A six week residency at Bury homeless drop in with Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds
An invitation from Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds to spend time making art at Bury Drop-In with people who are homeless and socially isolated. I must admit I was initially apprehensive, unsure how to offer an art experience to someone who, I imagined, would have a lot more to deal with than making art. What we found over the course of the residency is that that many of the people who attend the drop-in are already making innovative artwork, seeking resources, opportunities and support where they can. As the creativity in the room has emerged we have adapted our invitation: we have invited people to play and doodle, setting up tables to spark creativity.; we have offered simple printing techniques with the use of an etching press and we have also provided materials and support to people working on their own projects. I hope we have listened, reflected and responded.
Its been a privilege to spend time at the drop-in, a warm and welcoming space that treats everybody with respect. I guess a concern that I was initially reluctant to admit was my own lack of knowledge about the experience of being homeless, how could I offer support and would I say the wrong thing or appear patronising.
In reality making art together breaks down these barriers, we get to know each other as artists and solving the problem immediately in front of us becomes, for a moment, our greatest concern.
Over six sessions the drop-in lunch is transformed into a bustling art studio. How do we celebrate this experience and open it up to an audience beyond the immediate people who have taken part?
Our response: the theatre becomes the Drop-in for the duration of the Beyond Walls Festival. Tables are set; the homely atmosphere is rebuilt in the theatre’s bar; art activities are suggested; artwork is exhibited as a work in progress.
I wonder whether this response celebrates and acknowledges the experience for those involved as well as offering a glimpse into the process for those coming across the project for the first time.