Photo Mooch

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Photo Mooch: Creative ideas for wellbeing

A team of four photographers, who have so far only met online, have launched the new Photo Mooch initiative for all to join in. Their idea was to use what they know best – photography – to encourage people to actively seek out moments of joy that can contribute towards improving wellbeing, and to provide a platform for sharing the results. And so Gemma Taylor, Mark Ivkovic, Paul Crudgington and Georgia Janes became Photo Mooch.

It has been widely reported that the pandemic has negatively impacted on wellbeing. Creativity can play a part in restoring some balance, with the benefits researched and recognised by the NHS1.

Photo Mooch intends to offer some light-hearted fun, which anyone with a camera – any camera – can get involved with. Each week on Instagram the team will share a new creative prompt, which will relate to one or more of the 5 ways to wellbeing: explore, take notice, give, learn and connect. Why not have a look?

The ‘moochers’ will also highlight wellbeing and arts charities and initiatives, and build up a bank of resources. All four photographers are also workshop facilitators available to deliver training for charities and workplaces.

The four photographers met and formed Photo Mooch during a career development course (Lightbox) run by the photography network, Redeye2. They were assigned an industry mentor, Dewi Lewis, a UK-based photography book publisher, with an international reputation.

Dewi Lewis says:

“This is such a great initiative – and amazing that the group have been able to set everything in motion despite never having met face to face. They came together through Redeye’s LightBox project and I had the delight of mentoring them over a period of some months. These are four photographers with a really fresh outlook on how to make photography a truly collaborative process, how to engage with others and enthuse and encourage. After such a difficult eighteen months this is what we all need. I can’t wait to see it up and running.”

Guest Photography by Sue Dean

We tell it with a big heart

A Book of Ours

A BOOK OF OURS illuminated manuscript, made by people who’ve experienced homelessness and other vulnerable people in Manchester, is currently being exhibited at Bury Art Museum. On 9 July a group of the makers (and others) from the Booth Centre and Back on Track came to see the exhibition. A selection of 20 pages is on the walls and in cabinets — only a fraction of the whole number of pages which will be bound into the book. Here below are photos from the day, plus some of the group’s comments:

“When you look at this work, you don’t see the circumstances of the people. You don’t see how they were living or how they was suffering when they made these pages. You’ve got to look deep inside these pictures and these words. Then you get the true story of what is being told here, it is told as it is, it is the truth. I have witnessed it. There is a fearful judgement put on people when they live homeless. But these pages don’t say it’s good or say it’s bad, they just say it exists. They are stories deserving the telling.”

Above: Roy, Kayleigh and (in bottom right photo) Shannah, Bury Art Museum July 2020

“I don’t read so well, it takes me a while. It’s brilliant to have the pictures as well as the words, then I can guess bits of what’s going on. The colours dance for me. Now I did get that poem about Dolly Parton, I love her songs, she comes on like a joke but she sings the saddest songs. I’m looking at this one here and I can read all these words myself. They speak to me about suicide. This is how it is when there is no road left to go. Looking at that page made me feel something, to be honest it made me feel terrible. But then two pages along down is this one about hope. The one about the Satellites coming. I like hope coming in at the end. It’s part one and part two of a story. That’s how it seems to me.” Anonymous

From Office of the Dead, A BOOK OF OURS
From The Joys, A BOOK OF OURS

“Phil, it looks great. You know that and I know that and now everyone else can see it. I’ve come a long way to see our story on the wall. All the gang here, we look like bankrobbers with our masks on. Makes me smile, we look so dodgy. And the gang has done great, every single one of us. We made it together, the Collective. Here we are together again, I’d like to have a picture but they’d probably arrest me. Wouldn’t be the first time.” Chris

“It makes you feel good at the time when you’re doing the art, you get lost in it. And then when you see it again, like this. I don’t have the words. And other people’s work too, all those people from the day centres. It can be a lonely world out there — when you’re really out in it, when you live outside. Sometimes, times like this, you’re not so alone.” Anonymous

