Hackney’s homeless and artists learn from each other in art auction project

Audrey and Toni who worked together on the E8 homelessness project.

Audrey and Toni who worked together on the E8 homelessness project. - Credit: Archant

Artists have been paired up with homeless people in Hackney to create artworks together, which will raise funds for a community soup kitchen when they get auctioned off.

John, a local homeless man taking on the E8 "face" for the E8 homelessness project.

John, a local homeless man taking on the E8 "face" for the E8 homelessness project. - Credit: Archant

Graphic designer Luca Ponticelli hopes his E8PLUS HACKNEY project will also dispel stereotypes around the homeless community, which is growing according to housing charity Shelter.

Zabou's artwork for the E8 homelessness project.

Zabou's artwork for the E8 homelessness project. - Credit: Archant

The Central St Martin’s student wanted to use art as a catalyst to create interaction between artists, who now make up a large percentage of Hackneys’ population, and homeless people in the area, many of whom sleep rough around Mare Street.

He found eight willing participants at the Saturday Soup Kitchen in the Narroway - which Yvonne Aimee and Munchie Williams have been running voluntarily for 10 years – and matched them all with young artists, specialised in the fields of architecture, street art, sculpture, fashion design and illustration.

The idea was to not just get the artist listen to the homeless person’s story but also for the homeless person to listen to the artist, before they co-created the art pieces.

“We want to create a dynamic in Hackney Central to help people recognise these people as equal residents of the area,” said Mr Ponticelli.

“We always do this thing of not wanting to give money to homeless people but if you take five minutes of your day to talk to these people, they are living in our community and sharing the same streets every day.”

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He believes people automatically judge and impersonalise homeless people.

“I think there is a big negative stereotype connected with the condition, it creates lots of tension within the community - a few people conform to the stereotype, but others have really interesting stories and have wisdom we learn a lot from,” he said.

“Our final aim is to create community cohesion around the local homelessness plague and open a conversation with the local residents through art.”

They have already seen success with one participant, Mark.

“He came to us a couple of weeks ago telling us he is starting to paint by himself, he has always been on alcohol, by opening a conversation with them we are seeing there is an interest to look at what our world is as well as we look at what their world is,” said Mr Ponticelli.

The project was supported through a University of the Arts London “More than Profit” award, and Mr Ponticelli would like to roll out his experiment in other parts of the country.

The artworks will be auctioned on Friday May 9 at 7pm in a pop-up shot, The Hackney Shop, 99 Morning Lane, and all proceeds will go to the Saturday Soup Kitchen.

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