Social dancing

Whisper to me alone
Social Dancing. Photograph by Sue Dean

WHISPER TO ME ALONE gathers experiences of people who have experienced homelessness — and the experiences of other vulnerable people — in Manchester during lockdown, using journals of writing, art and song lyrics and phone conversations.

Phil writes:

The isolation that has come with lockdown has forced many of us to look at ourselves and try to understand some of our dilemmas. It’s brought the good and it’s brought the bad. For some it has felt like a prison sentence. For other people it’s been a kind of opportunity. Anastasia points this out:

“I’ve had the chance to slow down, to quieten all the noise around me. To still the voices of busyness and make myself be calm. I’ve been thinking a little bit zen these days. Taking time to exist. It’s a choice isn’t it, what you do with this moment. Maybe I’ll learn from it.”

The writing and art is part of this process, it can be a tool for holding those reflections, so they don’t just melt away but are kept and thought about. Making a poem now is like no other time in people’s lives. We’re also experimenting with making poems over the phone, the author speaking lines down to the scribe (myself) and an edit agreed by reading it back.

It’s a whole different time
It’ll be unique in the telling
A different way of looking
We’re thinking the new thinking.


July 13. Photograph by Sue Dean

In reflecting the world through writing and art, we look at it more closely. This can be a celebration as well as a reckoning:

The birds tweeting
The squirrels hanging out — see!
Small bird, one of the tiny ones
The owl’s fascination
The great grey bird on the canal
Encounter in the kitchen, a Queen Bee
(Got to be careful with that one)
The squirrels drop round our way
For nuts and
Since we’ve kept our distance
We’re not so close to each other
But then. I look again and
There’s a hedgehog.


And in making things, we also make ourselves.

“I’ve loved having this writing and art, it’s keeping me going. It gets stuff out of my head onto paper. The art process helps. And when I lose making art, it feels like I lose myself some days. I hang onto me through the images and the writings. It’s all you’ve got sometimes…”


Selfie with mask. Adapted photograph by Sue Dean

The lockdown photographs of Manchester that illuminate this blog were by Sue Dean, using her favourite camera, her phone. WHISPER TO ME ALONE is supported by Arts Council England. Partners include The Booth CentreBack on Track, Bury Art Museum and With One Voice arts and homeless sector global network.

Tantrum in Tesco’s

Necklace of Stars

There have been many, many limitations to everyday life during the Covid pandemic. The isolation, the reduced services, the shutting down of shared spaces. But one limitation that doesn’t get discussed so much is the limitation on being able to protest. Here our Necklace of Stars writer Jo makes a protest against invisibility. This is one of a series of pieces by Jo that explore ideas of rebellion. By writing and sharing them, the protest has happened – in you the reader’s mind!

August 1st, the big day is finally here.  She peers into the mirror asking
the reflection if they are sure they really want to do this?  The reflection
answers “Yes and don’t be chicken.”

The door opens, a deep breath taken and with the first step a new phase
commences. Its 20 weeks since her last venture out and everything
even more beautiful than before.

She reaches her destination and sees a lengthy queue and waits
patiently to enter the supermarket.  Her turn comes; she takes the cart
and walks through the entrance, her heart pounding.  Her inner self is
telling her “do it”  “go on do it” and with the final push she throws herself
on the floor and starts to scream and yell.  

Workers and fellow shoppers watch but no one knows what to do.   The
yelling continues, her hands and feet banging the floor.  The manager
arrives and enquires what the matter is and offers help.   She replies
“Nothing, I just wanted to be noticed by someone, the last 20 weeks I
have been forgotten and I just wanted to be noticed”.   She stands
up and makes her way to the checkout, feeling so much better knowing
she has returned to the outside world and made an entrance no one will
forget at Tesco’s.


Today’s blog comentary was written by Philip Davenport, arthur+martha. The short story Tantrum at Tesco’s is by Jo, from her series of written rebellions.

A Necklace of Stars, is supported by Arts Council England, Arts Derbyshire, DCC Public Health and Derbyshire County Council Home Library Service.