From The Joys, A BOOK OF OURS

“People never knew about us. Never knew it was there did they, this story of ours? It was written by a bunch of down and out pissheads, as people call us. Bums, to put it mildly. But I been round this gallery today and we’re in there too now — and we are just as good. With the top artists and sculptors. We tell it with a big heart. A bunch of down and outs is what you get called. The harsh judgements. And sometimes we judge ourselves even harder. When you’ve lived this life, you don’t feel always good about yourself. Know what I’m saying? But here — you do feel good. When you ask me is telling this story worthwhile, I don’t even hesitate. Of course it is, of course it is!” Roy

A BOOK OF OURS, Bury Art Museum

Gallery photography by Julia Grime. Page close-ups, Lois Blackburn.

People who have experienced homelessness, and other vulnerable people, have made a medieval-style illuminated manuscript A BOOK OF OURS describing their lives, hopes and dreams in a 2-year project in Manchester, which had its public debut at Bury Art Museum in May and runs until July 2021.

This arthur+martha project took place at the Booth Centre, Back on Track and other support centres in Manchester, along with virtual workshops with (Invisible) Manchester and Inspiring Change Manchester. Much of this work has been inscribed into the illuminated manuscript, and many extra pieces are to be found here on our blog and as songs in a forthcoming CD. The book pages and songs were made collaboratively by people with lived experience of homelessness and other vulnerable people 2019-21.

Supported by Heritage Lottery Fund

Jakir and Phil, pondering

Star maps

Necklace of Stars

Beyond Necklace of Stars writer Jackie takes us on a far-ranging journey through the stars and through time in her short prose poem Star Map, below. She then gives us her own personal journey into star-gazing in her AUTHOR’S NOTE, explaining the significance of the constellations to her.

Star map

Were the stars our home? Have we long forgotten? The universe stands silent. The stars silent, their brillance only surpassed by the sun, a dazzling display. Each nights array a flickering constant. Piercing the cloak of darkness, twinkling fairy lights for us to behold. For mariners they light the way, navigation points to sailors of old.

Jackie

AUTHOR’S NOTE

I moved into a property with a skylight and suddenly one day thought to myself, “I need a telescope!” Then I got a star map and learnt the constellations and took my star explorations from there. The high room became my Observatory, a window set in a roof.

Once you become embroiled, looking at the stars and planets, it makes you more aware. Normally you’re caught up in life here on earth, but it’s not until you start observing the stars that you can see beyond your own nose. It makes you think about space.

I’ve always been intrigued by ancient Egyptians, their beliefs. My dad was stationed in Egypt with the army in the early 1950s, at the Suez Canal. In fact, he used to go swimming in the Canal. He’d talk about Egypt, a fascinating place — palm trees and pyramids. As a child, it was an adventure to me, I romanticised it, it made me think of faraway lands, ancient cultures.

It took me into connection with different spiritualisms. All very interesting, the belief in Karma and the afterlife which is shared by so many cultures. If you look up at the stars in a certain way it can make you feel very small. We are just another rock with life on it in the solar system, in the wider universe. If you study the sky from a religious point of view, you think who’s made all this? All this wonder.

I don’t believe life human life happened just because we accidentally evolved, it’s not only random conditions. What’s the chance of that? It would be naive and arrogant to think that we are the only intelligent life on Earth, or in the universe. We still need to test that idea, like Christopher Columbus asking is the Earth is flat. “Let’s find out shall we? If I fall off the edge of the world, you won’t hear back from me!” Thank goodness for the intrepid adventurers, for the geniuses and visionaries asking: is there something else out there?

Questioning the night sky leads you to other questions. For instance as soon as you have children you think about the environment, you think about what’s going wrong environmentally, you think about their future. Do you want them to live in a world that is on the brink of extinction? We don’t want our children to be dinosaurs! We want them to have a life that isn’t polluted or fearful.

