Homeless people and recovering addicts get second chance thanks to art group

Lynda Jones and Ram Arumugam with his artwork

Lynda Jones and Ram Arumugam with his artwork - Credit: Archant

When thinking of spending an evening viewing art, masterpieces at the Tate Modern or the National Gallery tend to spring to mind.

Now participants of an art project for homeless people have shown off their talents in a free exhibition at an Ilford centre.

The Welcome Project and Prospects, two projects which work with homeless people and recovering addicts, have united with Ubuntu Arts to create the exhibition, entitled Reaching Out.

Supported by funding from the Redbridge Arts grant, it is devoted to “marginal art” and includes sculptures and models as well as drawings and paintings, all created during the weekly creative workshops.

Sonia Lynch, who helped to coordinate the exhibition, said she is thrilled with it.

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“The art sessions have been running since September, and we decided to put on the exhibition to show it off.

“We’ve had a great response; we had about 30 people come on the opening night, including (Redbridge Council leader) Keith Prince, which I was really happy about.”

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The exhibition has allowed homeless people to reach out to the community, sharing their thoughts and feelings on the world.

Many of the 46 artists attended the exhibition at The Welcome Centre, in St Mary’s Road, to talk to visitors about their artwork.

Omar Sherif, 35, is one of those with work on display and credits the centre for turning his life around.

“They’ve helped me find somewhere to live, and I come down here every day.

“It’s not just the art classes; they’re helping me sort out my CV so I can get a job as well.”

Under the umbrella of Healthy Living Projects, the two projects run a series of activities to help those who have battled with drug and alcohol addiction as well as those who have found themselves living on the streets.

“They come from a real variety of backgrounds,” explained Lynda Jones, an artist who is part of Ubuntu Arts. “They speak a real mix of languages, but the great thing about art is that you don’t need words to communicate.”

The artwork itself shows the background and emotions of those creating it - photographs of nature contrast with a sketch of a foreign homeland and T-shirts covered in an anti-conflict message.

A graffiti wall covers one window and is full of messages from those taking part, many containing words of hope and tales of changed lives.

“We’ve set up the exhibition in a way that tells a story,” said Lynda. “The homeless man at the entrance was created by an art student for their degree and we’ve borrowed it.

“As you go round the exhibition it shows his story, of his hopes and dreams, his past and present.”

Although the exhibition has ended, Lynda hopes it can be shown elsewhere.

“There’s an empty bank on the high street which I’d love to buy and do it up as a gallery.

“There’s a bit of snobbery around the art world, that only people with money can create.

“We’ve shown that isn’t the case.”

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