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  • Info OFS

It Sends You Into A Much Better Place

I initially came to Crisis for a shower and a shave. I was then signed up as a member and allocated

a progression coach for advice on how to get out of homelessness. That was the Crisis support

structure, and then I was also made aware of the wonderful programme of classes that the

building facilitates and, being someone who’s more on the creative spectrum, a lot of the creative

classes – creative writing, acting, music and art – they appealed to me. Suddenly I found my week

going from being very empty to having quite a full calendar, you know, at least two or three things

every day.

I’d been meaning to go to photography, it was constantly in the background as something else

that I felt I could get interested in. I’d finally organised myself so that I could go along and it

happened to be the start of the ICON project. It immediately sounded like something I’d want to

be involved in. It just kind of hits all those creative buttons for me – it’s collaborative, you can be in

front of a camera or not, and it’s about actually producing work that we’re really proud of, that has

artistic merit.

I was involved in the decision-making right through from the first shoot, Abbey Road, and then

pretty much every shoot after that. I was in front of the camera, behind the camera, involved in

sourcing costumes, and having a look at composition. I learnt a lot. I wouldn’t say I could start my

own photography practice just yet, but I must admit it’s something I would like to pursue in the


For the first few shoots you’re obviously very focused on ‘right I’ve got my costume on and I’m

going to have to get this’ and yes it’s exciting, but you’ve also got that kind of stress, not that

anyone’s giving you stress, but you still have this level of stress. But the joy and relief when it’s

over, and the sense of achievement was such a great buzz. They were also a lot of fun. On a simple

level, it just made the day more pleasant, gives you something to look forward to, which is really

important. There was a level of excitement that was involved, whether you were in costume or not,

and being part of the gang and focussing together on getting it right.

I’ve worked on collaborative projects before, but what I really found I got from this was working

with staff, volunteers and Crisis members all on a level, it felt egalitarian. On every single one,

whether I was involved in the finished article or not or whether I was supporting, you just got this

sense that everyone was working together, staff and members alike, and it was just a joy.

I’m lucky to have been in so many of the photographs, but I also enjoyed actually being able to

step back a bit for certain things. What’s good about ICON is that you can be as involved in it as

you want. I loved the sense of change that gave. You can be all over it, you can just sit back and

contribute ideas, but you still get just as much out if it – you’re still contributing.

Being homeless knocks you back, as most people would expect, but I for one couldn’t have

foreseen how much it takes out of you. All your self-confidence goes, you forget skill-sets that you

have, and the longer you’re in that situation you become more of a shadow of yourself, you find

yourself as this helpless thing that doesn’t know what to do. As a 56-year-old man who’s been in

relationships, been in work and had all the normal stresses and strains - family and all that stuff -

suddenly you find yourself quite out at sea, and it’s an alien place to be.

It can be quite insidious, and things can affect me now that might not have affected me before

– life isn’t as straight forward as it used to be. Certainly ICON and with other projects, they act

as a bit of a shot in the arm, and make you realise that you’re not so bad, that things can get

better. If you looked at me a year ago, or months ago even – certainly I don’t think I’d have felt

as comfortable supporting other members, or even putting my view forward, or having an idea.

Getting that identity and self-confidence back and feeling that your contribution is welcome – I

think that’s a really important thing. I think that’s what’s changed for me - feeling like I’m getting

back the qualities I had before.

Being involved in a project like this, what it gives you in terms of your personal journey and how

you feel about yourself, that’s a priority. I mean you can’t put a figure on that, I don’t think it can

be measured, unless it’s measured in smiles. I can’t quite put my finger on it but it just works, and

it works well – it’s just fantastic. I just feel so privileged to be part of it.

Now, with significant support from Crisis, I’m actually no longer homeless and I’m in a relatively

stable situation. I volunteer for the Arts and I am a Crisis volunteer as well, so it’s kind of full circle.

It’s allowed me to expand and look forward to the possibility that I could choose a different career

path in a more creative environment, or play music, also get some creative stuff back out there, it’s

just kick-started all that. It just sends you into a much better place, certainly for me.


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