The stars make you nature aware. You gaze on what’s in the sky and then that gaze turns itself back to down here. You learn to see the birds in the trees. I never really looked at them before, but it slaps you in the face when you’re aware. A lot of the time I feel like Alice in Wonderland, amazed – and yet it was all here before, why didn’t I see it? All that’s missing is the White Rabbit. You’re in Wonderland. Look at the clouds, the beauty and the form, look at how different each one is.

I’ve wasted years being a zombie and now I am alive at last. Instead of autopilot, someone’s flipped the switch. And it started with looking at the stars.

Jackie

Image: visual poem ‘Starsperience’ by Gill Ormond

The Umpire of Heaven

A Book of Ours, poetry

Richard writes about a day in heaven, for our project A BOOK OF OURS. His heaven is simply a day spent with his father, watching cricket on the TV – and yet the affection with which he describes this day makes it so much more than “ordinary”…

Umpire

Sat there, my dad watching telly
His favourite commentator
Reporting the cricket. And dad
Big smirk on his face
Engrossed in the match
But he wasn’t the only one —

We were all there
And England was back in the game.
One of the boys hit it for 6
You can tell by the sound of the 
Ball on the bat
It was going for 6
A perfect moment. Heaven.

My dad doing the hand-signals
Signal for 6, signal for 4
Signals for “Out”, for “Wide”
In cricket, he knows it all.
And he’s got a sense of humour
Takes the mickey out of me, I tell him:
“One day you’ll talk sense.”

Football I’ve studied 20 years.
Learned — big teams are always beatable
If you play like a team without fear.
Get knocked down, make your comeback
Everyone’s got to struggle. Me, I’ve
Had my dips and in the biggest 
I lost everything. It caused me to rediscover 
Myself. My progress now is more and more —

And my dad is having a cuppa, eating sandwiches 
Sat there talking cricket, he’s got me intrigued.
Biggest smile on my face —
A family outing round the telly.

Richard

People who have experienced homelessness, and other vulnerable people, have made a medieval-style illuminated manuscript A BOOK OF OURS describing their lives, hopes and dreams in a 2-year project in Manchester, which had its public debut at Bury Art Museum in May and runs until July 2021.

This arthur+martha project took place at the Booth Centre, Back on Track and other support centres in Manchester, along with virtual workshops with (Invisible) Manchester and Inspiring Change Manchester. Much of this work has been inscribed into the illuminated manuscript, and many extra pieces are to be found here on our blog. The book pages and songs were made collaboratively by people with lived experience of homelessness and other vulnerable people 2019-21.

Supported by Heritage Lottery Fund

Star Travellers

Necklace of Stars, poetry

From Jackie, one of the writers on the Necklace of Stars project, a journey deep into the sky and into the deep past.

Oh how the stars have shaped our lives
We gaze upon history.
See -

Great ancient cultures were born 
Of their worship
Of celestial ancestors

Rediscovered over generations
To be themselves revered as epic
Monuments of lost civilisations.

We gaze upon the same 
Wondrous interstellar light show 
As did the 

Pharaohs, Aztecs, Maya; we gaze upon history
As we strive to join our brethren
The sky gods.

Jackie

A Necklace of Stars, working with older people in Derbyshire, is supported by Arts Council England, Arts DerbyshireDCC Public Health and Derbyshire County Council Home Library Service. This project is particularly aimed at countering isolation; during the pandemic we’ve been working using distance methods – post and phone conversations. Alongside writing and embroidery themed around childhood lullabies, we invite written responses to the pandemic, so that people can share their experiences as an antidote to lockdown loneliness.

Starshine

Necklace of Stars, poetry

From TS, one of the writers on the Necklace of Stars project, an imagining of who wears the necklace. And who is watching...

A necklace of stars sparkles, 
Gracefully around the neck  
Of this cosmological goddess 
Holding her supreme position 
In the firmament; she reigns 
Over her subjects
As they move, almost indiscernibly 
Across the skies.  

