This webpage explores some of the different creations, writing, images and artwork that emerged across the project, Living Archive, a series of workshops which took part at an independent living shelter in Lewisham. The project was led by Annie Hayter and Jemilea Wisdom-Baako from the arts company Writerz and Scribez, and supported by Roxanna Kennedy and Lauren Humphries.
Working with the residents over 7 weeks, we mapped our different memories, and experiences over time, exploring a variety of topics through writing, discussion and art making. We explored the idea that every person is a Living Archive, and holds valuable memories and experiences which deserve to be explored.
Across the project, we considered different significant and personal events across the lives of the residents, and the impact on them into the present day. Through conversations, writing, and sharing, we developed different pieces of writing and art, mulling on a range of topics, including names, dreams, childhood, home, music, art, objects, language, fairytales, the moon and dance – the list goes on.
In our time together, we placed real value on the importance of listening to each-other, and being heard, recording precious memories together. It was so wonderful to see how in the process of writing, speaking or dictating to us as scribes, the residents would encounter memories that they thought they had forgotten.
Writing often felt like a kind of discovery across this process – with the residents encountering old memories bubbling up from the past. This ranged from snatches of a song from childhood, from a poignant memory of recalling a first Christmas in England, or musings on the joy of playing cricket under the light of the full moon.
Janet – wrote about her early life in Gloucester, speaking about her fear of rainbows and the idea of doing something ‘on purpose’, being told off by her dad.
Daisy – wrote about her achievements as a singer, elements of her past, and her elegant style and appearance.
Ochuko – wrote about some of the beautiful places she grew up around in Delta State in Nigeria, and some of her favourite food.
We read a poem by Dean Atta ‘I Come From’ and had a discussion about where we had all come from, and thought about how we might write something in response to this.
What has shaped your identity? If you were to reflect and think on all of the components, memories, sounds and experiences that connect you to the world – to yourself… what would it say?
Patricia – wrote about ‘Good Old Bermondsey’ where she grew up, her family, and the pleasures in life, such as cups of tea and trips to the flicks.
Joyce – wrote about her place of birth, St Lucia, and the beautiful surroundings, as well as the food, people and music – she said ‘it all comes pouring out’.
Terry – wrote a gorgeous piece about ‘coming from my mother’s belly’, and his school experiences.
In a world that seems ever uncertain, there is comfort in the writing and memories of the residents – in their energy, empathy, and tenderness. Sadly, when the UK moved into lockdown, our workshops were paused after our seventh session. We had planned for five more sessions where we would develop drafts of writing for publication in a pamphlet, installing an exhibition in the living space, a celebratory gathering and a series of performances of work created.
As much of the writing and art the residents created was kept in their personal living space, and in their private journals as part of the project, when lockdown happened, we were not able to access most of the materials and beautiful work that was produced across this process. This was not just poignant and moving writing, but also artwork, including as a series of shining painted moons, individually designed masks, various paintings, drawings, and photographic surreal portraits of residents posing with their creations. You will have to imagine these, but they were so very beautiful.
BACK IN THE DAY
How have things changed since you were younger? How have you changed? Does a certain song take you to a particular place in time? Can you feel your connection to it?
The writing and work you see here was gathered from a collection of dictations, images on smart phones, recordings we took, that we have put together remotely. Whilst I and my colleagues are so disappointed that the project was cut short by the current pandemic, we’ve been able to send correspondence to the residents, offering them suggestions for writing and thinking, to continue this process of creativity, even from afar.
This is not the end of the project. When policy allows we hope to share some more of the brilliant work that they created across the project, as well as the writing they have produced in this interim period.
I can’t wait to see them again in future, when the lockdown is over – and to begin dreaming all over again.
How did I get here?
Where have you travelled to – or from? What transport did you use? Whether a short distance or a long-haul journey our bodies are carrying the miles of places we have been towards where we are going. Listen to Daisy’s memory. Think about the maps that have got you to where you are right now.
FLY ME TO THE MOON
In our sixth session we responded to a number of songs featuring the moon; Frank Sinatra ‘fly me to the moon’ as well as Karen O’s ‘Moon Song’. We listened, underlined lyrics and lines that resounded with us and thought about our own relationship to the moon. These responses led to the creation of the group poem below ‘Roseview Moon’.
We embedded ourselves in arts and crafts, drawing and colouring in pictures of the moon on fancy paper and using pre-cut cardboard shapes to create weird and wonderful starts, crescent and full moons decorated with everything from glitter, water colours and lipstick.
What connection do you have to have to the moon?
Running the Living Archives project with the residents was special for many reasons. Our creative workshops took place in the living room, a communal hub where residents would gather to socialise and eat. When we started the project, we felt incredibly welcomed by the residents, who showed such kindness in accepting us into their space. By our 7th session, which was sadly our last because of the pandemic, we were greeted like old friends by the residents, who were always ready for writing, singing, dancing, discussion, and most of all, collaboration, in creating both individual and group poems.
The process of writing and art-making is a wonderful way to explore memories, feelings and your own history. In my work with the residents, I was continually struck by their creativity, imagination and empathy in their stories and their responses to each-other. I loved hearing them give voice to their memories, and learning about their lives.
As a younger person, it was a privilege to listen to them, and to collaborate with them to make work together that was centred around their individual and collective experiences of the world.
I was continually delighted by the energy and imagination of our residents, who shared their rich and broad experiences with such grace. I would like to thank them for making this process possible, and for their patience and generosity in the sessions we spent with them, supporting us and each-other in their writing journeys.
Many thanks are due not only to the wonderful residents but also to the team at Writerz and Scribez, the staff at Lewisham Homes, the Albany, the Meet Me team, and Yabaewah Scott who provided the gorgeous illustrations.
Writerz and Scribez CIC is committed to using art to bring social change. Our projects and events embed art in local communities with marginalised groups. We believe art changes lives.
Find out more about our journey at writerznscribez.org