Monday, 24 December 2012

A Warm Winter

We hope that everyone reading this has a happy, safe winter festival.

It's the end of the year - arthur+martha will take a holiday interlude until early January. This blog is by way of a hello and thank you to the many people we've spent time with in 2012.  In assorted homeless drop-ins, dementia groups, sheltered housing, universities and art groups we've been met with kindness, humour and bravery.

The warm of human company has been an abiding theme, especially as the weather grows cold and we witness the hardship it brings for some folk. But delight and fasination are also there, keeping back the dark. We're lucky enough to share in extraordinary lives, as we run workshops and discussions and all the rest. We'd like to express our gratitude to all the people we have met and worked with over the last year. This little patchwork below, of portraits and artworks from the year is a souvenir of those enounters.

Friday, 21 December 2012


The arthur+martha exhibition 'the warm /&/ the cold', textiles and textworks by homeless people, is at the Holden Gallery, Manchester Metropolitan University until 25 January 2013.

Second of a 2-part blog

Philip writes:

(We were showing a group of homeless people around an exhibition of their own work at Manchester Metropolitan University...)

We moved onto the big pieces, the textiles. Here are fragments of stories, the lives of homeless people, embroidered onto quilts and painted on ceramics, often by the tellers themselves. They are responses to simple questions - which don’t have simple answers. When were you warm? When were you cold?

The group had only seen the pieces as little scraps of cloth, not sewn together into the large, communal artworks that they'd now become. They'd come in from a bitterly cold day and were suffering from the bite of winter. But as they warmed in the space, they also warmed up to the work. We started to hear expressions of delight, of pride.

People talked about being physically cold, but also emotional warmth: 'The atmospherte, people's handiwork, people's hearts. The art makes it homely in here. It's real. Makes it homely when people pour their hearts out. I feel relaxed and I'm not usually, I'm usually on edge...' (Maureen)

From shepherding a little group of - what felt to me - very fragile people we were suddenly in the presence of artists. They expanded to fit the role, the room - relaxing in the sofas by the artworks and chatting about the meaning of it all, the FEELING of being a maker. The project was devised to help people develop new skills, socialise and build confidence - and in this moment that was precisely what it achieved.

Volunteer student helpers from the Embroidery and MA Textiles Department at Manchester Metropolitan University also helped to stitch the work and made quilts in reply. Volunteers from the Women's Institute additionally lent their needles and expertise. 

The project challenges stereotypes about homelessness, combating hate crime against homeless people and emphasizing needs shared by us all – especially shelter and acceptance. Lines from the denim quilt are currently being shown as text animations by the BBC, on Big Screens in Manchester and Liverpool. 

To find out more, follow these links:

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Warm, vorm

The arthur+martha exhibition 'the warm /&/ the cold', textiles and textworks by homeless people, is at the  Holden Gallery, Manchester Metropolitan University until 25 January 2013.

(Part 1 of a two-part blog)

Philip writes:

They came straggled and frozen out of the November weather, like a line of refugees from old war footage. Clothes bundled and grey with damp, faces pale. As they got close to, I could see that people were shivering.

Lois and I had been installing an exhibition of artwork by homeless people. Our heads were full of technical details and logistics, as always when installing a show. This morning we'd scheduled a celebratory little gathering of homeless people involved. So it was a reality-jolt to see our familiar group from The Booth Centre, when they filed towards the gallery. Somehow I'd not expected them to be hit by the cold so brutally, not OUR group, our companions.

As soon as they stepped inside, they flocked to the radiators. M, was almost doubled in pain, he perched himself right on the scalding pipes and shivered endlessly. J miserably requested the loo, asking permission while squirming uncomfortably. The white faces seemed somehow tiny, reduced from the lively personalities we'd encountered during our workshops sessions at The Booth Centre, The Big Issue office and the Red Door. These were people who were now concentrated simply on living. I watched them struggling and - stupidly - I felt like crying, like an outraged kid who has just discovered unfairness.

Hot drinks were being served to students around the corner and our group filtered in amongst them, pouring hot coffee into their shaking bodies and eating snacks for the sugar burst. Their clothes and skin marked them cruelly apart from the fresh-faced students who bustled about them. They moved slowly and their eyes contained something faraway.

Then as we settled on sofas and people slowly began to warm up, there was a sea-change in mood. They started to look around them - and see their work. Curiosity replaced misery. We did a walkround tour of the pieces, first the ceramics - wry little lines about warmth, food, shelter, scripted onto mugs and plates.

A particular favourite was a big yellow plate whose enormous capacity delighted everyone - 'You could eat for a week off that.' This piece caught the attention of one of our regulars - he did a double-take. 'They're MY words.' He said. Minutes previously he'd been unable to stand up straight, but for a little while, the pride in what he'd made, the joy of that artefact, that other him, pulled him some way out of pain.

To read more, follow these links: