Thursday, 31 May 2012

well wrapped up

The afternoons at the Booth Centre for the project the warm/&/the/cold are times I really look forward to. The group of participants come from a wide social and cultural backgrounds, all brought together in this comfortable, welcoming 'homeless' centre. The conversations we have inform me, challenge my preconceptions and regularly make me laugh- they are full of frankness, warmth, honesty and gentle rib tickling. The group support each other, I feel very honoured to be included.

This week one of our team of volunteers from Manchester Metropolitan University, Hayley Mills-Styles showed us some of her embroidery samples, lovely pieces using recycled blankets, with machine and hand embroidered quotes from the sessions. Hayley has kindly arranged for members of her W.I to do some stitching for us, pieces like the one pictured below 'Pass Out Twitch'.

Yvonne and Hayley
This week our conversation turned to the effects that warmth and cold can have on your health- mental and physical. 'goose pimples on my arm, cold down the back of my neck'. Distressing stories of the effects of the cold from unresolved coughs, pneumonia, to deaths due to hyperthermia.

'effects your bones, friend of mine lost his toes, frostbite, a normal town, stayed out overnight, lost his toes.'

We discussed the effects cold has on the mind:
...'Depression. The more body heat, the more company, I feel fine....'

My recording of the conversation didn't match Phil's (away on holiday) and there were good humoured rumblings of missing his writing skills. (he will be pleased)


The collaborative quilt that I am leading on is coming on slowly, but every stitch, every word is carefully considered and sewn. Ivan (shown above) hadn't sewn before, but will a little prompting, over the cause of two sessions he embroidered his quote. The work takes on more meaning with every thread pull.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

sun on the North Pier

In Blackpool again yesterday for Project Object, after a quick cup of tea enjoying the sun on the North Pier, it was straight into design play with the group of apprentices. This week I gave them the challenge of re-imagining their work for surface design:  bins,  tea-towels, aprons, plates, napkins... Anything and everything that has a pattern on.

Hayley's skaters

The group got their heads down and focused on the job, to produce some fantastic results, a cut out design for a paper/ceramic light shade, a number of tea towels, some bags, gift bags, an apron, a cylinder container.... 

project object students

I'm sad it's my last session. It felt like the start of something rather than the finish- the group were really starting to bond and support each other, and individuals design/drawing styles where beginning to reveal themselves. The group went away with another bundle of drawings, paintings and designs and promises that work would continue at home...

Win working on container design

Next time we meet will be the 19th of June for the Creative Industries Event, see the Project Object website for details.

lost my patience (please replace)

lost my patience (please replace)

"Saturday was a perfect example of how simple art techniques can release powerful emotive responses and generate incredibly touching outcomes. Yet another example of the importance of creative practice in allowing people to confront feelings and emotions. It was great to see the positive responses of the passing general visitors in the informal setting of the sponsored walk, as oppose to more formal organised sessions in a pre-prepared scenario." Johnny Woodhams

Johnny Woodhams and participant
On Saturday creative consultant, educational practitioner, artist, musician, writer, performance poet, comic and craftsperson.... Johnny Woodhams, joined me to work on our Lost Properties Stall at a Sponsored Walk in aid of charities 'Making Space' and 'The Alzheimer's Society.' This is an ongoing project where we ask people to simply right LOST on one side of a luggage label, and on the other side to write FOUND, then we ask people to think about someone or something they have lost, someone or something they have found and to write their descriptions on the corresponding label. It appears to be a simple idea, however the results are at times complex, and often moving. People talk directly or sideways on about issues we rarely face in our society, loss of loved ones, loss of abilities...The project is about caring, how we care, and who we care for and the impact that caring has on ourselves. 

The people we worked with on Saturday were there because they were interested in the issues of dementia- either they had the condition, or working with people with diagnosis, or their carers- so that theme often emerged. Take the image below, Lost Belt. It seems innocuous at first reading, but then the gentleman revealed that he had been caring for his father-in-law, who came to his rescue and lent him his. Or the image above 'Lost My Patience', the gentleman wrote while his family laughed out load around him, it obviously hit the right place for them.

