Bury Drop-In: a lunchtime invitation

Six week residency at Bury homeless drop-In working with Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds. Exhibition and sharing workshops at Theatre Royal as part of  Beyond Walls Festival

I was invited by Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds to spend some 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 my invitation. we have invited people to play and doodle, setting up tables to spark creativity. We have offered simple printing skills with the use of an etching press. We 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.

The residency was to be shared at the Theatre Royal as a part of the Beyond Walls Festival. The idea of a traditional exhibition didn’t sit well with the experience of the last six weeks. What I really wished to share was the space and processes created during the residency: a window into that warm welcoming place and how we made art together.

The Greene Room at the theatre was transformed into the Drop in, right down to the gingham cloths and cutlery containers. Amongst this domestic setting the artwork made was exhibited as work in progress and visitors were invited to try out the printing process and add to the exhibition.


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