Catching Lives Arts Coordinator, Miriam Ellis, has come up with a brilliant idea to help homeless people tap into their creativity during lockdown, alleviate the boredom of self-isolation, and help them to create a better sense of wellbeing.
Soon after our centre closed at the end of March due to Coronavirus, some homeless people, unable to access our arts and crafts activities, contacted us asking for something creative to do. Some simple activities were devised and put together, something that could be easily handed out to the homeless people being accommodated at Canterbury Travelodge as well as those still sleeping rough. These proved to be popular and inspired Miriam to come up with a great new initiative: Art and Wellbeing in Box.
The idea is to ask local artists to each deliver an art activity that fits into a small takeaway box, which can then be delivered by our staff, to homeless people in self-isolation during the Coronavirus pandemic lockdown. As well as containing all the materials required to work through the task, the box will also include wellbeing cards to fill in before and after the activity, as well as contact details of services that might help our clients with their mental health. If clients want to have feedback on the work they have done the artists will be available for constructive comments.
Miriam has secured funding to pilot this project, providing a new activity each week until August. As much as it will benefit the homeless, it’s also been conceived with local artists in mind. Artists have had to adapt their practice to get by during lockdown, and we are glad to be able to support at least a few, by paying them to provide these activities and to help promote their work. Miriam has invited five Kent artists – all who have worked with our clients before – to provide two activities each to the project. Our first activity in a box will be delivered to the homeless on June 4th and will contain instructions on how to make a small Japanese stab stitch sketchbook. We will also be offering these activities to our staff and volunteers who have to self-isolate due to age and underlying health conditions.
We envisage that once lockdown restrictions end, we still may not be able to run arts and crafts sessions in groups, so we believe this project has the scope to continue beyond then, and perhaps become part of our ongoing work with homeless people. We are also planning to hold an exhibition and publish a pictorial booklet of the work produced during this pilot. This will enable those who took part to come together as a group and share their individual experiences; it will also allow a unique insight into a homeless view of being in self-isolation.
The artists working with us on this pilot project are:
Hope Fitzgerald is a Kent artist, maker and bookbinder. Her Bindfulness Bookcraft workshops cover a range of bookbinding techniques and skills in informal sessions: sewing books, use of adhesives, cloth, paper, board and bookbinding tools are all explored and every session results in a hand-made book – or two, as well as the skills to make more at home.
Find Hope at: Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pg/bookcraftworkshops/
Instagram: @bindfulness / @hopefitzgerald_art
Sarah Lankester has worked for many years as a freelance wood carver (commissions include Canterbury and Medway councils). She is also a qualified teacher in Art and Design and has worked as a sessional lecturer at the University for the Creative Arts, at Beach Creative – a community arts project in Herne Bay. Her woodblock printing, drawing and sculptures have been exhibited in various Kent galleries and she has also run various outreach projects and regular private art groups.
Laurie Harpum is an assemblage artist that uses found objects combined with other materials to create sculpture. She also runs community arts workshops for all age groups.
Find Laurie at: Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/laurie.harpum
Zo Defferary is a Margate based artist who is interested in form and sculpture using revamped materials, rescued plastics and skip salvaged sheeting. A relentless constructor of objects and playful expander of material potential, she was the artist responsible for the Christmas Tree at the Turner Contemporary last December, as part of Future Foundry’s Waste Free Christmas market. Zo also works as part of UCA’s outreach team, either as a freelance artist or running school workshops.
Click to find Zo on Instagram
Charlotte Chapman is currently Participation Manager for Canterbury Festival. Recently, she was also artist in residence at ’35-37 Gallery’ Folkestone where she produced a creative response to the Covid 19 pandemic.
She has worked extensively with young people, in arts education and participatory arts, since 2007; she was the Creative Learning Manager for Creative Youth Network in Bristol and Lecturer on the BA Creative & Therapeutic Arts at the University of South Wales. She has been lead artist on two projects exploring the subject of Death for the University of Bath & Bristol Museum and has run participatory research projects such as ‘Dead & Buried’, looking at how young people respond to natural burial methods, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.
Charlotte is particularly interested in how social injustice is explored through arts practice and the role that plays on wellbeing. She has worked abroad on a number of participatory projects including: ‘Plastic Bottle Bird Project’, with over 1000 children at Svalaya School in Tamil Nadu, India; ‘Perceptions of Death’, a participatory project working with a group of twenty young people in James Town, Accra, Ghana for Chale Wote Arts Festival, funded by Arts Council England and the British Council.