Monday, 2 March 2015

Wagging it

We are gathering words for our project The Homeless Library, slowly and carefully. Soon, these words will be put into handmade books, but they also have another life, here on our blog. These are histories of people who are often unheard, or misunderstood, or simply ignored.We hope that by bringing together many such stories - and linking them with the past - we will do justice to many people's experience. 

Andy Morrison:

I'm from Hyde, Ashton area, Stalybridge. I was at boarding school from 9 years old upwards, til I was 15. Thing I was into was playing sports. I was a bit of a tearaway when I was young, got sent to the boarding school to teach me a lesson. Spent a couple of months at the school, then went back home two weeks, then back at school. Got kicked out of there and all. Got kicked out of two boarding schools. When I first went, 9 years old, I got bullied. When you get older you do back the same things that got done to you, but the school couldn't handle it.

school lines

One Christmas they had us killing turkeys. We were killing them, plucking them and gutting them, then they sold them, to the local village. I was 13 years old, place was like an abattoir. You pull the neck til it breaks, or hit it over the head with the end of a broom. Some people pulled too hard and the head came off and the bird's still flapping. Grim. The teachers would beat us up. Later when I was 22 the social services contacted me to see if I wanted to make a complaint about the school. I didn't, it was just the sort of thing they did in them days.

I got kicked out there and kicked out of another school. Just the once I had to go back there, sit in a locked room and do me exams. Luckily I passed. Then I got a job as apprentice mechanic, cos me dad did it. Following father's footsteps. Did it 12 months, got me City and Guild, but there was no job at the end in the company. They were running it as a government scheme. Then I started getting in trouble, nicked a motorbike.

Never used to go to school when I was little. Wagged it all the time up til 8 years old. The police would pick me up and bring me back to mum and dad's late at night. I'd just up and go. That's when they put me in boarding school. What did I learn? I just learned how to be tough. Look at me now, homeless, still in trouble.

I just get by, I know what to do. If something happens I know what to do. Rely on myself, there's no one else - and places like this (The Wellspring). If I was going to give advice to someone else who's homeless, I'd say there's housing options even when you think there's nothing, places like this help you with food, and housing advice. And you learn. I'm 48, know what I mean? It's not the first time I've been on the street. When I was first homeless didn't know. Thought I was on me own. But you're not.

I don't mind helping someone if they don't take the piss. I used to share a tent with a guy, Alan. When we first met, both knew the other was homeless straight away, without saying anything. I signed on, helped him out, with my money. He showed me The Wellspring; we used to walk it here from Hyde. We'd get to Stockport and kill a few hours, then onto here. Then back home to the tent. Used to buy him a breakfast. Then one day he disappeared, never saw him again. People go, don't they?

Interview with Andy Morrison, conducted by Phil at The Wellspring in Stockport, Feb 2015. The Homeless Library is a project devised by arthur+martha to document the heritage of homelessness using interviews, artworks, poetry. It is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

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