Lost Belt
I held her in my arms
Johnny introduced a new exercise, bringing in a collection of small card containers, here we invited people to write on the label an address or part of an address of someone they wanted to remember, and inside the box a message to that person. These boxes where then tied up with string, for the messages to remain hidden. Johnny and I were particularly moved by a women who explained her box thus:

'I held her in my arms, she died before I could tell her I love her. I leave little messages for her where ever I go.' Ebun

For more photos please visit

Monday, 28 May 2012

the gap

arthur+martha is working at a 'Buddy Cafe' for people diagnosed with dementia - and their carers - in Salford. We're bringing together the stories of the many people involved. Some of these pieces are interviews, others creative work.  This project is in partnership with Age Concern Salford and Salford PCT. In this blog, we share Ray's poem reflecting on his life and memory itself.

the gap

Forgetting? Frustrating
I want to remember
so I can pass it on
incendiary bombs burning all along

I worked in the motor trade
workshop manuals, technical data
very good memory
data, say, on a Morris Minor
traffic clearance, plug gaps
the points and
the gap

had me own workshop
I’d work on a mini
knew all the timings, the technicals
I can remember the first mini I worked on
before it went in the showroom
always a good memory
collected stamps
year by year by year

it’s locked away in here somewhere
the electrical points
Morris 8 Series E
with a side-valve engine
not an overhead
air raids
my father coming back
from the war

the gaps between them
I can picture in my minds eye
but have to wait for the words
a hiding game, remembering
it helps to laugh
if you pick up one thing
you’ll remember another

the matinee on Saturday
the cowboys
my dad, I can still see him
coming down the road
still coming down the road.

March 2012

domino poem

Betty and Norman

This is the transcript of a conversation with Betty and Norman, who talk very openly about the frustration of having dementia in their lives. As with many of the interviews we've done in the Cafe, I found myself filled with emotion as I typed this up. Sadness, admiration, anger, amusement. Betty and Norman - their voices are still with me, full of life in its many shades.

Betty: I think carers should come here to the Buddy CafĂ© and mix with everyone. A carer needs to get away and do their own thing, but I dunno what to do when he’s gone.

Norman: She does the remembering.

B; He’ll ask me ‘Would you like a cuppa?’ and 99 times he’ll come back and ask – ‘What d’you want again?’

N: If we spoke about something yesterday, I have to ask – ‘What was it all about?’

B: When we first found out about Norman’s dementia, I couldn’t understand at first. It was such a shock to the system. Alzheimer’s! Couldn’t understand what it meant and I still can’t. Four years ago all this lot started, I realised Norman wasn’t the same. Little things. His brother had died with Alzheimer’s and I thought: I hope he’s not going the same way. It gradually went worse. I brought him into the doctor to have a chat and Norman couldn’t remember what he’d asked. I thought: where do we go from here? The doctor didn’t want to seem to do anything more about it and neither did Norman. Eventually got him to hospital. At the hospital, we saw the lady in charge. Norman went in the other room, went for a scan and they sent for us again. Even though I suspected, it was a shock. Alzheimer’s! The doctor said: ‘He can’t drive.’ That was one of the worst things. Hard to accept.

N: It was hard. I’ve got to accept it.

B: Whichever way it comes, blunt or kind, it’s a shock. I’m just taking it each day. Sometimes it’s very frightening, the future, other days it’s hard to know what...

N: Terrible at times. I do, I’ve got it. I still try to fight. To an extent fighting it helps.

B: Don’t let it get you! Fight it! There’s only one winner in this case, it’s the Alzheimer’s. Norman’s fought through cancer. He lost a lung, had a full lung out and got over it. Went to the doctor and came home, then they summoned us again. ‘Bad news, Norman’s got Alzheimer’s.’ It hit me more than Norman, it was such a shock.

N: There was a relief, but I couldn’t understand a great deal. It was hard to accept it. I hate to have to tell someone. Take days as they come, all I can do is accept. Nothing else I can do. I’d love to punch it away.

B: So would I, get things back to normal. The thing is, he blames me for starting it off.

N: Got to blame someone. It was a terrible day. Been terrible everyday since.

B: He blames me.