The goddess moves her elegant hand 
Across the glittering jewels 
Adorning her throat 
Realigning them to create 
The most favourable conditions 
For earthly followers who scrutinise 
Every change and charm.
Step by step, she strokes each precious piece 
Until the ultimate arrangement arrives.

TS

A Necklace of Stars, working with older people in Derbyshire, is supported by Arts Council England, Arts DerbyshireDCC Public Health and Derbyshire County Council Home Library Service. This project is particularly aimed at countering isolation; during the pandemic we’ve been working using distance methods – post and phone conversations. Alongside writing and embroidery themed around childhood lullabies, we invite written responses to the pandemic, so that people can share their experiences as an antidote to lockdown loneliness.

Visions of angels

A Book of Ours, poetry

A BOOK OF OURS is an illuminated manuscript which gathers significant events, dates, people, celebrations and memorials, all in one book, giving a wide cross-section of hugely individual lives. Our hope is that by doing this we reassert the identity and the individuality of people who are sometimes dismissed as “homeless” when they are so much more.

Phil writes:

A BOOK OF OURS is in its final stages and we’ve been gathering a flurry of work to add to the project. Most recently, angels have arrived — these ones via their earthly emissaries the Inspiring Change Manchester art group, who have also made work for Whisper To Me Alone. As ever, the ICM afternoon was a delight, full of companionship and bustle and jokiness. Dylan Gwilym, who runs the group, creates an atmosphere of playful kindness for people to experiment safely within. Several people in the group have some experience of homelessness and this was discussed as we spent time together; included in this blog is a group poem constructed by me out of the conversation that day…

Angel artworks by the ICM art group. Top and bottom images by Becky Boo. Artworks in first panel (from top left to bottom right) by TN, Anonymous, Dee, GL and JP. Artworks paired in second panel by Dylan Gwilym and Lily Ozane.

Just like heaven

I’m good
At least I think I am. 
Thinking of angels 
Halos, I think of and
Doughnuts and rubber rings 

Think of people who’ve passed 
People passing you when you’re homeless 
Without giving
The time of day.

Seen a spirit
When I was a kid
When the window was open
A priest with no head
No one believed me
When I was out on the streets
People went past me, unseen 
Like you’re invisible.

Never seen
Spirits after that
But I feel them all the time

Me...I live in a theme park just like heaven, an angel
Tall and regal looking down.
It’s good to share trouble not hold it:
Swift-flying angel
Just let your imagination... go

Group poem ICM Art Group March 2021

Several organisations work together to support the art group:

Inspiring Change Manchester is a Lottery Funded Learning Programme. We work with people experiencing Multiple Disadvantages, who face barriers to accessing support and may be isolated within society. We follow a No Wrong Door approach, supporting people through a Multi-Agency Partnership that strives to be Asset Focused, Psychologically Informed and Person Centred. We are working to create System Change to tackle inequalities and improve people’s experiences in accessing the support they need.

Dylan Gwylim represented Self Help Services who are the partner providing the mental health element of the ICM project https://www.selfhelpservices.org.uk/

The group meets at Back on Track www.backontrackmanchester.org.uk Several Back on Track learners have been involved with various stages of A BOOK OF OURS.

Angel artwork by Becky Boo

For reading on clear, starry Spring nights

Necklace of Stars, poetry
Herewith, for reading on clear, starry Spring nights. Full of hope as we come out of lockdown -- two poems from AOS:

A necklace of stars,
Interspersed with dreams,
punctuated with memories
of beautiful themes.

Moments to treasure,
A joy to recall
Filling my life with pleasure, 
A sense of peace overall.

Gathering these  fragments
A delicate task,
Storing them  carefully
Seems a lot to ask,

But the happiness they bring
As I turn to reflect,
Give  me   Moments so beautiful
Life seems  quite  perfect.

AOS.

And next is a “simple thank you”, dedicated here to a son – but for everyone who helps us get through difficult times.

