Homeless people in Greater Manchester and Stockport have handmade the first history of British homelessness, which will debut at the Houses of Parliament next week.
Ann Coffey, MP for Stockport, and chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Runaway and Missing Children and Adults, will open the exhibition in the Upper Waiting Hall of the House of Commons at 3pm on May 24, 2016. The exhibition will be on display in Parliament for the rest of the week and then go on to public exhibition at the Southbank Festival of Love, 9 July-18 September and will tour venues in NW England.
The Homeless Library has been made by local homeless people and opens up previously untold stories of the lives of homeless people through interviews, artworks, poems and handmade books. This unique and unprecedented history of British homelessness has been devised by arts organisation arthur+martha.
Ms Coffey said:
"This project is both a piece of history and an art piece. I don't think I've ever come across anything like it before. It's beautiful. These are fascinating stories that need to be heard. Being heard is something that everybody needs, it makes us a society. Maybe these books are something we can all learn from - and maybe we can help the storytellers."
Many homeless people live and die as ‘invisibles’. When they die their very existence sometimes leaves no mark. This project opens up an untold chronicle, that exists off the pages of official history books.
Instead, it is a history based on conversations: people's descriptions of their own lives, as told by contemporary homeless people and also older people who witnessed homelessness from the 1930s onwards. Along with interviews, there are artworks and poems. Many people involved found that these discussions and making the artworks and poems were a transformative experience.
Each book in the Library is handmade - often recycling secondhand books, which were customised and handwritten. Recycled secondhand books make the point that homeless history has been crowded out by other voices.
The Homeless Library is supported by The Heritage Lottery Fund and partnered with the Booth Centre, The Wellspring, and Bury Art Museum. Alongside photos of the handwritten books, you can read the interviews at The Homeless Library page on Facebook and blogspot, see addresses below.
co-directors: Lois Blackburn & Philip Davenport
Facebook page: www.facebook.com/homelesslibrary
Mowgli Street Food joined Manchester’s busy restaurant scene last summer as part of the new look Corn Exchange in the city centre. As well as bringing great value, fresh and edgy Indian small plate recipes to the city, owner Nisha Katona was keen to really make a positive difference in the local community through her business.
Following a visit to Manchester’s Booth Centre, a day centre supporting homeless people and with concern for the growing number of people sleeping rough in the city, Nisha vowed to do something to help. Nisha and Mowgli Street Food are now proud to be the first restaurant partner in the Booth Centre’s Food for Change initiative. An optional donation of £1 added to each bill is helping to raise vital funds to go towards the centre’s work in supporting people to move off the streets and realise a more positive future. In just 3 months, the scheme has contributed over £7,000 towards the Booth Centre’s services. In addition, restaurant staff will give their time to volunteer at the centre and collect essential items of food and toiletries.
The Booth Centre provides advice to find accommodation, education, training and help to secure employment, free healthy meals, support in tackling issues with health and addiction, and creative activities to boost confidence and self-esteem. Amanda Croome, CEO of the Booth Centre said:
“We are now seeing up to 100 people a day coming to us for support, a huge increase in the last 12 months. The money raised by Mowgli is helping us to continue to offer life-saving support for people in our city who find themselves forced to sleep rough, whether it be emergency help like food and showers, or the more long term support and advice to move off the streets. We’re delighted to be working in partnership with such a passionate local business whose staff are keen to really get involved with the work of centre. We can’t thank them enough for what they’re doing and would encourage other restaurants interested in supporting our Food for Change initiative to get in touch.”
Entrepreneur, Food for Change Ambassador and author, Nisha said:
“When choosing a charity to support, it is critical that my staff feel enthusiasm and motivated. We often visit the Booth Centre and are constantly blown away by the incredible work they do to change lives. As a barrister, my clients were often homeless and I know first-hand how homelessness is often seen as self-inflicted and unworthy. The Booth Centre is not a hand out organisation: they fundamentally turn lives around by retraining and equipping people to find their feet. The idea of the optional addition to the bill came to me when I ate out in London recently; their generous service charges are automatically added on even if service has been diabolical. It means customers have to engage a bit of brain before paying the bill. There is no reason why we should not do the same if that small addition actually takes a life in our local community and makes it whole again.“
On Wednesday 4th May 7pm Nisha Katona will discuss the story behind Mowgli at Waterstones Deansgate, whilst cooking some of the restaurant's favourite recipes, with an audience Q&A and book signing for Nisha's wonderful first book Pimp My Rice. Tickets £4, available on www.waterstones.com/events or 0161 837 3000