month, starting this weekend.

Be Crafty is run on a non-profit making basis with clients just asked to make a donation towards materials.