Monday, 3 January 2011

The Big Issue

Courtesy of my lovely friend Daniel Cookney my book has featured in this month's Big Issue in the North of England!

Danny who has a wealth of journalism experience was kind enough to interview me and write a great piece on how the book 'Homeless Hands' came about.

As a designer this is great exposure, to have an article written about my final project gives me a great sense of achievement and hopefully will help get my work and name 'out there'.

As a volunteer this is a great opportunity to support the Mustard Tree charity and raises further awareness of the issues surrounding homelessness. The Big Issue is the perfect publication and source to reach those who would be interested in the topic. I hope along with the book, the article helps to challenge misconceptions of what it means to be homeless.

Thank you Danny! x

Mustard Tree Music Event

Mustard Tree held a music event recently. I was invited to to be the photographer. Steve Brookstein, the first winner of X Factor in 2004 was to perform as well as many other local musicians.

As I arrived I saw a face I recognised from the soup runs. My friend Chris. I have written about Chris a couple of times and I was delighted to see him at The Mustard Tree working as a chef.

He was very funny. Telling me he had been working all day in the kitchen, slaving away. It was really nice to see him being part of the team. He told me he had applied for the job all by himself and he had filled in the application form too.

I said well done.

and asked for a cup of coffee.

he made me one :)

Now that I have moved back to Belfast I feel happier knowing Chris is working in a safe place and I think Mustard Tree will be really good for him.

He asked Steve Brookstein for a pen and paper to give me his number. Brilliant.

The event was fantastic! The atmosphere was so warm with everyone singing along.

At the end of the evening Steve was given my book by the charity as a thank you.

I said, "I made that book!"

He asked for my autograph. Ha!

And like a child I scribbled To Steve Best Wishes Nicky

My first autograph :)

Although I'm in Belfast I want to make sure I keep in good contact with the charity and everyone involved. Every time I visit Manchester I still want to attend the soup run on a Friday night to see if there are anymore faces I recognise.

Friday, 5 November 2010

40) My Eighth Soup Run

5 November 2010

Standing on the street with the homeless people waiting for the Mustard Tree van to arrive, a prostitute walks up the street. She leaves nothing to the imagination, black boots, black coat, boobs. She looks likes she has so much confidence, everyone watching her walk past, she is yelling about something. She puts up a very strong exterior, I guess she has to.

As she walks past I hear two guys say, "she thinks we're coppers" I asked him what he meant. He said that the woman told them they looked too clean to be on the streets and that she thought they were undercover policemen. They didn't know wether to be offended or not.

There is a very loud man, he asks where I'm from. I tell him Belfast. He begins to copy my accent and repeats everything I say.

"Do you want a sandwich?"
"Do you want a sandwich?"

"We have tuna?"
"We have tuna?"

It gets annoying. I begin to ignore him.

I found out later he was on speed.

I said to a man, "would you like a sandwich?"
He mumbled, "you can keep your sandwiches"


I spoke to a young boy who I see every week. I always wanted to talk to him, but he keeps himself to himself. His name is Wilson.

I said "like from Castaway?" smiling

He said, "everyone says that." not smiling.

He is 17, he now lives in a houseshare with people he likes for the first time. I asked him how he pays for it. He said he no longer can receive benefits because he didn't prove he was looking for work. I asked him what he was good at. He said "nothing."

That made me sad.

I said "of course you are!!!" He said he didn't like studying, no one ever helped him. I asked if he liked doing anything practical. He said he used to do plumbing and labour work. I said, "well why not get back into that?" He said he would, but he doesn't want to work if he doesn't get paid.

It's difficult because I struggle to get work with GCSEs, A Levels, a Bachelors Degree, a Masters Degree and with work experience. I would still work for free.

I told Wilson he had to try. It's frustrating and it's tough times, but he's only 17! He can still do something about his situation. At 17 I was still a child at school, I couldn't do what Wilson does.

I asked him about going home to his parents. He said no and began to walk away. I knew he didn't want to talk about family life. I so want to know more.

Wilson is a really lovely boy and I just want to listen and help him find the right path.

