Streets Fest 2019: Party atmosphere as people access essential services at Finsbury Park homeless festival
PUBLISHED: 10:16 11 September 2019 | UPDATED: 10:16 11 September 2019
Homeless people accessed essential services and danced to drum and bass on banging sound systems at a one-stop shop festival in Finsbury Park yesterday.
Streets Fest returned bigger and better for its second year, with hundreds of homeless people getting free haircuts, books, meals, movies, clothes, mental health support; plus advice on housing, drugs safety and much more.
The festival was spearheaded by grassroots outreach group Streets Kitchen, which advocates solidarity not charity, along with Islington and Haringey councils.
Graham Morley first slept rough when he was 14 but then had different jobs, a home and family and a divorce before finding himself back on the streets, though he prefers sleeping under trees in this weather.
"I made jewellery," he said. "I was electroplating. But after a while it poisons you so I had to give that up. It does your lungs in.
"If you have a big mortgage you have to graft 24-hours a day. There was a family to look after so you do it. I don't see my family. It all went wrong. They're better off without me and I'm better off without them. I was with her for eight years. In the old days people stayed together."
Rallying against the state of society, he added: "It's all cutting down and throwing single parents off the social security until they become homeless and get put into private hostels. We are losing something. We live in a fascist state with Boris. I'm going to be dead soon but what about young people? You can't say: 'Go get a good job', because there isn't any
"But then people are being made to feel bullied because there isn't any employment, but we're all told we have to have a Ferrari or a business. For my age I'm not falling down. I'm still quite strong - but I see people out there, they are broken."
Katie Calvert, of Quaker Homeless Action, helps runs a mobile library, which travels about and lets people borrow two books at a time on the proviso they pass them on to someone else and don't worry if they get lost or ruined. She told us: "People say: 'Why a mobile library', but if you don't have an address, a lot of places are getting better but libraries need ID and it's quite stringent. Libraries don't just do books they're a community space. "We have regulars who have never stepped in the library but just come for a chat. I had someone the other day I'd never met before. He was recommending me a book, it was The Milkman. When he was walking away he said: 'Sometimes when I'm reading books I feel almost human', For some people the escape is all they have."
Ronald Duberry of Bringing Unity Back into the Community (BUPIC), is a recovering crack addict who runs weekly outreach missions and a drugs advice service, offering weekly peer support sessions to help people rehabilitate at its Bruce Grove HQ. He said: "BUPIC is like Star Trek, we go places others don't."
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Roland spoke about the growing prevalence of the synthetic cannabinoid spice, which he says is now the most popular narcotic in secondary schools after cannabis. He added: "We are seeing it evidenced now in outreach. You will see someone dancing in the middle of the road taking their clothes off, and we have found a lot of homeless people are picking up [cigarette] butts from the street, having an episode and they don't know what's happening to them. That's really horrible."
George Pinnegar and his business partner Izaak Gray, of London Sound Engineering, in King's Cross, had brought a sound system and were looking for people to train in their craft for free. George said: "We're committed for the day to give homeless people a really good time. This event is really from the people for the people."
He said his business has a charitable arm and was on the lookout for people who wanted to get into sound engineering for work experience.
Asher Wiener, who goes by DJ name Ash Tres and works at The Cause nightclub in Tottenham Hale, added: "Normally what people offer homeless people is food or necessities but not fun, so it's nice for Streets Fest to go over and above and make people feel part of the community."
Streets Kitchen coordinator Jon Glackin, said: "It's good to see it more successful than last year with so many people accessing services. Normally these people wouldn't access these services but we have made it a fun welcoming environment for people to come and enjoy a day out."
In a message to readers, Jon added: "Everybody can do something simple. Get in contact with you local Streets Kitchen. Do something, anything!"
Making a film and a hostel
The Gazette was invited aboard a bus at Streets Fest for a sneak preview of a short film about the making of a homeless shelter in Hornsey Road.
The Glass House Solidarity Shelter took a disused and derelict building, offered up by owners Fitzpatrick Developments, and transformed it into a sanctuary where some of Islington and Haringey's most vulnerable people could stay and access wrap-around support services. The project was led by Streets Kitchen and Housing Justice, along with a coalition of other agencies, and is seen as a blueprint of how disused buildings throughout the city can be brought back into use. The shelter closed in April but is due to reopen for winter.
Film maker Nina Bumbalkova said: "It was great. I tried not to make it too heavy. I think it's nice. It has a relaxed atmosphere. It's emotional in the sense of seeing all the people come together in the community. A huge amount of work was put in. The vibe was amazing and I would go home happy and smiley every day."
Nina's film company is Snack Productions but she made the piece alone. It will premiere at Union Chapel for World Homeless Day on October 13.