Pure Buzzin began with a school friend, James Imhoof, and i deciding to get some hives together.
My name is Stephen Douglas, most people call me Dugy, and i run Pure Buzzin Community Interest Company. As well as the usual hive based products such as candles and honey, we provide alternative education sessions alongside our popular beekeeping experience. We aren’t a honey farm as such, our aims are not producing lots of honey, or selling the best bees.
Pure Buzzin has three main aims and it’s all based around building better communities.
- To reduce social isolation
- To promote inclusion
- To increase mental health and well being
We do this through the craft of beekeeping. Reading my journey might help you understand why these three points are so important to me and how Pure Buzzin came to be.
A book and pair of binoculars
As a youngster, i remember always feeling a pull towards the natural world. I lived behind Scotswood Natural Community Garden and would climb over the fence at the weekends to catch frogs and explore the wilderness. This would have been around 1998 and the garden was a rather small area of a few ponds and lots of wild flowers. The garden has came a long way since then and is well worth a visit. This community garden appears again further along in my journey, and many times. Writing this now and i’m appreciating how big of a part of my life this area has played… I must make time to visit soon.
One day, a guy called Sid (or Stan) came to talk to me in the garden and gave me a book on plants and a pair of binoculars. Inside of the book were specimens of plants, pressed between the pages. This book and pair of binoculars helped me connect deeper with this patch of wilderness surrounded by the red brick houses, and begin to understand more of what was going on.
Another activity i enjoyed as a child was sitting on the street watching the ants at their nest – i would collect dead bugs and place them near the crack in the concrete which served as an entrance and exit to their nest nest and watch the ants carry the insects below. I couldn’t comprehend what was going on below the concrete nor begin to imagine the complex hierarchy and social system that ants follow.
The interest in nature evolved and questions became more complex. Fast forward a few years and i had left school and was studying Early Years. I think that the wonder of nature made me curious about human development, particularly our cognitive processes. I spent a number of years working as a nursery nurse in a private day nursery and began studying Autistic Spectrum Disorder. I realised i was particularly interested in communication. I changed jobs and became a family support worker whilst studying for a degree.
I didn’t do well in my degree, i ‘finished it’ but scraped by – i could give many reasons but ultimately i dont think it was the right time of my life to study. Through these years i was camping lots, exploring the world and my priority was partying…
It’s around this time that i returned to Scotswood Natural Community Garden. I supported them in running a ‘Nature Tots’ session for families with children under five. I was invited to attend a course at the weekend all around beekeeping. Maybe this was the beginning of my fascination with honeybees.
I didn’t really do anything with the course, i listened, and became more curious but felt i couldn’t be a beekeeper as i thought i required a lot of time. I was working a full time job and my weekends were a blur of mostly loud repetitive music; parties were a big part of my life! I did still spend time camping in Northumberland, and refining the ‘survival’ techniques i learnt in cadets as a teenager.
After my role in family support i found myself as deputy manager in a children’s nursery – this didn’t last long. I didn’t enjoy this role, which was difficult for me to accept as since my first job in a nursery i had made it my aim to get onto management and help shape an early years provision. Sometimes, i found, our dreams aren’t what they seem!
I floated around for a bit, covering shifts here and there and licking my wounds. I was feeling stuck and emotionally exhausted. I wasn’t making much money but my resilience was building and so i emailed around my networks asking for some work. I was offered some temporary work with the Paediatric Speech and Language Therapy Department, i had been seconded to this team when working in family support. I loved this work; i was surrounded by experts in child development who were clearly passionate in their work and always had time to help me. I was also able to learn more about our development as humans – and meet some incredible families.
This is the time i found out we were expecting a child… i was just about meeting rent and my plan on studying Speech and Language Therapy had to be put aside. I found a job advert for a family support worker which was well paid (which was important right now) but more importantly it was at Nunsmoor Community Centre – and working with people i held in high regard. I had worked here during my time with Sure Start and the trust which based itself within this community were inspiring.
I landed the job as inclusion worker, i supported families with children who had additional needs to access otherwise mainstream sports activities. Tearing down the barriers of segregation! It was a challenging but rewarding role – i loved it and gave it my all.
In the summer of 2017 i noticed bees coming and going from my back garden. I got in touch with Bridget who i worked with at the local council as i knew she was a beekeeper and wondered if she could give some advice. I was told they were ground nesting bees and the best thing to do would be to leave an upturned hanging basket over the nest so they can stay and not be disturbed. I didn’t disturb them at all, but i watched them for hours. They were starting to get a grip of me… I began remembering the beekeeping course and flirted with the idea of getting a hive.
At a friends house, James – who i’ve known since school – we talked about the bees and decided we could do it together. Like any other millennial, we were straight to Youtube. The videos we found were mostly Americans and the odd person from a different continent with a flow hive. I went on to email the local beekeeping association, Newcastle and District Beekeepers Association, and began attending their ‘bee club’. It wasn’t too long before i was helping out at their apiary and soaking in all of the information i could. Shortly after this Pure Buzzin was born – it was a shared hobby.
My son had been born and i was spending time learning and finding a new way to connect to the world. Everything had now became bees and i got lost in their hives, posing questions, looking for answers and enjoying their company. I picked up some work with a local commercial beekeeper and learnt how to manage a larger number of colonies. I loved how the bee farmer took a kinder approach to beekeeping than many of the hobby beekeepers i met. Carefully assembling hives as to not squash a bee, never taking more honey than the bees require, not clipping wings, and many other aspects of this kind large scale operation. I had met him before, you guessed it – at the community garden in Scotswood. He too got a kick from nature and holds lots of interesting knowledge about our world and the beauty to be found within it.
This is a recording of a presentation i delivered to the Newcastle and District Beekeepers Association. It’s almost two hours long and goes further into my story in becoming a beekeeper and establishing Pure Buzzin.
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From a Hobby to a small business
I ran a crowdfunding campaign in 2020. The campaign was powered by SpaceHive and along with many generous donations and support from the local community, it received a large amount of funding from The North Of Tyne Combined Authority. The successful crowdfund allowed the first community beekeeping project to be formed. From this, a Community Interest Company has been established with the aim of offering more experiences to a wider community.
Dugy, who has a background in working with communities decided to take beekeeping a step further than a hobby. He wants to enable people to come together through beekeeping and promote the need for pollinators.
“a Community Interest Company has been established with the aim of offering more experiences to a wider community”From one hive and a hobby between two friends, a Community Interest Company has been established.
Pure Buzzin in the Press
Our crowdfunding campaign attracted lots of media attention. We were lucky enough to appear on the local ITV Tyne Tees news and on a national programme All Around Britain.
Living North Magazine wrote a wonderful article about out Pure Buzzin, read it here
We are grateful for others who have included our story and helped to spread news of our projects. If you are able to feature us on your platform, get in touch