Threshold presented their first Interactive Photography Exhibition on the 23rd November 2017 in the Brunel Shopping Centre in the retail heart of Swindon. The exhibition was the result of an innovative engagement project with the aim of raising awareness of the homelessness crisis by presenting the issues that impact upon the lives of homeless individuals in an authentic and sensitive way. Participants shared the most precious things they have in their possession.
The Exhibition featured 49 x A0 sized Fine Art quality images along with poetry, and a selection of extraordinary sculptures. Each image was accompanied with a QR code, that when scanned - instantly connected the visitor directly with the voices of the artist and connecting the public directly with their personal narratives and stories.
The exhibition was supported by Threshold Services Users, Catalent and Nationwide volunteers. Service Users that have been involved and volunteered at the Exhibition confirm an experience of ‘being seen and treated differently’ and this has been a catalyst and powerful motivator to their personal transformation.
The exhibition garnered massive exposure and public interest across Swindon, feedback was emphatically positive and the exhibition was supported by a growing list of corporate supporters and sponsors - Swindon Brunel, Swindon Wildcats, Triple 2 Coffee and Catalent. The biggest winners were the residents and participants themselves. Residents shared their personal reflections when interviewed on BBC Wiltshire Radio, 105.5FM Community Radio and had the opportunity to read authentic poetry live on air.
A total of 1653 individuals visited the exhibition over the 6 week period.
Here is a selection of how the public described its impact:
“It was interesting to see and understand more regards homeless people. How they can be so misunderstood in our community.”
“This exhibition has proven to be a brave and exciting venture which in my opinion has been a roaring success. The best quality of this exhibition is the community and warm reception you receive upon entering, coupled with a great art and powerful message.”
“I found the stories very moving, reduced me to tears and really helped raise awareness.”
“This exhibition helps to raise awareness that homeless people are exactly the same as everybody else. The exhibition shows the humanity and uniqueness of each individual.”
“I found it very inspiring and very moving. The art and the stories behind it were beautiful. What a marvellous idea. If only it were open for longer. The men working there were so helpful and I could tell they were very passionate and proud. So they should be!”
Below are some excerpts from our Services Users that volunteered their time at the Exhibition. This is how what they share about how it impacted on them:
“I’ve not only really enjoyed this – I’ve needed this! Otherwise I would have been street drinking”. (CC Resident)
“The Exhibition and the shop has been the locus for a great deal of generosity, compassion and understanding. Alot of people have come in and have been informed and educated about the local issues of homelessness in Swindon. We have been educating the public about the real and various reasons behind homelessness”.
I’ve witnessed on many occasions the emotional reactions many members of the public have had in response to hearing the voices and personal stories of contributors in the exhibition. I have witnessed a woman come in, engage with the work and hear the stories and be reduced to tears and have to leave, as it was all too raw and emotional … and then she returned the following day. She made a donation each occasion”.
“On the whole the exhibition went very well”.
“I personally learned how to talk to people and overcome my shyness of people and to turn negative conversation into a positive one. I also learned that feedback was also a positive thing”.
“It was a very satisfying exhibition and well done to everybody that took part in it”.
“What is next for me is to get a job or continue doing more voluntary work. I haven't got anyone to write me a reference as yet my previous employers were not that good at writing references for anyone not just me. The other two jobs have closed down now as well. Please would you kindly be a referee for me”. (Resettlement Resident)
“I liked seeing my Sculptures up on display and set out professionally on plinths. I helped Jim make the plinths for them. I loved seeing people’s reactions to my work and the competition to guess the Angels’ name was great! I’m interested to see the public’s opinions and choice of names. This has definitely been the biggest exposure I’ve had for my sculptures. I’ve loved being involved in this exhibition. I’ve reconnected with my Dad, who was passing the exhibition saw one of my sculptures and asked after me! I’d lost contact with my Dad 5 years ago. It has been really good to reconnect with him”. (Resettlement Resident)
“I witnessed a young girl come in with her father, she must have been 10 or 11. She asked what she could do to help because as she explained, she’d given a sandwich and a packet of chips to a rough sleeper in a doorway and she was so moved by how hungry he was and how quickly he had scoffed them down. She wanted to know how she could help”.
“Volunteering at the Exhibition has really opened my eyes. I’ve heard many stories of people that have come through the other side of homelessness. I’ve been so surprised by how many people that have visited the exhibition and have said to me – I have been homeless before and have struggled through difficult times in their life. It’s been eye opening for me personally to see directly how many supporters of homelessness there are”.
“I have enjoyed being involved in this project, engaging directly with the public and interfacing with them. This initiative has been really good for me”. (CC Resident)
If you missed the exhibition, you can see it all here.