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  • Info OFS

Looking At Things Differently

Well, I stopped being a member in June, and that was difficult. Because you know, throughout my

life I’ve done plenty of stuff where you think ‘right, now I’m moving on’... Moving on again, moving

on... Moving on... you know, I was feeling absolutely bereft, cos there were some kinds of moving on where you think ‘that’s good; I’m glad’, you know, new challenge, whatever. Then there are others, like my two divorces, for instance, where you think ‘oh by God, I wish that hadn’t happened’. Or I wish it hadn’t happened the way it did. Eh, and this was one of those... I’m never gonna get this back. Crisis is something very special. The Old Fire Station is a place where, not only are you treated like a human being, but you’re welcomed, and told that you’re a valuable member of the place. And that’s why, you know, when it comes to an end, it’s a wrench.

Yeah, so when my time came to an end, they said ‘oh you can still come in for ICON’ and I said

‘oh, great!’. But for me it was a little bit bittersweet, really, because it just reminded me what I was

missing. Just coming in for that one session a week. I was loving it, but at the same time, I just thought mmmmm, y’know... I’m not a member anymore.

But because it was such an immersive project, I didn’t feel like that when we were doing it. I suppose my main input, apart from being in a lot of the pictures and discussions, came right at the very beginning, when we were discussing what we meant by iconic. I said for me, something is iconic if it has a resonance that goes beyond the immediate or the manipulative. I mean like the photograph of Wayne as Gazza all tearful with his shirt up to his face is a heart-breaking photograph, it really is, and iconic in the sense that that was probably the first time that any macho sportsman had actually broken down like that. That was a real watershed moment and that was what I found with some of these pictures - it’s a moment where something changed and it’s a moment where, personally, it changed me.

The actual decision-making process was wildly anarchic! Rory [Lead Artist] and Rowan and Jody [

Crisis Arts Tutors] were very keen that everyone was involved in all the decisions, even tiny little things and big ones. It was a question initially of deciding which photos were going to make the cut, and which weren’t. They brought in dozens and dozens of photos, and said right, has anybody got any other suggestions... I said Bloody Sunday, somebody else said Gazza... It was, it was, you know, open democracy. It was great, because the leaders led to begin with, and then everybody else piled in - and it was that sort of thing all the way through.

We didn’t agree on all of the pictures. There were people saying oh, I’m too young for this and for

instance, the Bloody Sunday one, it was obvious that quite a few people in the group knew nothing

about it... I said you’ve got to understand what this picture represents, and why it resonates, and the thing is that after we’d done the pictures, a lot of people would say... I get it now. I didn’t get the

original image, but now we’ve gone through it, you know, and everything we’ve had to do with it, and we’ve got this young man, Rory’s son, playing the body, covered in fake blood, I was covered in blood all over me jacket and everything, and it kind of brought it home to people...

One of the great things about the process was that everybody was encouraged to suggest things. You were encouraged to have your say and to respect other people for having their say, and that is a thing about personal growth. You find, well, I was much happier being part of that group than I ever thought I would be, because it’s very easy to find fault with things... If you’ve got people with all different abilities, different points of view and so on. But it was ‘leave your ego at the door’. Do your best, do your bit. Appreciate what everybody else is doing. Feed off the atmosphere in the room, or on the shoot, and respect the process.

Towards the end... people were coming out with stuff and you thought ‘you’ve learned a lot doing this!’ It’s that great thing of learning without being taught, learning through the process, and that’s the kind of learning that stays with you. It got me looking at things in a different way and thinking critically.

And, like everybody else there were times I was quite nervous about what I was doing. I thought,

oh God, I hope I haven’t, you know, I hope I’m getting this right. And then we’d all crowd round the

camera and have a quick look, and you’d go ‘oh yes, looking OK’. And then we’d all make suggestions... don’t you think we should be a little bit more oblique, or I think the camera should be six foot this way... And Rory was great, he’d say, yeah, give it a go. It was massively democratic. It was hugely creative. It was great fun. It was very, what’s the word, disciplined, in a creative way, and nobody had to be told to do it that way. It was just a group ethos. And that’s what has been the thing that I have most taken away from the Old Fire Station, really.

I’ve done lots of things over my time here... Sawdust [the Hidden Spire play] was great for me, to be

sitting there reading a script and trying to memorise it. Just the experience of being back in the saddle made such a difference to me. I remember my ex said to me God, you’re like a different man these days.

And Words as Weapons [AOFS creative writing project] was likewise. It was a voyage of discovery, and a voyage of self-discovery as well. I didn’t know that I could write stuff like that, and then, you know, I carried on writing poetry after that, and I was so proud of my Sleeping Rough one, I hadn’t felt proud of myself... in that way... for so long.

ICON was for me just the icing on the cake, cos it was something that two or three years ago I would never have thought I could ever get involved in. Well, back then, I’d have probably thought it would be beneath me. You know – ‘I’m better than that’! And... so it’s taught me a lot. You know, self-knowledge... And my own opinion of myself. It’s actually made me a bit kinder to myself, cos I think... the way I used to be, was quite difficult, quite a difficult way to get through life.

I found all of those things I’ve done here every bit as rewarding as anything I’ve ever done before.

Really, seriously. And yet, on paper, up until that point, I’d done quite a lot. When I first came to Crisis I was desperate... I was an empty vessel, desperate to be filled up again, and for me, creativity has always done that, always makes me feel complete, and so the huge variety of stuff that I was doing by the end, I just felt incredibly accomplished.

My time here has made me, most of all, look at other people differently. I mean, I’ve always been a fairly judgemental sort of character, but I realised that you couldn’t do that here. And actually, it opened me up. I met such a massive variety of people. More than I’ve ever met anywhere... you never meet the sort of shifting population that makes up Crisis and the Old Fire Station, and you come to treasure it. I’m really proud that I made friends here. I’ve worked with some fantastic actors, you know, household names, and all of that, in the past. And I’ve also worked with Martin and AJ and Rowan and Emma and, you know... Sawdust... and the group that made up ICON. Just so rewarding... I would go home at night feeling well, job well done. What a good day, and I can’t wait to get up tomorrow and go in and do some more.

When I became homeless, I stopped feeling any sense of belonging, anywhere. It was a sense of loss. And now, I’m quite happy. I got that back. Through this place. I mean, just as ICON got me looking at things differently, Crisis made me think differently.


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