He is so young, I just want to shake him.

I think next time I see him I might tell him about Mustard Tree's Freedom Project, where he could gain practical training, work experience and help him into employment. I think he just needs a little encouragement and confidence.

Another boy turned up, he is 23, same age as me. He was going to have to sleep rough that night because he was locked out of a friends house. It was so cold. All he had was a t-shirt and a thin jacket. We offered him a blanket, he said no thanks.

Wilson said, "mate take a blanket, it's freezing."

He said, "yeah, ok, maybe I will, I've slept rough before with less clothes on."

He didn't want to look stupid carrying a blanket. I told him to wrap up in the blanket, then put his coat over the top.

He smiled and said, "Yeah, I will look massive!"

He said he will probably find a skip somewhere to sleep. A volunteer told him that was a bad idea, as there have been some tragic accidents before with people sleeping in skips.

He said, he probably wont sleep actually, he will just walk around all night.

He and Wilson walked off together, I gave them both a quality street.

I spoke to Robbie in the car, he had been in hospital again. There is something wrong with his brain I think, he is in constant pain. He says he hopes not to wake up.

I listen.

I didn't really know what to say.

I offered him a slice of Swiss Roll.

He smiled.

Monday, 1 November 2010

39) Hardcover Softcover

This is a sample of the book printed in a hardcover and a softcover from I took the samples to Mustard Tree Charity to discuss the quality of the books and to see if they were happy with the final outcome. Paul Wenham, the chief executive was very happy with them and decided to order a large batch 100/200 of the softcover book.

The plan is to send out the softcover in time for Christmas as a gift to encourage people to donate during the festive season. Inside the book will be an invitation to invite those to a small book launch in January where I will have the opportunity to tell people about my experience of making the book. There we probably sell the hardback book and soup run entries as a fundraising event and hopefully some media interest would help in raising awareness of the issues of homelessness.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

38) Mustard Tree Exhibition

On Friday 8th October Mustard Tree held an art exhibition as a fundraiser and I was very happy to be asked to display some of my work. It was a great evening and it was exciting to see people taking an interest in my work.

Friday, 1 October 2010

37) My seventh soup run


Even though my Masters is finished, I still want to volunteer with Mustard Tree.

I care about the people.

Because I hadn't been on the soup run for a few weeks I noticed how dark it was when we arrived. It just makes it that little bit scarier being in the dark and serving food from under a street lamp.

There was roughly 30 or 40 people there tonight. I noticed there was a lot of younger people this week, I was told some of the girls and boys were as young as 13 years old. I didn't really get a chance to speak to them.

I was giving out sandwiches to begin with. Ray turned up, the 69 year old who has been on X factor. I read about him last week in the MEN newspaper, he had got in trouble for graffiti in Salford. I was going to mention it to him as a bit of a joke, but I overheard him having a serious conversation with one of our volunteers. Ray has been having a tough time lately,a man who said he was from the welfare office asked him to get into his car, he was going to take him away and pay him if he took his clothes off. I think there was some sort of fight. Ray is very upset about it.

I don't really understand what happened, but it's sad.

Ray was not himself.

I was a bit hungry myself, and as everyone had had the hot food, I thought I'd have some myself :)

It was strange being on the opposite side of the table. It's not that easy taking food. I felt quite uncomfortable as I was served baked potato, beans and cheese. I said no to the salad.

I don't know if it's because I am a volunteer and I know it's not for me, or if it's a shame thing. But I do remember a man saying he felt embarrassed once taking food. And I can relate to that.

I then found I liked having the food when talking to people as I was doing exactly the same as them. I wasn't standing behind a table watching them eat, I was with them with beans dribbling down my face.

I heard a man say "I know you!"

It was Richard a man who features in my book. He's hands are photographed holding a mug and the photograph is titled 'Tower Block'. Richard is a lovely man who was very helpful with my project. I asked him how he was he said some days are better than others. I told him I had finally finished my book and that he was in it, and I told him all the nice things I said about him. Then I remembered the main point of my book was to encourage people to listen to those on the streets, so I asked Richard why some days were better than others? He said:

"Oh I'm going to sound really silly now"
"No you won't, go on"
"You know the bridge that goes over Mancunian Way?"
"I tried to jump off it on Tuesday night."

