For detailed information about this project please go to: www.cimuseums.org.uk/outintheopen
The issue of homelessness has been brought from the shadows out into the open with a pioneering new community engagement project coordinated by Colchester and Ipswich Museums Service.
The project was funded by grant from the Esme Fairbain Foundation who fund the charitable activities of organisations that have the ideas and ability to achieve change for the better in local communities.
‘Out in the Open’ is a captivating, thought-provoking project that actively engages people who are homeless, community partners and the public. It has also produced original, challenging imagery that will be displayed at locations in the town.
The project has involved working with people who are homeless in Colchester on a number of projects, which aim to highlight the many stories of hidden homelessness and engage the public with the stories of people who are homeless in Colchester.
Ciara Canning said: “As Curator of Community history I’m always looking for new ways to represent the diverse range of people who live in our town. The Out in the Open project has provided an opportunity to work with people who have experienced accommodation issues and this is a completely new client group for Colchester and Ipswich Museums. The project has been challenging but incredibly rewarding and I’ve been touched by how open people have been in sharing their experiences.
By highlighting individual stories we want to show that homelessness isn’t just about statistics – it’s about real people. The final exhibition trail is sited in various outdoor locations across Colchester, many of which are used by people who have nowhere else to go. We hope that the exhibition trail helps to challenge the stigmas and stereotypes about homelessness and show that it’s an issue which could affect anyone.
A beautiful tapestry was created by women at the Colchester and Tendring Women’s Refuge, who worked with artist Alison Stockmarr to produce images that represent their experiences and hopes for the future. Their work, ‘Life’s Rich Tapestry’, will be exhibited at Hollytrees Museum (free) till 10th Sept 2011.
Another strand of the project encouraged homeless people to get involved with a ‘New Roots’ garden allotment project at The Big Garden in High Woods Country Park. Working with gardeners Aidan Barty and Marina O’Connell from the Apricot Centre, participants grew a wonderful array of fruit, vegetables and plants. Some of these will be eaten in a “cook off” event; others were grown for a ‘Bedsit Garden’.
The Bedsit Garden has been planted up in Castle Park, with plants in unexpected and everyday containers for example a bed of roses, leeks in the toilet and a couch of potatoes! The Garden will be on show throughout August and September.
One of the aims of the project is to collect recent and contemporary material such as photographs, oral histories and objects which represent homeless people in Colchester. A way of portraying this has involved a piece of work called ‘Belongings’, which uses photographic images devised and created by homeless people working with artist Anthony Luvera. These images are on display as an art trail through Colchester town centre.
Anthony Luvera said : "The Belongings photography project has been a rich opportunity to consider the importance of possessions and how these objects might represent aspects of ourselves, regardless of our housing status. I hope that the photographs will help Colchester residents consider how homelessness can affect many people close to home and not just in the bigger UK towns and cities. "
Aiden Barty, Out in the Open project gardener said: “Working on the New Roots project has been fantastic, I've met some great characters and heard some amazing stories. The participants have definitely changed my perception of homelessness and shown me the less obvious side of homelessness.”
“Working with New Roots has also raised my awareness of the number of organisations who help the homeless in Colchester who provide many different services to those in need. The participants have all put in lots of effort, made some new friends and gained confidence whilst producing a quality end product with the Bedsit Garden.”
This one year project started in January 2011 and runs through until December 2011.
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There will be a press call on Wednesday 10th August at 2pm at Hollytrees Museum, which is where the Bedsit Garden is being planted up at the moment.
We would very much like you to come along, meet the participants, see their work and hear their stories of life in Colchester as a homeless person.
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