‘When I was homeless, I used to put my head in a box- I was sleeping on a park bench, with cardboard to keep the draft from below and a box to keep the wind of my head. A box, a lovely form of protection - it works very well.” Georgina.
Our third session at the Booth Centre, for the project Armour, and this time we were joined by artist/poet/performer Johnny Woodhams.
It’s a hard to explain in words sometimes, better to experience. As I have talked about in previous blogs, The Booth Centre does something remarkable, gives a safe space to some of the most vulnerable in society. And more than that, creates a tolerant, optimistic, creative working space that I feel privileged to work in.
‘Making art, takes your mind away from things.’ Garry
|Shrine, part of the Armour project|
With Johnny leading the session, the room took on a jovial atmosphere and somehow, at odds to the stereotypes of the pained artist, in stickered misery, the laughter and support allowed people to talk about some darkness, darkness that nobody would want to face. One man, living with his fiancée and son, recently dying in a house fire, created a shrine. A deeply personal brave piece, that effected all of the viewers.
‘Making art, helps an erratic mind, it stimulates, you’ve found the secrete to help homeless people.’ Dave.
Johnny had filled a two tables with an eclectic mix of objects, bones, wooden boxes, an old violin, books, tiny figures of people. Without pausing anon, (a veteran of the armed forces) choose a large piece of tree bark and started writing his train of thought onto it.
“The sway from your branches, to and fro, my home, not to share, my solace from memory dark, noice, panic, fear, tearing at my brain… you comfort me still, my house, my treehouse.'
Quietly spoken, he explained to me later, that he had spent two years living in a tree house, only coming down to the ground in the dead of night.
Gary's artwork coincidentally picks up on another aspects of trees, their life cycle and the importance of trees/cardboard and wood in a homeless person's life. Taking us back in a circle to Georgina….
|Johnny Woodhams at the Booth Centre|
I had no real idea what I was expecting to find and feel at the Booth Centre having never been there before. I was afraid that my concept for the session might be met with boredom or resentment...after all what do I know about what it's like to live on the street? What I found was the best 'family' of folk I've met in a long time....staff, volunteers and visitors alike...genuine, welcoming, comforting and inclusive....what an absolutely great place.
The outcomes of the session were raw and hugely emotive but the power of humour and strength were ever present throughout the day....I cannot wait to go back....I can see a hundred more things we could do! Writing is at it's best when it is honest and rooted in truth...there are some bloody great writers here but often my favourite pieces are the most basic and simplistic because no language is wasted...it is as the person speaks....
This session was utterly touching, emotive and beautiful even in its sadest themes...it lifted my spirits enormously and reminded me how important the power of art is even more so in these current climes....
Any one of us could easily fall into this position...the mixture of amazing characters was complete testament to this.....