Monday, 20 April 2015

Moments of joy cure the soul

Today as part of our project 'The Homeless Library', I was lucky to attend 'With One Voice' - a Brazil/UK Arts and Homeless seminar and networking event at The Booth Centre, Manchester. I say lucky because I have never been to a more uplifting, inspiring and positive event about such a hard hitting subject. The sun was definitely shining on Manchester. I scribbled notes throughout the afternoon, I hope they give a little flavour of what was said...

Our welcome was from Cllr Beth Knowles. We've had a 69% rise in homelessness in Manchester since 2009-10, plus huge cuts dealt to the most vulnerable in the city. The 'Task and finish Group' has been set up to give voice... Art can be a way for people to give people opportunities to be heard, of conveying and campaigning. A collective voice against injustices.

Streetwise Opera, were as ever powerful, unifying. There was no need to explain the effects of group singing, we felt it.

Streetwise Opera, Booth Centre.

The Brazilian delegation were inspiring. Tackling seemingly impossible problems with creativity and vigour.  There are 17 thousand rough sleepers in Sao Paulo- one rough sleeper said 'Arts are important as it gives us dignity.'  Living on the streets is undignified, you don't have access to health, social care, hygiene, human rights. 6 thousand are sleeping rough, others are in hostels etc. Numbers of homeless people is on the rise. In September Sao Paulo hosts the "Festival of Human Rights' co-inciding with 10th September, the International Day of Human Rights. It encourages the city to stop and think, looks at how human rights are broken and citizenship on the streets... With music, art, cinema, taking place on the streets, re-claiming public spaces...

Back in Manchester, Dave one of the participants in the Royal Exchange 'Creative Project' explained: 'Homelessness degrades you mentally and physically. Creativity (gives you opportunities)  looking into yourself and positive thinking. Performances give the public a chance to see you as people who can achieve something really great. Opportunities to try something new- stage lighting, painting backdrops... new skills.

Sebastiao Nicomedes of the Homeless People's Movement in Brazil, beautifully shared: 'When we see someone on the streets we see the 1000 ways people are made up- above all he's a person, he's got a story, a past- maybe deconstructed by living on the streets- nobody is born thinking they're going to live on the streets, living in that hole under a bridge. If the soul has got sick, lost their families reference points- art is a democratic way to express themselves, to get back to society. It could be that a new person is born, using ceramics, music, paint... Art is a form of permission to express themselves and be. Reconnection. Full happiness doesn't excist, but moments of joy can cure the soul. 

Amanda from The Booth Centre explained: 'Its not just a matter of putting a roof over peoples heads, its why they've become homeless and the damage thats been done whilst they are homeless. We need to see the whole person, with their many needs. Activities are at the heart of the Booth Centre, for people to make positive choices, build confidence and self esteem, find new purpose and have fun.

Fernanda Almeida, shared: We can look at art as possibilities of freedom, creating and modifying a situation. 

Junior Perim Director, Crescer and Viver Circus, Rio, started by saying, he was going to invert the subject, What can people on the streets do for the arts? All you have to do is bring your desire. No way that art can solve structural problems... but... What can we learn from street people. They can teach us about courage... art is important for self esteem, ways to meet people, but art is dominated by a small elite, we need to borrow the courage of the street people, in a precarious world and re-take a place in art, not just to touch people but to change people- creativity and desire in people to be productive. We wont manage it without pain, but its necessary to find a place to make art.

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.

No comments: