Monday, 9 March 2015

The Wellspring

'I'd like to tell my story' Anon, mono print March 2015

The Wellspring

Step inside a high beamed wooden room. You'd think it was a Swiss chalet, except this has been dropped in the middle of Stockport. Bright and spacious and clean. Most of the floorspace is filled with tables and chairs, there's a reception desk to one side as you enter and at the back a serving counter for food. The smell is appetising and the light in this place feels optimistic..

Come 10 o'clock in the morning, people will start to file in through the glass double doors. It is an amazing variety of people who come through these doors. In fact, I'd guess this entrance has welcomed wider human experience than almost any other doorway in the town of Stockport. It is a homeless centre and every day there will be people here who are on the very edge of everything: the edge of acceptable, the edge of what they can stand, the edge of being alive. This is time lived in  moments, where the sharp prompt of pain and fear is often present. There is wariness, trust has to be earned. We've been coming to The Wellspring for three weeks now and our faces are starting to become familiar.

But trust is still to be earned. (Even in writing this I wonder, am I overstepping the mark somehow.)

We are here to make a history of homelessness, something that has never been done before in the UK. It is a history that has been ignored, so the people who tell it are therefore free to invent their own way of expressing it. We are bringing our usual offerings of conversation, poetry and art. We are hoping that these small tools can help to make a big story, a history.

Two comments. First, Ernie Smith: "I'm not an easy conversationalist. Some people here I don't have anything to say to. Aggression and shouting, I just put my head down. But I felt you (arthur+martha) have listened to me, and I'm amazed."

Speaking about the art-making, Christine explained:  "This is the first time I've done any drawing for 11 years. I feel relaxed, quiet, I loved the drawing today. I gave it up years ago when I was bringing up the children and looking after the family. I haven't done anything for myself for so long."

Because it is a history that must try to include many complex experiences, we have to find a shape that fits all. Because the history of itinerant people - of so-called outcasts, outsiders and those who do not fit goes back thousands of years, we must try to honour the past as well as the present.

Wish us luck.

'Life Changes' Anon, Mono print, March 2015

(The Wellspring provides services to Homeless and disadvantaged people 365 days a year. Not everyone who attends The Wellspring is homeless, but 95% of the client group are people who would be at risk of becoming homeless. The Wellspring feels very strongly that engaging with the people who are at risk of homelessness is the only way to reduce homelessness in the future. Prevention is so much better than cure.)

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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