Homeless people in Greater Manchester have handmade the first history of British homelessness. The Homeless Library, devised by arts organisation arthur+martha, is coming to Manchester Central Library 31 January-31 March 2017.
Many homeless people live and die as ‘invisibles’. When they die their very existence sometimes leaves no mark. This project opens an untold chronicle, that exists off the pages of official history books.
Instead, it is a history based on conversations: people’s descriptions of their own lives, as told by contemporary homeless people and also older people who witnessed homelessness from the 1930s onwards.
Along with interviews, there are artworks and poems. Many people involved found that these discussions and making the artworks and poems were a transformative experience. Each book in the Library is handmade – often recycling secondhand books, which were customised and handwritten. Recycled secondhand books make the point that homeless history has been crowded out by other voices.
The Homeless Library’s book exhibits will be presented alongside items from Central Library’s own collections in the Archives+ exhibition area on the ground floor.
The Homeless Library is supported by The Heritage Lottery Fund and partnered with The Booth Centre, The Wellspring, and Bury Art Museum. Alongside photos of the handwritten books, you can read the interviews at The Homeless Library page on Facebook.
The Homeless Library poems were written by project participants at The Booth Centre and The Wellspring homeless resources centres, during workshops and discussions for The Homeless Library, 2015-16.
Look out for the @archivesplus Twitter account which is tweeting out the collaborative Homeless Library poem “Tweet from Engels” tweet by tweet over December and January before the exhibition launches on 31 January 2017.