"You need to get this down right. Put down how people
feel deep down. The real stuff. Why they live and how they live. Put down
the reasons they went onto the street. You've got to pick out the best
stories to tell this. Pick the truth, learn to hear the truth..."
(Homeless Library contributor "A")
Homeless people in Greater Manchester and Stockport have
handmade the first history of British homelessness. The The Homeless Library debuted
at the Houses of Parliament in May 2016 and went on public exhibition at the
Southbank Festival of Love last September, and it is now coming to Manchester
Central Library in the Archives+ Exhibition space from 31 Jan — 31 Mar 2017
with a special launch event at 3pm on 31 January. All are welcome.
The Homeless Library was devised by arts organisation
arthur+martha. 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 artworks and poems. Many
people involved found that these discussions and making the artworks and poems
were a transformative experience:
"It's put me back on the ladder to life."
(Danny, Homeless Library Contributor)
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.
"Homelessness is like a foreign country. It's like
being dropped into the middle of nowhere. The first thing you need is
somewhere safe, not just dry but a safe place most of all. Then food, dry
clothes. Then you need to get a shower. Then try to get to know all the
organisations that will help you because they're going to be your best
Homeless Library contributor B
Portraits courtesy Paul Jones all other images courtesy The Homeless Library