You may have noticed there’s something different about the walk up Piccadilly Approach to Piccadilly Station.
It’s home to a freshly unveiled mural created by internationally renowned New York activist and graffiti artist Joel Bergner together with two local artists and people who are, or have been, homeless.
The mural, The Doodle on Ducie Street, has been created to launch the inaugural International Arts and Homelessness Summit and Festival in November which aims to raise awareness of homelessness and support homeless people.
“We had almost 40 artists working on this and we came together just one week ago,” said street artist and activist Joel.
“It’s been an intense week. We got together and asked what we could create that would represent everyone and what message or story we wanted to tell. Everyone made sketches and we made a composition, then each day we came out and worked on it.”
Now the wall is a wondrous array of colour, inspired by Joel’s signature style, designed to encourage conversation – perfect for the upcoming festival.
The unique creative team was organised with the help of With One Voice, an organisation which sets out to tackle homelessness in a creative way.
“Everyone came together and decided what was important to them. We came up with this concept of the guy on the mural, he’s flying through the air from challenges in his life to a brighter future,” said With One Voice director, Matt Peacock.
“It’s been an amazing experience,” says Matt. “We were really conscious that we were putting this piece of public art in the centre of Manchester, where homelessness has been on the rise. For many years people would rightly say, ‘why art?’
“And the reasons for that, which I hope you can see, are so many things – it’s about personal and societal regeneration, it’s about telling a different story about homelessness, and giving a voice to people who are and have been homeless to say what they want to say to the public.”
The artists have found the experience a boost to their confidence.
“I wanted to get involved with the mural because I love art,” said Kathryn Wright, a volunteer at the Booth Centre and an artist who has been homeless.
“I volunteer at the Booth Centre full-time and they support me with other aspects of my life. If it wasn’t for their help, I wouldn’t have a flat and I’d still be on the streets. It’s temporary until I find somewhere else, but it’s off the streets and in the warm with my partner. We both work at the Booth Centre, in fact. This week has really got my confidence up – we need another wall to do!”
Joel found the process a moving experience and enjoyed his time working on the project.
“They were so creative, so warm,” he says. “I really had a great time getting to know everyone and I think this mural represents that people who have experienced homelessness have so much to contribute to the community.
“They are not just people who should be helped. They have so much to give, they have so much creativity and intelligence. All of this mural and the work within it really represents that.”
The International Arts and Homelessness Festival runs from 12th-18th November and is free to attend, though tickets are needed for the summit. 50% of delegate tickets will be available free to people who are, or have been, homeless.