A new partnership between Crisis, the national charity for single homeless people, and Bow Arts, London’s largest artist studio provider, looks set to take centre stage in South East London’s cultural renaissance.
The Bermondsey Project will offer a myriad of support, opportunities and education for local artists. The site’s large exhibition space has already made headlines in the area, and over the coming months ‘Crisis Skylight Bermondsey’ will provide studios, creative and vocational courses and training for homeless and previously homeless people. The project will also host a sculpture workshop, a furniture making enterprise and an additional project space.
Mick Bateman, Director of Crisis Skylight, explains: “We have over 120 artists on site and several hundred more within a half mile radius. Our London Sculpture Workshops and the Project Space are resources that are available at low cost to artists in the area and the gallery programme increasingly champions new talent and initiatives from local artists.”
Bermondsey Project also has a range of close partnerships with local providers and organisations that promote the exchange of ideas, experience and skills. These include the Southwark Arts Forum, local schools and colleges and youth organisations. There is also a talks and seminars programme with visiting speakers that is open to all. They will also shortly be opening a small cinema.
Says Bateman: “We aim to put Bermondsey Project at the heart of arts provision in the local area, offering a gallery that presents a radical programme that has as one focus the art of those marginalised by society – not just homeless people, but refugees, ex-offenders etc – and those that deal with marginalisation in their work.”
One artist who has already benefitted is Steve Grant. After losing his job as an art teacher at a private school, Grant became homeless in 2010 and ended up sleeping rough next to a canal in Islington. Unsurprisingly, his mental health suffered, and he experienced anxiety attacks and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, last year a psychologist put him in touch with Crisis – quite literally changing his life.
Grant explains: “Crisis not only gave me a place to stay, but also a studio space. People don’t realise that being homeless isn’t just about not having a roof over your head. It’s also about the pursuit of goals, which is a key element of society. Being homeless effectively cuts you off from society. Crisis have been fantastic and helped me regain my focus.”
Grant has been given regular tutorials and workshops to develop his practice. “I have had access to still life and sculpture classes. Also, the artists in residence at the Bermondsey Project have offered guidance and support, ultimately helping me to develop my art practice. Whether homeless or not, any artist would be happy with that!”
More information on Crisis and the Bermondsey Project at bermondseyproject.com
Read Steve Grant’s blog: stevegrantpaintings.wordpress.com