On arrival at The Booth Centre today, I was told the terribly sad news that one of the regular members of our group had died. He was someone who over the couple of months has become a very important member of the group, supportive of other people, and opening up himself, poetically and emotionally. His death has floored me and many other people.
Tragically it isn’t the first time one of our regular members has died, and won’t be the last. The average age of death of homeless people is 44 for men, compared with 42 for women.
Where do you go with news of a death? A pause for grieving, for tears, time for reflection… and today we brought the gift of making, of drawing, of creating. Whatever you call it: the joy of creation, a distraction, or therapy, mindfulness, or play- is un-important, with our art making materials to hand, we gave people a gift.
And I received a gift in return. The delight of witnessing one of the group, who has great difficulties reading and writing, spending time forming a single M on the page, watching them grow with pride- then going on to copy out the whole poem- before my eyes they grew in confidence. A new member to the group with the encouragement of our guest tutor Stephen Raw (a specialist in the art of calligraphy) discovering a gift for creating original letter designs, he left the group beaming, repeating he will be back next week. Joan a regular member of the group was supported by Stephen to write out one of her poems, during the afternoon she quietly, practiced her letter forms, concentrating, disappearing into the words- she discovered a natural gift.
Having Stephen join the group brought a greater understanding of the beautiful medieval illuminated manuscripts, of the skills and art of those books, we looked again at the pages, with a tiny bit more of an understanding of what lay behind making of them.
And the colours leapt around the room. Letter forms in shocking pink, vivid red, Virgin Mother Blue, writing out lines from the Joy poems. To finish today, a poem describing Joy from C, who will be sorely missed.
Happiness in oneself and welfare of others
Being able to live a life of my choosing
A good book and warm place to read
Having my family around me to share
Keeping very fit and healthy through life
Remembering all the times of pure ecstatic rapture
By becoming someone who I personally aspire to.
Thanks to Stephen Raw for your guidance, support and inspiration today. This workshop was part of the project A Book of Ours, creating an illuminated manuscript with people who have experienced homelessness or at risk of. Supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.
The Booth Centre is here to bring about positive change in the lives of people who are experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness, to help them plan for and realise a better future.