N: 99 times…

B: He blames me - course you do Norman. A woman asked me ‘Did you question the diagnosis?’ Why should I question a doctor? ...Anyway the carers are the people with all the knowledge because they’ve got all the experience. They’ve got it 24/7. What’s going through my mind is: his brother’s got it, he’s got it – how about his other family? It’s because we’re living longer, isn’t it. Look at me, I’m 80, I feel 80, because of worry. But what can you do? Walk out the door and leave it? I can’t – I married for better or worse. We’ve been married 47 years.


Thursday, 24 May 2012

Blackpool sunshine: Project Object

(Lois writes) Although tempted to run down to the Blackpool sea front for a spot of sun bathing (we havent seen much sun in the Peak District recently) I was soon engaged in looking through the fantastic collection of Blackpool Souveers at the Grundy Art Gallery. Kerry helpfully revealed item after item of kitsch delight, shoe shaped ceramics, glossy cups and saucers, binocular shaped condiment sets, all emblazoned with illustrations of the Tower, or the Blackpool crest. These wonderful items will be part of the inspiration for my Project Object Commission

The workshop that followed this week focused on the theme of 'thinking in the round'. The group created beautifully decorated paper cups, plates and badges, the work was fast and furious, with a little exhibition created at the end of the session. delightful!

Knives forks and spoons

This poem arose from a conversation in the Buddy Cafe at Salford. Apparently Open Air Schools were well-known. As the poem says, the poorly (and poor) kids were exposed to the open air as much as possible, with the expectation that it'd do them good. It transpired that three people at the Cafe had attended Open Air Schools, of which they had fond memories for the most part. But these schools also carried a certain stigma, much as dementia does now. The little comment at the end of the poem - which was whispered to me - speaks to me not just about this piece of reminiscence writing, but also about perceptions of dementia. That little remark spins the whole thing around and makes me question why it is that dementia is such a taboo - is it because of fear, or ignorance, or intolerance? 


Open Air School
kids went if there was summat wrong with em
a bus would come to collect
arrive, wash your hands
knife, fork and spoon
eat and have a sleep

a crack round the back of the
in the Open Air School
art teacher, tall fella
he was like a back door

open air
we’d do the gardens
while the others was writing
rheumatism, fever

(I’d spit out my iron pills)
it was sickly children
chest infection, polio
leg braces, hand braces
slept on iron camp beds in a room
with no front wall

Open Air School
walk in, wash your hands
knife, fork and spoon
then a sleep for
all the children

with ailments
bronchitis, cerebral palsy
the fresh air of England
weather permitting
lessons on the grass
tending the vegetables at the back

oil the spade to stop it rusting
a spoonful of olive oil
a proper meal
nit nurse, the doctor
drop your pants and cough

in those days referred to as a
backwards school
you was seen as impaired
tending the vegetables at the back
looking over the railway
over the hill

I forget a lot now
but I still remember knives forks and spoons
wash your hands say your prayers
have a sleep
never use the word stupid
in this place

Harry, Ray and Keiran
17 May 2012

Monday, 21 May 2012

they call me pale face

they call me paleface

(Jubilee 1976.)

hot: red

white and blue painted pavements

(looked like Belfast in the Troubles)

buses decorated for the queen

silver with purple stripes

tarmac melted

bucket for the


if you had toddlers

put salt into their water

to keep em hydrated

all the shops running out of pop

family glowing


your mood changes when its warmth

honeysuckle, fresh bread

toast toast toast

don’t go out in the sun

that’s why they call me Paleface

the cream of society



the smell of a newborn child

leave the window open

and breathe in 1976

slept in the garden

and talked to the neighbours

if you had a lolly

it’d melt down your arm

calamine lotion

a terrible drought everywhere you looked

I was the oldest kid

(listen: Sex Pistols)

had to queue for water

waking up everyday warm

going with the bucket to the standpipe


I’ve been through too much to feel

anything, any emotion

the things I been through

left me emotionless

like a war

like a bomb

maybe, maybe one day

I will feel the warmth

a change

the amorous

it does get warm, two people in the same bed

morning dew

morning to you

fresh ionisers

charge the air after a storm

the smell is full

the particles are good for you


it seems to bring out

people you’ve not seen in a long time

and don’t forget

strawberries and cream.