I need to thank you for being
my son,
I need to thank you for the things
you have done,
Taking time to talk when my spirit
is low,
means more to me than you will
ever know.

Thank you for the love you have
given without measure,
for this is a love only a mother
can treasure.

Thank you for all the  help and care,
Thank you for always being there.

AOS

A Necklace of Stars, working with older people in Derbyshire, is supported by Arts Council England, Arts DerbyshireDCC Public Health and Derbyshire County Council Home Library Service. This project is particularly aimed at countering isolation; during the pandemic we’ve been working using distance methods – post and phone conversations. Alongside writing and embroidery themed around childhood lullabies, we invite written responses to the pandemic, so that people can share their experiences as an antidote to lockdown loneliness.

Between the trees

Necklace of Stars, poetry

Raindrops hang like tears

from the solitary tree

outside my window.   

                                  

Its bare cold branches

heavy with the falling rain.

It weeps for the world.

A blackbird perches

on the drab, grey leafless branch

And sings its heart out.

The gentle snowdrops,

Their innocent heads held high,

Swaying in the breeze.

Petals like teardrops

hang down, clustered together,

a pure, white, delicate gown.

Their tender green stems

Stand proud, they do not falter,

Defying the wind.

Day is almost done.

Between the trees, soft lights shine.

The world looks softer.

Anne

A Necklace of Stars, working with older people in Derbyshire, is supported by Arts Council England, Arts DerbyshireDCC Public Health and Derbyshire County Council Home Library Service. This project is particularly aimed at countering isolation; during the pandemic we’ve been working using distance methods – post and phone conversations. Alongside writing and embroidery themed around childhood lullabies, we invite written responses to the pandemic, so that people can share their experiences as an antidote to lockdown loneliness. Here, Anne’s haiku sequence tells a story, moving from a dark mood towards the light — as the day itself travels in the opposite direction.

The song of twilight

Necklace of Stars, poetry

Three poems that sing, by Necklace of Stars writer Paula Elizabeth Tate:

Skylark 


Oh such pleasure from your songs
Listening to your silver tongues
Let me ride upon your wings
Hearing all the joys you bring.


Or I shall float as a cloud
Side-by-side with you reside?
For all the treasures of the world
Do not compare to thee, as none has thy sweet harmony.


And I shall polish stars at night
The moon will beam with sheer delight
But only when the skylark sings
Dancing round a million springs, for my heart’s a-flutter, a sky of wings.


Paula Elizabeth Tate


——

After Shelley

"We look before and after
And pine for what is not
Our sincerest laughter 
With some pain is fraught
Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought."


Yet on we strive with songs of love
Hoping that one’s soul be reached
Never sure what would inspire
Knowing only our own desire
Until we hear that voice from thee, then all our dreams lie — silently.


Paula Elizabeth Tate


——

The Song of Twilight


The distant calls enchanted
As birds sang from a tree
No tender words were needed
They were in the melody.


Joined by sudden ripples
From the singing brook
In that fleeting moment
In that fleeting look.


The breeze was also humming
In a gentle way
For now’s the time for twilight,
The closing of the day.


As soft grey shades of evening
Make silver threads on leaves
Twirling to the music
The flurried dance of trees.


I stopped to search and listen
Some precious time I took
In that fleeting moment
In that fleeting look. 


Paula Elizabeth Tate

A Necklace of Stars, working with older people in Derbyshire, is supported by Arts Council England, Arts DerbyshireDCC Public Health and Derbyshire County Council Home Library Service. This project is particularly aimed at countering isolation; during the pandemic we’ve been working using distance methods – post and phone conversations. Alongside writing and embroidery themed around childhood lullabies, we invite written responses to the pandemic, so that people can share their experiences as an antidote to lockdown loneliness. Paula Elizabeth Tate’s poems are chock-full of rhythm and melody. Whether she’s taken flight with a skylark, in mid-conversation with the ghost of PB Shelley, or listening to the sounds of evening, she is a poet whose words sing.