Manchester Street Poem, based at Unit 4, Regent Trading Estate, Salford, are opening their exhibition ‘Lockdown Lives’ this week.
Manchester Street Poem is a co-produced art collective whose work reflects the personal experiences of Manchester and Salford’s marginalized communities.
The collective started as a project in 2016, when Karl Hyde from the band Underworld, along with representatives from Manchester International Festival (MIF) approached members of Manchester Homelessness Partnership’s Arts and Heritage group.
Their exhibition ‘Lockdown Lives’ will share the varied stories of people who have worked with the collective over lockdown and it will go through the different stages of lockdown.
Project Manager Simon Leroux said: “It’s going to be a bit of a reflection over lockdown.”
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“We were meeting and meeting and creating every week for way over a year. We’re just surrounded by cardboard most of which hasn’t had the light of day, most people haven’t seen it.
“On this exhibition we want to take people on a journey kind of through the months.
“We’ve got stuff from the deepest darkest lockdown how we were feeling then. When things started opening up, getting a little bit of freedom we’ve got a lot of art that describes how we were feeling then.
“We’ve just got stuff that can take people through those stages of the last few months.
“Expect lots of uplifting and emotional comments and words. Expect the space itself to look incredible, the space is going to be dressed really, really well there’s going to be a soundscape it’s going to be immersive when you come into our installation, you’re going to feel like you’ve been transported to somewhere a little bit different.”
Manchester Street Poem asks the participants of the workshops that they host to share their stories and thoughts on cardboard with eye-catching black and white painting.
Simon said: “Our first project was around homelessness and I suppose cardboard is quite an important material to that community. It can mean warmth, it can mean the home for the night, it can mean the difference between being wet or dry. On top of that, we liked that it was recyclable.
“When we did our first installation at Manchester International Festival, we took over a deserted shoe shop on Oldham Road and covered all the walls with cardboard and wrote people’s stories out all over the walls.
“With the black and the white it gave texture and movement and the words sort of popped off the cardboard. We just thought it was a powerful way of telling stories. Someone can see it and it’s instantly recognisable as our work.
“The way we work and our aesthetic, it means that if you’re a really good sketcher or drawer your work doesn’t look loads better than anyone else’s that isn’t as confident at drawing.”
Part of the ‘Lockdown Lives’ exhibition will feature the work that Manchester Street Poem has done with Out in the City.
Out in the City is a project, supported by AGE UK Manchester, that supports members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community who are over the age of 50.
Somerset Smith, who ran the workshop with the Out in the City Group alongside Simon said: “We wanted to make street poem a bit more diverse, reaching to different marginalised communities.
“Because it started as a homeless project we wanted to go a bit further and bring in some people that had these different experiences.
“The work with Out in the City was my sort of first real group which has been so much fun they are a brilliant bunch of people.”
Pauline Smith took part in the collaboration between Out in the City and Manchester Street Poem.
Pauline who was also recently featured in Art With Heart’s ‘Old Stock New Stock’ exhibition said that the collaboration with Manchester Street Poem is “more about writing your story rather than being great at painting.”
Pauline’s favourite part of the project is the supportiveness of the group. She said: “We know each other fairly well, but we don’t know each other’s intimate back history or any of that and people have been very open about how they’ve been hurt and they’ve been very supportive.
“We’ve had tears on several occasions. From people who are really upset because they are suddenly back in a situation that they sort of put out of their minds and it’s been dragged out by opening up. In a sense, it’s a bit like therapy.
“I’ve tried to be there to be supportive, you know because the pain of my therapy was nearly 25 years ago and I mean it was very intensive for nearly two years, I’m much further down that journey than some of them are. And that’s true of everybody, no one follows the same path in life.
“What is really nice is that nobody is critical. It’s very supportive.”
Somerset said her favourite part of the collaboration with Out in the City is hearing all of the participant’s stories.
Somerset said: “I think hearing their stories is really the most interesting part. Tony Openshaw who runs Out in the City has been a massive activist for LGBT rights for a long, long time, and actually having a conversation with him and hearing him talk about it, their varied lives that they’ve all lived it’s just fascinating to hear it all.”
Simon added: “And it’s nice I suppose when you hear the stories of how things were kind of 20, 30, 40 years ago, you don’t always feel it at the moment, but it’s nice to be reminded that we have made some progress.”
The exhibition opens on the 20th and 21st to the public from ten till five. It will be held at Unit 4, Regent Trading Estate, Oldfield Road, Salford, M5 4DE.