The Roundhouse Project

Dawn Morgan Shapeshift 5 Rhythms Dance

The connection between 5 Rhythms and Straw Bale Building may seem a bit tenuous....and may be its not!

I am new to this, I'm a dancer not a builder! I have been more concerned with healing, with energy and movement, than with the nitty gritty of practical creating. But I did grow up in the countryside, I did at one time learn to lay hedges and help sheep birth their lambs, it just seems such a long time ago, and this project is somehow bringing me round full circle.

For some years I concentrated in my own healing journey that also involved learning many of the skills that I now use in my 5 Rhythms teaching practice. For a while I didn't know how to reconcile the inner healing journey with what was going on out there in the world that was also shouting for action and change. Now I feel involved in both the inner healing journey and outer action towards wholeness. Working on the round house project and learning about eco construction is part of that reconciliation.

About 4 years ago I went to see a Lakota Native American man for a psychic reading. Three years later in my new kitchen unpacking after moving house I was listening to the tape of the session, surprised to realise that although his timing was not completely accurate, very much of what he said, has come to pass or will shortly.

At the time one of the things he said was that I should go back to where I came from i.e. Lancashire, back to the land there and create something, offer something back...find a way of honouring the heart connection I have to that place and my family. It did strike a chord in my heart, I got the 'shivers up my spine' kind of feeling as he spoke, a 'yes' from the body. This planted a seed that grew into the round house project.

I have always wanted to be involved in designing and building my own eco-house it would be beautiful, exciting and functional. It is hard to follow this urge in our culture. I know many people who would like to. I understand that there are good reasons for planning restrictions and I feel sad to see so many un-environmentally sensitive homes being built when eco housing still barely gets a look in....and yes it is changing! Isn't it wonderful that it is changing?

I am lucky to be able to build a structure, a 'summer house', in the woods on my families land. It is a beautiful wooden framed, seven sided round house. About 20'x20'. I have posted some pictures here. The structure was begun by Alexander Hodgson (, then go to 'other services') He did a great job at initiating the project.

Then I met the 'Amazon Nails' Construction company. This is a women owned and run firm. They do amazing work. I went on a course with them last summer to learn about lime rendering, a natural breathable way to render the outside of buildings.

We began the day with a circle, holding hands....and pulling angel cards. The circle was made up of so many different kinds of people, including your regular builder and plasterer who may never have stood in a circle to begin a day on construction...let alone held hands! By the end of the day we were all inspired by this respectful way of working together, so different from most construction sights, the rate of production and quality of work was excellent and with happy workers!

The teachers, Barbara and Lesley created a strong atmosphere of respect for difference and an honouring of different paces of work, learning and skill. As a complete beginner I never felt anything less than completely involved in the project (the project was working on a National Trust Education Building in the Lake District, there will be pictures on their website, see

The other part of it I loved was the experience of being part of creating something useful, beautiful and in tune with the environment with a group, it was such fun. The teaching is professional, accessible and inspiring.

It was on this course that I felt the resonance with their way of working and the way I have been trained to teach the 5 rhythms. We were all reminded to go at our own pace, each person on the circle was responsible for themselves and they were facilitated to find their own way of contributing to the whole, without pushing or holding back. I did go through a process that wasn't all plain sailing, it was so new for me to be doing something like this! I kept going, finding my way, with excellent support from the teachers and other workers. It was such an inspiring experience to see this way of teaching in such a practical context...and just like after dancing I even had some achy muscles at the end of the course.

When they agreed to get involved in my round house I was very happy.
So far we have run one volunteers course already doing straw baleing. This was a wonderful experience that even included a dance session round the camp fire!

The next course is happening 15th-17th August. This is a 3 day course (£120 per person includes tuition, materials, lunch and basic camping). We will learn the background, theory and techniques of building with straw bales over the first 2 days, followed by a days teaching and experience of lime rendering onto the straw walls. It is a great opportunity to learn about both these techniques in one course and get lots of hands on experience. There will be 12 people on the course, and there is an option to stay on for the weekend after the course and continue. If you would like to come please contact Amazon Nails, see below for contact details. If you have ever dreamed of building something for yourself this will inspire you and it is part of turning the tide on global warming and reminding us we can live well and with little environmental impact. We can now build in ways that have a positive impact on nature and in a way that has a positive impact on our own nature. Discovering ways to be present, mindful, in bliss even!, with a group of people creating something of use and beauty is in itself a wonderful experience.

Of course you may not be surprised to hear that I also dream of creating a purpose built dance space in the woods....and that may come, but first things first and I am learning so much from doing this and have delighted in sharing the journey with a mixture of dancers becoming builders and builders potentially learning to dance!

If you would like to get involved in the next phase of the round house or see what else Amazon Nails are up to, please contact Amazon Nails;

or tel 00 44 (0) 845 458 2173
or see

also see