Group poem. The Booth Centre (Activities and support for homeless people) May 2012

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

To Lois, Love Dad

You can be sure that a workshop session is going well when nobody dashes for the door when its tea break time- yesterday in Blackpool I had to force people out of the door for theirs. 

We had a mix of new faces and familiar ones, and as with last week each coming with a range of different expectations, desires and skill sets. The starting point and inspiration for the workshop was the fantastic library local history collection, this was used sometimes very directly; interpreting a photo or postcard directly, or alternatively as inspiration for a colour scheme. 

I introduced the technique of batik and silk painting to the group and encouraged play, there was a wide variety of styles and focus reflecting the diverse group.

There has been subtle changes occurring in my own work since working in collaboration with arthur+martha I still find a joy in celebrating colour, packaging, typesets, kitsch... But now want more to, I've become much more interested in the stories behind the object, and ways to scratch under the surface, hidden voices, hidden people...

At the tea break I took advantage of the time to look again through the library collection, researching for my own commission. One thing that caught my eye is the postcard backs, their often show beautiful handwriting, vary from a few words to long ramblings. There are repeated scripts that occur, 'wish you were here', something about the weather, a description of the days event... Little snapshots of people's lives in a format that is dying out with texts and emails... One reads 'married life very nice so far'... Another ends with 'forgot to ask, can you get me a joint of meat?' one person seems to have lost any enthusiasm to write and simply describes what is on the front of the card, it reads; 'this is the Grotto Railway on the central pier' signed with their initials.. reminds me of the postcards my dad used to send to me, To Lois, Love Dad.

Monday, 14 May 2012

Don't look twice

On Friday we launched the I LIVE TEMPORARY exhibition at MediacityUK in Salford, which is the broadcasting hub not just for our city, but much of the UK. A group of people who use The Booth Centre homeless drop-in were among the invitees. They've been involved in the making of these pieces and many have lived the life the the exhibition reflects upon. These are their comments, along with some visitors' thoughts:

"Really fascinating to see all this when we're on the streets ourselves. When we come into the Booth Centre of a morning, half of us are half-asleep. We live rough, there's no airs and graces with us or with you when we're all talking. Then to see this... I've come awake this afternoon. It feels very true. Amazing to see yourself reflected for other people to see and hear. It's a big boost, really is.” (Keith)

“It's giving people a bit of confidence. Giving us confidence. What else would we be doing on a Friday afternoon? Nothing. Thank you for listening. Not a lot of people would.” (John)

“Good to see the exhibition here, where the BBC live. It's short and simple, makes a good impact. People can learn what we're about. But does anyone stop and listen? This exhibition should be a programme on the telly. If it was up to me I'd bring school kids to see it. No one learns except when you're at an early age. They need to realise times are changing in the so-called First World. People go on protest marches for jobs and pensions now, but soon everything will be done by machines. One future day, they'll be jobless and homeless just like us.” (Yvonne)

"Do people want to hear this? I don't think so." (Anonymous, participant)

"The cards and the sounds, it's strong - a nice job. It's safe." (Anthony)

“Really good that people get access to the space and feel entitled to be here. After all it's a public space and we are all equal citizens. Hearing your own voice, interacting with your own words, people see themselves in a new way. It's slick, but not distancing. It looks good, displayed to a high quality. But it's not corporate, or intimidating.” (Harriet, organiser)

“Aggressive beggars, predatory people, charity muggers... I could spend all day talking about this exhibition and the issues around it. Part of me thinks when it comes to art from a vulnerable group, it's twee voyeurism. Oooh look at the poor homeless. But I think this is important. If no one publicises these things, people will be stuck with their prejudices – the undeserving poor rhetoric. The Daily Mail. I've known a few homeless people, people who fell through the cracks. Those who don't need the help so much can deal with life, but the ones who find it harder to cope are the ones who fall through.

