St Albans Museum project will focus on homelessness in the district

PUBLISHED: 12:05 10 April 2018 | UPDATED: 12:05 10 April 2018

Sam Tharby and Dave Kotula in a St Albans squat.

Sam Tharby and Dave Kotula in a St Albans squat.

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An arts and heritage project to show the history of homelessness in St Albans has received funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Nicki Twohig and other squatters at a St Albans squat.Nicki Twohig and other squatters at a St Albans squat.

St Albans Arts Team has received a £50,600 grant for the ‘Squatlife’ project, which will highlight historical and contemporary responses to homelessness for an exhibition at the new St Albans Museum and Gallery.

The project, which aims to give insight into a previously under-researched aspect of local history, was inspired by Dave Kotula’s photographs of squatted premises in the city in the 1980s. The photos will form part of the first community-focused exhibition to be shown at the Museum and Gallery, which is set to open this summer.

At the exhibition, Dave’s photos of local squats will be on display alongside the stories of the people who used them. The photos will be contrasted with a view of Victorian and pre-Victorian workhouses and historical attitudes towards homelessness. Volunteers from St Albans and Hertfordshire Archaeological and Architectural Society will help with the project alongside heritage professionals from St Albans Museum Service.

Theatre company Cardboard Citizens will also work with homeless or recently homeless residents from the district to create a performance for the Abbey Theatre, while professional photographers will works with people attending Herts Young Homeless to capture snapshots of their lives. Participants who have experienced homelessness will have the chance to share their experiences and receive accredited training along the way.

Charlie Murray (now a stuntman) at a St Albans squat.Charlie Murray (now a stuntman) at a St Albans squat.

Historically, St Albans Abbey has played a role in helping the homeless, as Benedictine Monks were instructed to “relieve the poor, to clothe the naked. to visit the sick, to bury the dead, to help the afflicted and to console the sorrowing”.

Joe Tavernier, the council’s head of community services, said: “Squatlife is an exciting community project that will explore squatting and homelessness using photography and the performing arts. I want to thank the National Lottery for supporting this fascinating project that is being put together by St Albans Arts Team. I am very much looking forward to seeing the results.”

Anyone with experience squatting or being homeless who would like to share their experience should email grae.wall@1life.co.uk

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