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How special talent for painting saved artist from the streets

Former drug addict whose work is being exhibited in Holloway Road tells how she survived prison and homelessness

10 August, 2018 — By Samantha Booth

Geraldine Crimmins with some of her paintings that are currently on show at Outpost in Holloway Road

ARTIST Geraldine Crimmins becomes emotional as she reflects on her remarkable progress over the past 10 years.

“I never thought I’d be here, I cry thinking about it,” said the 60-year-old, whose work is now being exhibited in Holloway Road.

Ms Crimmins has been on an extraordinary life journey, having become addicted to crack twice, eventually leading to the loss of her home and her job. She first became addicted in her mid-twenties but, after an intervention, went clean for eight years, becoming an addictions counsellor. However, after a breakdown in her mental health, she then relapsed, describing what happened next as “mayhem”.

“I was homeless for about two years, on and off, sofa-surfing around Victoria,” she said.

“And then I got mugged, I ended up in hospital. I nearly died and I got discitis of the spine, and then that got me into the system.”

She spent the next four years in bed and breakfast accommodation before getting a flat but suffered with severe leg ulcers, tuberculosis and hepatitis C.

“In the beginning it’s very glamorous [taking drugs], you have loads of money and you’re spewing all your money and everyone wants to be your friend. After a while then you just crash. I just wasn’t really equipped to deal with that street life. I did deal with it and I survived.

“I cry when I say this but I sat there and said to my father, ‘God help me’.”

A spell in prison followed, during which she was forced to detox. She also read a book about spirituality.

Ms Crimmins said: “People say that you have an epiphany, and it’s true.

“I have never used since, 10 years ago. I couldn’t hear when I was on drugs, but when the drugs cleared, I could hear, and then I got well.”

While in prison for a drug offence, Ms Crimmins reignited a passion for art – something she had not explored since her A-levels.

She sold her first painting, a nude, for about £70, which spurred her on to keep exploring her talent.

“I thought, people like what I do, I must develop this,” she said. “It was really such a huge turning point for me when someone wanted to buy something of mine.”

Since then, Ms Crimmins, who lives off Abbey Road in Westminster, has exhibited and won awards for her skilled portraits. She is currently the third artist in residence at Old Diorama Arts Centre, in Camden, while also volunteering for homeless organisations, Crisis and Cafe Art.

Her work will be on display and on sale at Outpost, a social enterprise shop and gallery for the Peter Bedford Housing Association (PBHA) in Holloway Road, until September 22.

Lorna Coxall, a coordinator at the shop, said: “PBHA is delighted to provide a platform for Geraldine at Outpost, showcasing her artwork and celebrating her achievements in our Big Lottery-funded Supporting Makers programme.

Her journey of recovery is an inspiration, which we’re proud to share with the local community.”

To see more of Ms Crimmins’ work, visit geraldinecrimmins.co.uk

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