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Museum of Homelessness gets funding to explore untold stories of homeless and LGBTIQ+ communities through Islington project

PUBLISHED: 08:58 21 February 2020 | UPDATED: 09:41 21 February 2020

A general view of Clerkenwell Fire Station, the country's oldest, which was built in 1872 on Roseberry Avenue in Islington north London, which is due to close tomorrow to help meet budget savings of £45 million over the next two years.

A general view of Clerkenwell Fire Station, the country's oldest, which was built in 1872 on Roseberry Avenue in Islington north London, which is due to close tomorrow to help meet budget savings of £45 million over the next two years.

PA Archive/PA Images

The Museum of Homelessness (MOH) has won funding for an 18-month creative residency and heritage project in Islington to “offer communities inspiration at a time of sharp crisis and oppression”.

Museum of Homelessness' Objectified immersive theatre performance in 2018. Picture: Joel FildesMuseum of Homelessness' Objectified immersive theatre performance in 2018. Picture: Joel Fildes

MoH won a £98,000 grant from National Lottery Heritage Fund to finance its Outsiders, Then and Now initiative, which will begin next month.

Organisers say its the first time the "outsider heritage" of homelessness and LGBTIQ+ resistance in the UK will be explored together - and they hope it will inspire change today.

This is the next step in MoH' joint residency with Queerseum at the Outside Project's community centre inside the former Clerkenwell Fire Station in Roseberry Avenue.

The Outside Project (TOP) charity opened a pioneering LGBTIQ+ homeless shelter at the fire station in May, where social justice activists and artists from Queerseum and MOH have since been documenting homeless and queer heritage.

The new funding will support a weekly direct access drop-in service for street homeless people, which MOH will run with grassroots outreach group Streets Kitchen and Islington Council from the Vibast Community Centre in Old Street from 11am-2pm every Tuesday. Service users will get access to hot drinks and food, showers and can also get involved with the creative heritage project.

Grant money will also support a new exhibition at the former fire station during Pride month, and there will be a programme of creative events happening across the borough from September to April next year.

MoH will also be able to provide paid work for artists, producers and researchers from the LGBTIQ+ and homeless communities.

Finsbury park Street Fest 10.09.18. 
Matt Turtle from the Museum of HomelessnessFinsbury park Street Fest 10.09.18. Matt Turtle from the Museum of Homelessness

TOP director Carla Ecola told the Gazette: "It's about bridging the gap between the homelessness sector with the LGBTIQ+ community and looking at these histories that are often overlooked. You go into museums and the importance is always on the rich and famous, celebrities, kings and queens. And the people on the streets, activists and the people driving forward change in society are often not remembered.

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"It's always the most oppressed people on the front line doing the work, so this project is going to honour them. I'm actually really proud of the [National Lottery Heritage Fund] as well for believing in this project, I think it's quite unique."

MoH and Queerseum are already running an exhibition at the fire station, which people can visit on the first Saturday of every month.

Explaining, MoH co-founder Jess Turtle said: "The current show is about deaths over the last 10 years and it's an analysis of what's happened in the last decade, created by people using the community centre over a number of weeks.

So we said: 'What have been the important moments of the decade that have impacted your life?'"

They've created a timeline which charts key life moments and pieces of legislation that have affected people, and it also shows when the grassroots groups using the centre formed in the mid 00's.

Winter Shelter Bed. An item from the Museum of Homelessness' collection. Picture: Daniel Moss and Sean RichardsonWinter Shelter Bed. An item from the Museum of Homelessness' collection. Picture: Daniel Moss and Sean Richardson

She added: "We have already achieved quite a lot without funding and now we have funding it's going to be really exciting."

Last month this paper revealed the GLA has signed-off a £4million grant to enable Islington Council to buy the fire station and build house 50 homes - 26 of which will be genuinely affordable - on the site.

Jess says the creative residency won't be affected because it will end in March next year, way before construction works are due to start in January 2022. She added: "I think the fire station is more secure now if Islington Council do buy it. Islington Council are supportive of all our groups so it's much less of a risk than if a private developer brought it."

Queerseum founder Damien Arness-Dalton said: "We are absolutely thrilled to receive this support, made possible by National Lottery players. Outsiders Then and Now is happening at an important time. In the UK we see rising homelessness, a never-ending housing crisis and an alarming rise in hate crime.

"This project will look to the past to explore what our inspirational elders did when faced with intolerance. It will show how injustice builds and develops and most importantly, how it can be beaten."

Stuart McLeod, director London & South at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: "Recording and sharing community stories is an incredibly important way of learning about our heritage and discovering what it can tell us about our future. Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, we're delighted to support the Museum of Homelessness' project."


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