Meet The Team

We’re a cooperative of women who’ve learned the transformational power of creativity. Whilst different in background and experience, we are all driven to share our skills and wisdom. We want to empower other women to live more joyfully.


Hello, I’m Melissa; founder of The Academy of Wide-Hearted Living.
Connecting with my creativity changed my life and it’s my mission to get as many people as possible to get connected to theirs so they can experience the joy it brings.

I’ve had a really varied working life. In 2018, I trained as a Humanist Funeral Celebrant. Every ceremony was a reminder of how precious life is and this set me on a journey of personal discovery – what did I need to do, to make the most of my life? What conditions did I need to thrive, to really come alive?

We all have these questions bubbling away. Figuring it out is tricky! My hope is that the Academy can make it easier for other people to find their ease and happiness.

Developing the business involved overcoming a lot of challenges. Lots of other women seemed to encounter similar issues when they were trying to set up their own ventures. The Academy evolved from this realisation.

I was absolutely delighted that Sam and Sara agreed to join me as founding members. They bring a wealth of experience and together we can offer a really interesting and unique range of courses. It’s a celebration of a way of working where every decision is made for the greater good. We can’t wait to welcome you in.
1992 BSc. Applied Social Science Hons – (Health Studies) 2:1
2008 CIPD Certificate in Training Practice Distinction
2018 City & Guilds: Art and Design Merit
2019 BACP Level 3 Certificate in Counselling Skills

Sam Chittenden

Hello, I’m Sam; facilitator, coach, and theatre-maker.

My specialty is using creative approaches to help people harness their emotional intelligence for personal and team development.

I have 20 years of leadership experience in the NHS and understand how it feels to sit on decision-making committees and to have board membership. I am a qualified coach and mentor (ILM Level 7) and an accredited leader of The Mastery of Self Expression.

I am also Artistic Director of the award-winning company Different Theatre and in recent years have written a number of award-winning plays.

In 2015, my book “The Poetry of Leadership” won the Nautilus Prize.

I’m a firm believer in the transformative power of creativity and it is my absolute pleasure to be one of the founder members of The Academy of Wide-Hearted Living. Exciting times ahead!
Phd Biomedical Engineering 1987

ILM Cert in Executive Coaching and Leadership Mentoring

Member of the European Mentoring and Coaching Council

Sara Hurley

Hello, I’m Sara; a professional storyteller, creative arts facilitator and communication skills coach.

I work extensively in the health sector as a communication skills coach for health professionals as well as teaching on the Medical Humanities programmes at Exeter and Plymouth University in a creative capacity. I also facilitate workshops in community settings, helping people to respond creatively to their personal stories.

By contrast, I have an outdoor arts, street storytelling show called Isabella’s Story Bicycle which travels around the country entertaining families at events through visual storytelling.

With support from a Develop Your Creative Practice grant from the Arts Council, I’m currently deepening my work with visual storytelling to be able to use it more widely in workshops.

Now that I’m over 50 it’s clear to me that I have definitely dedicated my life to living creatively and encouraging people to share in creative experiences. Having brought up three children as a single parent, with no financial backing beyond my own work efforts, I understand the reality of choosing a life based around creativity. It’s not easy. It is possible. There’s gold to be found.

Story is at the heart of our human experience, we are natural storytellers and story listeners. I like to help sculpt the imagination, shape the intangible, encourage compassion and help our stories be told through the arts. This is the thread that runs through my work and what I’m excited to be bringing to The Academy of Wide Hearted Living.
Access to the Arts, Dartington College of Arts

BA Hons Drama, Exeter University

Art in Mental Health. A Foundation Course in Art Therapy.

Insider Art – 64 hours CPD.

7302 adult teaching certificate
‘Blazing Tales: the river exe-pedition. A combined arts project for mixed-heritage families.’

An account of the hidden histories project and evaluation of ‘the river exe-pedition’ addressing the role of using the arts and site-specific heritage and environmental participation with mixed-heritage families resident in Devon Published by ‘Insider Art.’ 2014

A Chapter in: Storytelling for Nature Connection. Environment, community and story-based learning. Published by Hawthorn Press. 2014; re-titled in 2021.