Art

Ask every question you have about homelessness at Manchester arts festival

‘Are You Sitting Comfortably?’ offers the chance to get up close and personal with the issue at Whitworth Art Gallery

Homelessness arts

All those difficult questions you have ever wanted to ask about life on the streets will be answered this weekend at the world’s first international homelessness arts festival in Manchester.

Running until November 18, One Voice’s free International Art and Homeless Summit and Festival aims to offer a new perspective on homelessness.

Among the pieces on show at Whitworth Art Gallery tomorrow will be Are You Sitting Comfortably? –  an interactive art piece involving two armchairs. One is the chair of Ethel Briggs – an elderly woman who died in her daughter’s arms in January – representing home while the other is a chair upholstered by Pete, a man with lived experience of homelessness.

Artist Emma Turner’s vision is for the public to sit in Pete’s chair to quiz people sitting in the other chair on homelessness.

Sitting in the other chair will be Denise Harrison, a formerly homeless woman who has beaten alcoholism and got her life on track, chronicling the tale in her JustAGirl17x online blog. The conversations in the chairs will be filmed to form a video art installation while there also plans to take the project on tour.

The pair have also teamed-up on My Name Is – a series of sculptures of people who have experience homelessness, with Denise acting as one of the four muses.

And the blogger is involved in another project too, joining forces with Rick and Kim Wilde for a short animated film called This is Depression. The flick has been showing at Manchester’s The Adelphi this weekend and will also be on show at The Neo tomorrow.

Denise said: “The film has had a really big impact and I have seen people reduced to tears watching it this week so I think people have really connected and engaged with it.

“I think the message I want to get across is that people who have experienced homelessness are people and are not scary.

“I want the people sat in the chair opposite me to understand what it feels like and that it can happen to anyone.”

Emma added: “I don’t think that the general public don’t care about homelessness and I think that a lot of people want to care if you show them how.

“I was one of those people who was quite naïve about it until I walked around Manchester for three weeks and saw people on the streets being ignored.

“I want to challenge and break the stigma around homelessness.”

Big Issue Street Art regular David Tovey is also contributing to the festival with his immersive opera Man on a Bench on show at Mayfield Depot on Sunday from 2.30.

The International Art and Homelessness Summit and Festival runs until Sunday November 18

Support the Big Issue

For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
Vendor martin Hawes

Recommended for you

View all
'Each brush tells a story of hope': Homeless artist hosts exhibition to help himself off the streets
homeless artist David Bedford
Homelessness

'Each brush tells a story of hope': Homeless artist hosts exhibition to help himself off the streets

Those wounded by the Troubles still walk among us. Their pain is as relevant today as ever
Art

Those wounded by the Troubles still walk among us. Their pain is as relevant today as ever

Artist Aasen Stephenson turns leaves into astounding works of art: 'Nothing beats what nature makes'
The Leaf Man at work in his studio
Art

Artist Aasen Stephenson turns leaves into astounding works of art: 'Nothing beats what nature makes'

Artist Ray Young: 'Our government is threatening disabled people's rights – there's no compassion'
Theatre

Artist Ray Young: 'Our government is threatening disabled people's rights – there's no compassion'

Most Popular

Read All
Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits
Renters: A mortgage lender's window advertising buy-to-let products
1.

Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal
Pound coins on a piece of paper with disability living allowancve
2.

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over
next dwp cost of living payment 2023
3.

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know
4.

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know