Inspiration

  • Boo Armstrong

The Hedgerley Wood Trust is dedicated
to the memory and values of the campaigner for empathy in all areas of life,
Boo Armstrong, who died in 2012 aged 37.

The Hedgerley Wood Trust is dedicated to the memory and values of the campaigner for empathy in all areas of life, Boo Armstrong, who died in 2012 aged 37.

Boo evoked intense love from a vast array of people for her unassailable conviction that everyone had a right to be treated with equal respect. Instinctively egalitarian, she was as much at ease cabinet ministers or princes as she was with people who were homeless or socially marginalized, expressing her solidarity with both empathy and practical support. She wrote of herself: ‘The thing that really gets me out of bed in the morning is injustice.’

Her activism began early. As a teenager, she turned down a place at university to work at the London Lesbian and Gay Switchboard, becoming its chair at 19 and helping it win the national award for the best-run voluntary organization in the UK.

Her day job for several years was at Camden’s Women and Health, where she moved quickly from being receptionist to director. She organized – and raised £400,000 for – a total, green renovation of the building. She campaigned with her sister Franny and supported the vision and work of OneWorld.

In 2004, in a garage alongside Women and Health, she set up the non-profit company, Get Well UK, dedicated to making complementary medicine available through the NHS. She created a database of complementary practitioners, trained and certified, that GPs could recommend to their patients with confidence. The results were widely appreciated by doctors and patients alike.

Support came from the British government when, in February 2005, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for the Department of Health said in the House of Commons: ‘[I]n relation to Get Well UK… We can see the benefits to local practices of an intermediary pulling together a range of services in the area for alternative medical treatments.’

A groundbreaking, year-long pilot project in Northern Ireland followed, where patients from two primary care centres accessed complementary services via their GPs. The pilot, covered in the BBC documentary Get Well NI, delivered impressive results: both patients and GPs reported improved physical and mental health; fewer visits to the GP; less time off work; less dependence on medication.

Boo was an inspiration to the progressive health community. She was a member of the National Clinical Audit Advisory Group, a Women’s Parliamentary Radio board member, and a finalist in the 2004 Young Social Entrepreneur of the Year Awards.

At the age of 34, Boo was invited by the Prince of Wales to become Director of the Institute of Integrated HealthBut she was already ill: within weeks of her appointment, an aggressive cancer was confirmed.

Yet worldly success had never been the real prize for Boo. She had been a seeker on a centrifugal path, breaking out of the privileged orbit she had been born into: roaming far and wide in search of her distinct identity, her calling, her eclectic faith, her true love, her chosen family. She found all these when she met Trish Wassall and her children in March 2008. They became a devoted family, living a life suffused with her deepest values.

Boo died at the Hospice of St Francis, Berkhamsted, just before midnight on 8 October, 2012, to our great and shared sorrow.

And now there’s a wonderful new book of memories and pictures from Boo’s life – details here on how you can read it, download it or buy it.

BLOG POSTS

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Friends and family gathered three years after Boo’s death,…