The coronavirus lockdown has not stopped homeless arts charity Accumulate from giving people on the margins the chance to get creative.
Dubbed “The Art School for the Homeless”, Accumulate had a busy year planned, with the first-ever radio station operated by homeless people and a graphic novel was also pencilled in, written by people on the streets telling their stories in their own words and images.
But the pandemic has seen the charity pivot to meet the arty needs of rough sleepers currently housed in hostels for their own protection from the virus. So far, with the help of Crisis funding, Accumulate has shipped out 500 art kits a week to individuals living in 31 different hostels and emergency accommodation.
Each art box features a themed project inside as well as all the materials needed, tasking people to turn an everyday object into a building, for example.
In total, more than 92,000 people have sold The Big Issue since 1991 to help themselves work their way out of poverty – more than could fit into Wembley Stadium.
The art boxes have had a positive impact on mental health, says Accumulate’s Emma Carboni.
She told The Big Issue: “The project just keeps getting bigger and bigger with more and more hostels and individuals wanting to get involved. Some of the work they are creating is brilliant.”
The feedback from some of the people who have used the kits has also been positive.
One person told Accumulate: “The project is helping me so much with coping through the isolation.”
Another added: “It’s Christmas weekly during lockdown because of this charity.”
And a third person said: “I’ve grown so much as a person through this group and wanted to share on a wider scale to keep pushing for positive creativity.”
Our latest art kit has been received now by our participants! Amazing artwork by @the_moyc all ready for some mindful colouring. These Accumulate art kits are funded by @crisis_uk Download the art sheet here if you fancy a go too! https://t.co/7ik28v0Dvf #lockdownart pic.twitter.com/ul2OtzlRhM
— Accumulate (@Accumulate_Ldn) April 24, 2020
As for the Book of Homelessness graphic novel, the launch originally scheduled for next month may not be going ahead but online workshops are ongoing with all participants also taking part in the art kit project.
Podcast training via Skype and Zoom have also kept the radio station on air. Work is underway for ‘News for The Unconnected’ – a new podcast series focusing on support, information and wellbeing for people who are homeless during the pandemic.
To see instructions on how to get the most out of the art kits, including videos and a shared portal for people to share their work, head here.