Poems, embroideries and other texts made in self-defence
Armour is a project that uses words and stitches to explore the ways we protect ourselves. It is a collaboration with veterans of armed conflict and with people who have lived experience of homelessness. We asked people to describe their personal “armour”, physical and mental. Artworks inspired by gambesons, the quilted jackets worn under suits of armour, were made out of rust dyed fabric and embroidered with poems, and other writings.
Armour is an art and poetry project that explores the many ways we protect ourselves. It is a collaboration with artist Lois Blackburn, poet Philip Davenport and veterans from the Armed Services and people who have lived experience of homelessness.
We asked people to describe their personal “armour”, physical and mental. And to imagine what might happen if was taken off. That spark of imagining is what gave life to these poems. Out of much heart-searching, during the art and poetry workshops, came many pieces of writing. Some were embroidered, or inscribed on suits of armour made of cloth.
Although we all need protection, sometimes protection becomes a problem. Armour can be extremely heavy, it limits sight, sound, touch – and emotions. In the poem Sir Galahad by Tennyson, the crucial moment comes when the famous warrior realises if he is to let in love, he must remove his armour. But to do so is fearful as well as freeing.
Defences fail and life falls into a dark disarray
Observe yourself when the mind is viciously dismantled…
Imagining the absence of armour was a difficult sometimes frightening exercise. For some, it took tremendous courage to write about it. For others, it brought relief. And for others again, many questions.
I wonder where it will lead me, this writing…? (Gavin Farquharson)
Poetry, I’ve never got it before. This is the first time I’ve even written a poem. Never before. I’ve enjoyed it, it’s been special. (Elliot Hallisey)
How can people who’ve experienced physical and psychological violence live peacefully with their memories? In our workshops we discussed how we protect our deeper selves and how we heal.
This project was devised to allow emotional/artistic exploration of difficult areas of personal history. The poems come out of the experience of conflict – but our hope is that they might help people to find some peace.
…friends friends linked linked together hand
hands safe safe.
Based at The Booth Centre homeless resource centre in Manchester, we are involving organisations working with veterans, partner art/museum venues to research and to exhibit the artwork.
“Never written a poem before,” several people have said. But these pieces weren’t just a technical exercise, they were a gesture of courage and connection. They overthrew defensiveness and they let in life.
Armour blogs and diaries
Armour poem recordings
Poem collection in the form of a PDF (downloadable leaflet)
Selected poems collection on-line arthur-and-martha-poems
Armour project photos
2017 Museum Association Conference and Exhibition. Audience 1500 people
2017 Booth Centre, Manchester