The new graphic novel dubbed the world’s first to be created entirely by people affected by homelessness has drawn praise from actor Colin Firth for its “beautiful, personal works”.
The Accumulate Art School for the Homeless has spent almost a year working with the people they support to craft The Book of Homelessness – an anthology of stories, drawings and poems that uncover the reality of homelessness in 2020.
Walking Dead actor Samantha Morton, previously homeless herself, introduces the unique collection while Firth shared his praise for the personal, emotional, raw and honest stories at the heart of the book.
He said: “This is a remarkable collection in any context. The fact that these beautiful, personal works are the expressions of our neighbours who are homeless makes it untenable to ignore them ever again.”
Accumulate clients from hostels, shelters and temporary accommodation were invited to a series of creative workshops running from January 2020 before the Covid-19 pandemic hit the UK.
The classes – held at Autograph gallery in Shoreditch – formed the basis of the book with participants undergoing lessons in writing, drawing and illustration to share their life experiences.
Mitchel Ceney, 36, told The Big Issue: “The encouragement from people at Accumulate made me think that art was something I wanted to get back into and pursue.
“I’ve lived without anything. I lived in a tent on the streets. I’ve lived surviving on what you could steal or shoplift. I know what it’s like to have nothing so I’m not scared of that.
“But this has reminded me of the things that I do want to have and I do want to make art and help people who were in the same situation I was. I want to get back to being creative.
“I can’t wait to see the book. I’ve never had anything printed in a book before.”
Accumulate founder Marice Cumber originally started crowdfunding the project in October 2019 and smashed her £18,000 goal inside two months to cover the costs of putting on classes and a 500-strong initial print run.
Proceeds from book sales will be shared between Accumulate and the people who tell their stories in the graphic novel.
Cumber said: “This is a beautiful book that shows the complexities of homelessness, and what causes it, and the struggles that people have undertaken to succeed and flourish.
“The project has been a long time in the making, complicated further by Covid. I’m so proud of each and every one of our participants who have taken part and let us into their lives in this visual way.”
The Book of Homelessness is available from the Accumulate website, priced at £25 plus £4.50 postage and packaging.
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