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Art as inspiration for the homeless

One Festival exhibition, which showcases work by some of Islington's most vulnerable residents, is now in its third year

05 October, 2018 — By Helen Chapman

Nancy Rose: ‘Art became a way to express how we feel’

A CHARITY for the homeless which offers support to the borough’s most vulnerable people has launched an exhibition made up of work by its service users.

The One Festival art exhibition is in its third year and is showcasing work by service users at the Pilion Trust.

It was founded by David Tovey, who once relied on the Pilion Trust’s crash-pad scheme where young people are offered a roof over their heads and a safe space during the winter months.

He said: “I want to prove that homeless people aren’t useless. There are some truly amazing and inspiring homeless people. I want people to enjoy the artwork. If you give someone something beautiful to look at and inspire them, people stay and get involved.”

Savvas Panas, founder of the Pilion Trust, said: “The work on show this year is more bright and positive since last year, despite Universal Credit coming into place. We have been working all year on new expressions with new people exploring their needs and issues and putting them on paper. It can help them express something they can’t verbalise.”

Brandon Richards: ‘Art helps me overcome obstacles’

Nancy Rose, 21, found herself homeless at age 18. She said: “I began squatting but came across a lot of drink and drugs. I lost ambition and lost myself. I stopped squatting after that and started sleeping rough instead because I felt safer.”

She created a work of art using paint and sponge after meeting David at the crash-pad shelter in February.

“When I let the paint dry I saw that there was a little baby face in the middle. I liked that surprise,” she said. “My escapism is writing but David introduced me to art. He taught us different types of escapism – instead of zoning out to TV or getting stuck looking at our phones, we began to sit round the table and do art together. It became a way to express how we felt that day.”

Gareth Sell is now studying to be a photography teacher

Brandon Richards, 24, said: “Art is something that I do when I am under a certain strain and it helps me to overcome certain obstacles.”

Brandon became homeless at age 18. “No one wanted to help me and no one cared,” he said. “When I found the Pilion Trust I found a place where I could start helping myself.”

Ruth Hutchinson: ‘Doing art stops me from being lonely’

Gareth Sell, 35, first fell homeless 10 years ago after he left the army. He said: “I met David at a hostel I was staying at three years ago. He introduced me to the art sessions he was doing. Since then, I started volunteering and help out with his classes.”

Gareth is currently studying at University College London to become a teacher in photography and art.

Savvas Panas, founder of the Pilion Trust

He said: “I find that photography helps me cope with my mental health issues because when I look through the camera lens I feel like I am wearing blinkers like a horse. I only see what I can focus on. It even helps me cope with things I fear like spiders or crowds of people. It allows me to feel safe in a bubble whilst also seeing through that bubble.”

Also on show is the work of Ruth Hutchinson, 82, who studied art after retiring as a nurse in 2001. She goes to the Monday Club at the Pilion Trust where elderly people meet to socialise and make friends.

Ruth said: “Doing art stops me from being lonely because you don’t have time to be lonely. Being here gives me a kickstart to do more.”

• The exhibition runs until October 14 at The Pilion Trust, 60 Lough Road, N7 8FE, 020 7700 2498


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