We are really delighted that several venues offering support to homeless and vulnerable artists, such as those in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction, are taking part in the AOH festival this year.
St Luke’s Church (Martin Poole: MP)
Pavilions and Cascade Creative Recovery (Helen Begg: HB) http://storisse.com/
Justlife Creative Studio (Simon Gale: SG)
We asked them all to tell us a little bit themselves:
AOH: How important it is for artists in your centre to be offered opportunities to engage with and to express their creativity?
HB – PAV: It is extremely important as their life experiences can often be traumatic and words can fail to express the extent of what happened to them. Creativity is also a mean to focus on oneself and to express wishes and aspirations for the future. Pavilions creative writing group is well attended and some of the writing is very thought provoking. Cascade Creative Recovery also offers opportunities to get involved in choir singing, in drama, in guitar playing, in the orchestra and creative writing. All these groups allow people to broaden their social network and meet people in recovery. We call it investing in one’s Recovery Capital.
MP St Lukes: It’s easy to think that people who are homeless or in recovery will be happy if they only receive the basics of life (food, shelter etc.), but we’ve found that people also want to be valued and to feel they can offer something of value themselves, doing something creative helps with that. Many of the people in our exhibition are in some form of recovery and they often attribute their success in recovery to the opportunities they have to play music, take photographs or paint.
SG Justlife: It’s very important. Some are people who have been established artists for a long time but found it hard to practice due to their circumstances, having limited or no space, and limited resources. Also their confidence has often taken a hit through their homelessness experience.
AOH: Can you tell us what it means to these artists to have their work seen by and to interact with the AOH festival audience?
HB –PAV: Some of the artists have said that it is an opportunity for them to share their private worlds with the public, others have said that it has sprung up their motivation to get creative again. Someone mentioned that his art was evidence that recovery could be achieved and he hoped it would inspire others to work towards it.
MP St Luke’s: It’s incredibly important for the artists in our exhibition to feel pride in the fact that they can create something that others think is beautiful or inspiring. As a priest I believe that God is creative and when anyone engages in a creative activity they are participating in something divine, something which lifts them up from the ordinary mundanity of daily life to a place where they can hope and dream.
SG Justlife: It brings about an increase in their self-confidence. Potentially, it also offers an opportunity to make some sales, and a chance to feel part of a community where they are known for something other than being homeless.
AOH: Are there any specific developments or outcomes you are hoping for as a result of taking part in the AOH festival?
HB – PAV: We hope to inspire more of our service users to take on creative activities. We also hope to raise awareness of the issues faced by people who misuse drugs and alcohol, especially broaden the public’s understanding of who is affected by such issues. There is a lot of stigma about substance use and we know that a large proportion of people needing support do not come forward. We hope the exhibition will show the public that recovery is a journey and that we are here to support them along the way, wherever they may be at right now.
MP St Luke’s: A number of our artists are hoping that they can earn some money through the sale of their artwork during the AOH festival and some of them would like to embark on a career as an artist and see this as the beginning of something important for them.
I also hope that visitors to the exhibition will have their eyes opened to the possibilities and talents that are latent in all of us, no matter what our situation, and that they will pay more attention to those they see sleeping on the street or that they come across in difficult situations and see them as human beings who have something to contribute.
SG Justlife: This is our first AOH and we hope it will be the beginning of many more exhibitions. We hope it will raise the profile of our project and the artists and people we are supporting.
AOH: Is there anything else you would like to tell us?
HB – PAV: The artwork will be up for 2 weeks from 19th May. We are only open as an Open House on 19th May but our staff, service users and partner agencies will be able to enjoy the exhibition for a little longer.
MP St Luke’s: I’d also like to pay tribute to the organisations that actively work with people in difficulty and help them practically as well as creatively, especially the Newnote Orchestra, Cascade Creative Recovery and the Invisible Voices team.
SG Justlife: Our main objective is for artists who have experienced homelessness to be recognised for their ability and talent rather than ignored for their circumstances. To be treated with dignity and appreciated for their creativity; interacting with a range of people who can appreciate the beauty and significance of their work.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us – we hope you and all your artists have a wonderful festival.