“If you want to connect to the population who live in lofty places, the people who never think of these things, then you need to get this publicised. Pick a few good images and put them somewhere lots of people will see them. Perhaps they'll look twice.” (Ben, visitor)

"It makes me wonder - should all art be political? This is political in the broad sense. Not party political, but political because it makes you want to do something to create a change." (Anonymous, visitor)

“I think this is brilliant, brilliant. Emotional for me. It makes me think about the people who can't see it. I've buried a few.” (David, participant)

Scott examining the interactive display table

If you would like to see more photos from the day please visit

Thursday, 10 May 2012


‘Invisible’ lives of homeless people revealed at MediaCityUK


The often unheard stories of homeless people in Manchester will be given a voice this month thanks to a collaborative art installation going on display at the University of Salford’s building at MediaCityUK.

I LIVE TEMPORARY is a digital artwork created by more than 200 homeless people, with the help of North West-based arts organisation arthur+martha. It combines sound recordings, customised postcards and an epic Twitter poem to portray aspects of the lives of homeless people in Manchester.

Participants spoke of the difference the project has made to them: “I feel that I’ve been heard now. This morning I was invisible. Now I know someone knows I’m here.” and “People who are classed as ‘normal’ don’t get to see our world. This opens their eyes.”

Run by poet Philip Davenport and artist Lois Blackburn, arthur+martha works with people who many perceive as at the margins of society, including older people in hospital, children with special needs, excluded school pupils and young carers.

Philip said: "The cards and Twitter poem are an extraordinary document of lives that are unnoticed. There is lost innocence, lost families, lost love. There's yearning, for shelter and kindness. And there's resilience. Finally, many people told us that most of all they want acknowledgement - to be seen."

Amanda Croome MBE, Director of the Booth Centre for homeless people in Manchester, added: “I found it amazingly powerful to see people express themselves with such feeling – and to get to know people we work with in a different way.”

University Events Officer Harriet Morgan-Shami said: "This type of work, which uses digital media to engage with and represent a marginalised community, is an exciting approach which we hope will generate dialogue and inspire thinking around how our students, staff and creative partners can reach new audiences through their digital practice.”

I LIVE TEMPORARY will be brought to life in the ‘Egg’ digital space at the University’s MediaCityUK building, using an array of ultra-high resolution screens and audio, from Friday 11 May, running until Friday 1 June.


Notes to editors:

* For further information on I LIVE TEMPORARY and arthur+martha, visit, read more at or on Twitter at!/tweetfromengels

* To keep up with the latest developments from the University of Salford at MediaCityUK: o follow us on Twitter!/UOSMediaCity o like us on Facebook o or visit the University of Salford at MediaCityUK website at

* Project supported by Arts Council England and the Text Festival at Bury. Partners include the BBC, The Booth Centre, The Big Issue in the North.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Hot dogs and candy floss

Swimwear, 1m x 1m Batik on Silk © Lois Blackburn

Yesterday was my first session on the new 'Project Object', run by Blackpool Council Arts Service. It's great to be part of this, a first for the arts service who are commissioning artist/designers to design products to
 sell in the Grundy Art Gallery Shop and Tourist Information Centre and giving members of the public an opportunity to become 'apprentices' through regular workshops with the artists. Throughout the project we will be uterlising the wealth of visual historical resources in the Borough. 

Prior to the session I spoke to Tony Sharkey from the Local History Library, about the collection, and what he could show and talk to us about. His knowledge seemed endless, it was a joy speaking with him (and hearing him talk) I would recommend anyone with a passion for Blackpools History to make an appointment to go speak to him, his genuine passion for the subject shone through.

In a sense the brief is to make a contemporary interpretation of Blackpool in its 'hey day'. For Tony that time was the 1930s. It was a time you came to Blackpool for your 'health', when many of the visitors would have been escaping the 'grim up North' dirty, drab mill towns for a few days of Blackpools sands, fresh air, and up to the minute attractions. The 1920s and 30s was an era when Blackpool was ahead of its time in the way it sold itself, a time when the world looked towards it. In the 1950s, Disney offered its images of Mickey Mouse and the like to Blackpool copyright free, an indication of how important the resort was regarded. 

My group of apprentices for the workshop come with a broad range of expectations and experiences of taking part in visual arts. Some have been drawing and making for years, some are new and nervous- some somewhere in-between. All seemed to reveal in the libraries collection and enthusiastically joined in conversation and reminiscences. I encouraged the group to start to select images that jumped out at them, and to look for connections in things that appeal... For instance the era (1930s, 1970s...) or design style (art deco, geometric, contemporary..) or subject matter (donkeys, trams, seascape..) Connections that the group selected about included: the circus and sideshows, the 'hard sell', Gypsy's and Travellers, the Illuminations and souvenirs.

