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Exhibition: The Right and Freedom to a Home.


[8th September 2016]
HumberHelp contributor Michelle Dee has been along to Hull Central Library to meet artist and social activist Theresa Easton.
Community artist and social justice activist Theresa Easton, working on a new commission for Freedom Festival’s 'Beyond Words' exhibition series, has discovered some surprising truths about the current housing crisis from residents of Hull.
Theresa Easton artist
Photo: © Jerome Whittingham, @photomoments.
During May to July Theresa has looked outside her home city of Newcastle – a city with many similarities to Hull, itself no stranger to homelessness – to gather direct responses from Hull residents as to what Homelessness and the Housing Crisis means to them? Starting out with three simple questions Theresa engaged the community and received forty or more responses. With the support of Hull Libraries and James Reckitt Trust, and through the Freedom Festival Arts Trust, Theresa reproduced the different responses in a bespoke printed publication with large fold-out pages.

Introducing her work at a special launch event Friday 2nd September Theresa spoke passionately and directly about the different groups and organisations that inspired her work including a group called Biryani Bananas who travelled to camps in Calais delivering essential supplies of clothing, blankets, food and water, and in return the refugees would give the volunteers their stories so that they could share them in the North East where listeners drew parallels with Irish migrants arriving in Newcastle from the 19th Century onwards.

Whereas media reports seek to criminalise the refugees this simple exchange has helped to raise awareness of the plight of thousands of refugees, has given them a voice and humanised them. Theresa also raised awareness of Protohomes and the very real possibility of some groups learning the skills necessary to build their own home - perhaps once thought of as the preserve of the outdoorsy green welly brigade, self-build homes are becoming a viable option for many who want to own their own home.
Exhibition: The Right and Freedom to a Home.
Photo: © Jerome Whittingham, @photomoments.
With a note of warning Theresa spelled out some of the current challenges facing not just the homeless, but also people living in council houses anywhere across the country. Describing Pay to Stay (which comes into force under the new Housing Act) a family with a joint income above £31.000 will have to pay up to double or even treble the market value in rent. This will artificially inflate the house prices, she explained, and most importantly erode the security of long-term tenancy which will then have a devastating effect on our communities.

It was a deep-seated fear of a loss of community which Theresa found was at the foremost of peoples’ minds during her research gathering in Hull.

There were, however, varied responses from participants, the expected attacks on the local council, questioning whether estates were being purposefully left to decay to make way for redevelopment. More questions were raised about finding new uses for empty buildings, memorably captured in the phrase 'Use the Empties'.

The Beyond Words exhibition continues at Hull Central Library until 22nd September 2016.