My heart sank.

"WHAT! Really? Richard! Why?"
"Just depressed n that."
"Richard are you serious! That's terrible! Surely nothing is that bad"

He looked to the floor and laughed.

"I'm just stressed, and money and I was diagnosed with TB."
"What's that?"
"It's to do with the lungs."
"That's awful, did you go to the doctor?"
"Yeah I been in hospital for two weeks."
"I can't believe you did that! What happened? How were you feeling?"

"I was literally on the edge, I was ready, I wanted to."
"And what happened?"
"The police showed up, they asked me my name. I said "Computer says no" you know from Little Britain?
"Are you kidding me?"
"I did! They asked if I smoked, I said yes, the policeman gave me a fag. He was called Darren, he was alright.
They asked me if I had children, I said yes, a daughter. They asked me if i had a wife, I said no. Then I started swearing about women. Then they told me to calm down. I came down by myself. They told me to get in the car, I asked if I was in trouble they said no. In the car the police man told me to take my frustration out on a prostitute, to go down the street and take my anger out. (His words were more graphic)

I said, "WHAT!?!"
he laughed.
"And did you!?!"
he laughed.
"No but I got time yet."
I laughed. for some reason?

The police man showed Richard how fast he could drive and put the blue lights on. They were going to section him, but instead left him with some friends. Richard's daughter is 22, she lives in Salford, he sees her occasionally.

"Richard I remember you told me you wanted to get a job and work on the lorries."
"Yeah, I been stressing out about my passport, a woman robbed me."

"Are you going to do it again?"
"I don't know, depends if I get depressed."
"No Richard! You can't you just can't, you have to try"
"Ok, I'll try"
"Do you promise!"
"YES I promise."

I starred him out.


"Kevin tried to commit suicide too on the bridge this week."


"Didn't you Kevin?"
"What? oh yeah..."

Kevin is the young man who appeared in the Granada news report. He was with his girlfriend zara who is pregnant. I really like Kevin, he seems to look out for everyone.

A man turned up in a truck, he tried to take the 13 year old boy for work. One of the older guys stopped him. It's a con. We recorded the registration number.

There seemed to be a suspicious atmosphere. people were whispering and I kept hearing the word 'dead' people would rush off and then return.

I tried to listen in.

A guy I know called Nathan was there, his pupils were large and black. He took 6 sandwiches with him. I have never seen him like that before. It wasn't Nathan.

A 17 year old boy Ryan was there, he had fallen out with his mother and didn't want to go home. It's weird knowing his mum is probably worrying and I have just seen her son.

I'm glad I went tonight.

I learn a lot.

36) Final Outcome

Well I have now finished my Masters! The last couple of weeks have been pretty intense, therefore the blog has suffered.

The final application is an A5 book. The size is appropriate for the client, Mustard Tree, to fund and send out to key partners. It is a book of two halves. The first half, called Homeless Hands exhibits the photographs of homeless people’s hands alongside the appropriate tiles. The second half, called Underneath the Fingernails includes the personal stories of those who’s hands have been photographed. The second half of the book is printed ‘upside down’ in relation to the first half. This makes the two halves of the book distinctly separate and encourages the audience to interact with the book, flipping it to match the photographs with the stories.

The book is professionally bound, representing the professional business aspect of the charity. The book is black and white throughout, however, splashes of red appear to reinforce the brand colour of the charity.

The concept of the book is to introduce a selection of the people Mustard Tree support through their work. The layout of the book controls the pace in which people receive messages, therefore strategically addressing misconceptions of the homeless community. The overall message is intended to impact the reader on an emotional level, to inspire or encourage them to interact with the homeless community.

As part of the final submission the diary entries documented from the Mustard Tree soup runs have been individually printed and presented as a series. The personal accounts are bound using cardboard covers as a reference to using waste resources found on the street. The documents are bound using red string to signify the Mustard Tree brand colour and linking the personal entries to the book.