Gypsy Rose Lee (detail) Batik on ©  Lois Blackburn

Everyone took up the challenge of interpreting a chosen image, mostly with drawings, these they are taking home with the option of creating a 'repeat pattern' with. Next week we're going to have a go at interpreting some of their choices using some wax resist techniques.

All the fun of the fair.

Hawaiian Shirts, 1m x 1m batik on silk © Lois Blackburn 

I've had 4 cuddles

Last Thursday we spent the day in Swinton, gathering the groups thoughts on friendship and the value of the 'Buddy Cafe' for people with dementia and their carers. 

In the morning the men and women separate themselves into two locations. The men spend their time talking whilst drinking tea, eating toast, playing cards, pool and one of their favourites dominos. As with the previous experiments I wanted to play with these familiar objects, re-making and re-seeing them with words and phrases from the group itself. Dave and I sat and selected from the notes Phil and I made in the morning, then Dave re-wrote them on the domino backs.

Dave editing poems
The pieces reflect the many states of emotion, and can be endlessly re-worked and re-edited. Next session, we will have a 'proper' game of dominos with them.

You can view more photos at

Saturday, 5 May 2012

salt and vinegar on the counter

"A few scraps on, I’ll have em open and eat em on the way home.’ Their not the same wrapped. We had a fish and chip shop. It was spotless." 

Lois writes: Day 2 at Bakewell Day Centre ran by Age UK. I'm testing or playing with the the proposal to draw other peoples memories. It's not that easy, I'm out of practice drawing, its like most pursuits, you have to practice to gain confidence and skill in it. So I took in my print making gear, and had a go at mono printing, there is no way  you can be neat or precious with the technique so its perfect to loosen up. With a stock of reminiscences from the previous sessions, some photographic images, and loads of paper I tried to illustrate the images from another persons head onto paper.

I worked with Irene trying to identify the shapes, colours, sizes of the salt and vinegar containers from the counter of her fish and chip shop. We also tried to re-work the outside of the shop. Its not such an easy job for the memory (I must look into the police's use of photofit!) images get muddled up in time. 

"Vinegar in a bottle, take em home if they wanted sauce. Counter had a marble front and top that was easy wipe down. Chips and fish or chips on their own, ‘leave em open please… served a few of them." Irene

Thursday, 3 May 2012

The Workhouse

Yesterday was my second time with The Bakewell Day Centre, run by Age UK for the project 'working memories'. I scribbled down their reminiscences between games of bingo, cups of tea and a la very welcome large Sunday style lunch. Coincidentally to another of our current projects 'warm and the cold' one of the themes in conversation that emerged was homelessness- this time in the 1930s/40s. 

I remember the tramps coming and knocking at the door and mother giving them bread and cheese. Mother wondered if they put a mark on this house as they always came to ours, walking past the house on their way to Chapel en the Frith. Going to the workhouse (now Newholme hospital) they slept there a night or two, then onto Chapel. Mother gave them old shoes if she had them. They were unshaven, disheveled. My grandma saying 'he's a gentleman, come down in life'. They didn't ask for money, just asked for something. Only came on their own, never a group, we'd say 'there's a tramp coming'. Everyone helped one another. Grandma said 'they'd come from somewhere'. Fill a glass bottle with tea, it was cold but they'd drink it.  Flora


We used to live at the back of the workhouse as a child in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire. Would stand on little stools and watch people walking round in pairs, they never raised their heads, never looked up. Always so sad watching them, terrible. Mother was strict, we were not to make fun of these people, ‘their poor souls’. Many were quite elderly people, in drab looking clothes, never looking up. Mother would say ‘count your blessings’. Agnes

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

I've had tears for cold

We've been talking to homeless people in Manchester about the cold, their experience of it, their fear of it - and their fondness for it too. These little interviews are source material for stitched texts on quilts that we'll put together for exhibition over the coming months, with the (immense and generous) help of students from MMU. We also have some students shadowing Lois and myself in the sessions. This week it was Hayley, whose ideas and humour have been very welcome. First of all the conversations led where you might expect.

