For MIF17, we partnered with pioneering local organisations Booth Centre, Back on Track, Lifeshare, Mustard Tree, Riverside and Stretch and musicians and artists Underworld to develop an installation – Manchester Street Poem – that shone a light on the stories of those who find themselves homeless in the city. This project now has an ongoing life and legacy in ManchesterStreetPoem.com, a digital history of homelessness for the city. To mark the launch of this legacy project the team are releasing a 10 minute film that explores the ideas behind the project and features many of the voices captured in the Manchester Street Poem archive.
Over a year a team of co-producers, men and women with lived experience of homelessness, collected stories from people all over Manchester, which Underworld’s Karl Hyde then painted on the walls of UNFEAR, a disused shoe shop in the Northern Quarter. This installation was accompanied by a powerful soundtrack by Underworld’s Rick Smith, built on fragments recorded all over the city.
More than 3,500 people visited the installation which took place over nine days in July 2017, and hundreds of thousands listened to BBC Radio 6 Music’s Manchester Street Poem special programme or watched the BBC Breakfast feature on the project. Responses were immediate and powerful, with many of the audience offering their own stories to the team of co-producers who were present throughout the nine days.
Audiences all over the world can now visit ManchesterStreetPoem.com to experience this remarkable project themselves. Money raised from artwork sales and donations will fund the ongoing life of ManchesterStreetPoem.com which is now an evolving online library of stories. The funding has made possible the appointment of a part time curator, original contributor John Organ, who will continue to populate the site – caretaking the stories, bringing people together, and building ideas.
John Organ, curator: We created an environment for important conversations around social policy to exist in. Many of the traditional decision makers, people in positions of power in the city, came through Street Poem and felt moved to share a little of themselves. With devolution and city-wide change, there has been a need to connect and draw people in. Manchester Street Poem is an important and effective artwork in itself, and has proved to be a catalyst for transformation, personally and structurally, and has had a real impact. That’s what people who want to look, look for… and feel compelled to be a part of.
Karl Hyde, artist: The starting point for Manchester Street Poem was the intent to give voice to people who too often go ignored, whose identities have been reduced to The Homeless, rendering them Less Than and Set Apart. Our guiding mantra was the imperative that, when it comes to our fellow citizens, there is no Them & Us, only US.
Through the sharing of personal stories and the honouring of people’s names MSP seeks to build and nurture links between all of us, in acknowledgment of the fact that we are all sharing this island together and that no one who is suffering should go unheard.
John McGrath, Artistic Director & Chief Executive, MIF: Manchester Street Poem was a highlight of the Festival for many – it was a truly collaborative project that genuinely engaged with a group of people who are often overlooked – those with experience of homelessness. It was a privilege to work with the co-producers to create something so affecting and enduring and I am very pleased that MSP will have a life beyond the Festival. This can be a particularly tough time of year for many people who are experiencing or have experienced homelessness, and we hope that this launch will help to highlight their stories.
Visit ManchesterStreetPoem.com to read the stories and to watch the full documentary film.