THE HOMELESS LIBRARY… is now open
Homeless people in Greater Manchester and Stockport have handmade the first history of British homelessness, which will debut at the Houses of Parliament and go on public exhibition at the Poetry Library in the Southbank Festival of Love, 9 July-18 September. The Homeless Library was devised by arts organisation arthur+martha.
Ann Coffey MP: “This project is both a piece of history and an art piece. I don’t think I’ve ever come across anything like it before. It’s beautiful… These are fascinating stories that need to be heard. Being heard is something that everybody needs, it makes us a society. Maybe these books are something we can all learn from – and maybe we can help the storytellers.”
Many homeless people live and die as ‘invisibles’. When they die their very existence sometimes leaves no mark. This project opens an untold chronicle, that exists off the pages of official history books.
Instead, it is a history based on conversations: people’s descriptions of their own lives, as told by contemporary homeless people and also older people who witnessed homelessness from the 1930s onwards. Along with interviews, there are poems and artworks. Many people involved found that these discussions and making the creative pieces were a transformative experience.
Each book in the Library is handmade – often recycling secondhand books, which were customised and handwritten. Recycled secondhand books make the point that homeless history has been crowded out by other voices.
The Homeless Library is supported by The Heritage Lottery Fund and partnered with The Booth Centre, The Wellspring, and Bury Art Museum. Alongside photos of the handwritten books, you can read the interviews at The Homeless Library page on Facebook.
co-directors: Lois Blackburn & Philip Davenport