"Between four and six in the morning, you're freezing. No matter what you've got on. The day before Xmas, always freezing. It's so windy and so cold. The cold comes at Xmas."

(Participant J)

"Cold comes December. Cold? I can't remember just one day of cold, there's been so many. When am I not cold? When it's summer. When am I coldest? In the wind, in the wind. It cuts you right through. Down your neck and you're cold all the way. You need plenty of hot brews, thermals. Double clothing on top. A good woman in bed is handy, good luck to them all."

(Participant M)

But then we started to talk about cold-heartedness and an extraordinary story unspooled, some of which I'll report here:

"As for chill up the spine cold, cold-hearted, yeah. I've seen that many times, living the life I live. Saw it this morning as a matter of fact. But the most cold-hearted was at a small town in Kosovo. When I was in the country, there were 1.7 Albanians and running the place, 200000 Serbs who controlled everything, chiefly the economy and the jobs.

"These miners in a small town occupied the local mine, demanding very modest rights about how the mine should be run. After so many weeks of occupation the powers that be said they could meet some demands. By which I mean the Communist Party, the pro-Moscow local government. Anti-communists actually, but that's a different story. I'd call myself a communist. An agreement was informally reached. All the villagers and families of miners (probably Albanians, maybe some Serbs too) agreed to have a ceremonial signing of the agreement. So the miners came up to sign. Everyone was there. Twenty-seven of them were put against a wall and shot, in front of everyone who came to see this great event. Pretty much matches the SS and their activities, doesn't it. Cold-hearted. I was there a week later,

"I try to bring things like that into any conversation or dispute. Try to bring to the fore the social and humanitarian issues and principles. I'll say, I don't want to be like this, do you? I'll say, do you wanna be human, or do you wanna hurt me?"

(Participant C)

We went onto the Booth Centre in the afternoon, to have a wide-reaching conversation with the group there. We chatted about the remembered cold of childhood, the deliciousness as well as the misery of cold. Even some of the sadder stories sparked with humour, and the pleasure of remembering.

"Saw a lot of rain as a kid in Manchester. My brother was scared of the storms. But I liked running in the rain, climbing trees. Even now if I'm bored I go for a run in my socks and undies. Running through the rain when I was a kid. I can't explain it, the feeling. Forbidden, you're fighting nature, up against the cold. I've upgraded now, I put women's underwear on. Snowy days, building snowmen. We were knobs as kids, troublemakers. Went through a phase of eating toilet paper."


"Kids haven't any fear of the cold. Their blood runs faster. Getting older, we're scared. My old man used to do us a brew and a toast then I was out through the door. I'd be off by myself, went for miles. Once I seen a baby fox playing on a hill, fed it for days then it disappeared. I was a loner. Born 1963, a really severe winter. Shoulda been born on Xmas day but I came out three days late. It was warmer in the womb. We lived on a sloped street I Stockport. When it rained, the water would stream down. I used to put my head next to the drain in the gutter and let the water run over me. Never felt the cold."


"I felt the cold. Always had a coat. With the hood up."

"I was brought up with coal fires. When the fire went down, you felt the cold. A bad winter, a bad winter. When you're young you don't feel it so bad. You're on the move, always on the go, chasing footballs. Got memories of the coal fire slowly fizzling. Just the embers and the cold setting in. Sometimes the coal was wet, or slack, the flames damped down last thing at night. The cold bedrooms, four in a bed. Hot water bottles. No radiators, our heat was those flames."


"Playing out, robbing apples. Sugar butties, dripping butties. Coats on the bed to keep warm – continental quilts with arms on."


"I was born in South Africa, Jo'burg. We flew to England when I was a kid. We were visiting my grandma. I remember seeing snow for the first time. Trying to walk on ice for the first time. I was surprised by how warm snow was when it lay in your hand."


And then just at the end, the spectre walked in again and homelessness flooded the room:

"I used to sleep in churches, it was a cry for help. But I'm still here, still smiling. I just have to get some dentures."
(Participant D)