I set aside one day each week to work at Catching Lives, a homeless charity in Canterbury. Catching Lives do amazing work at caring, supporting and re-empowering some of the most disadvantaged and vulnerable within our society. They have a wonderful vision “of a society where all are included and all, no matter how disadvantaged, can make a contribution.”
It is an absolute privilege to work with and get to know the clients, staff and other volunteers at Catching Lives. It truly is the highlight of my working week. I would encourage anyone who felt able to support their work, either in time, financially or both, to do so.
I have been incredibly fortunate to be able to use my skills as a writer, illustrator and book designer to support the work and vision of Catching Lives in building the literacy skills and self-esteem of our clients. The centre have received European Union funding to support this work on literacy, together with partners in France, Spain and Italy. Details of this project and its vision of “literature for life – an European network of literary festivals bringing new learning opportunities to isolated communities”, can be found at litfest.eu.
As part of the literacy project I have been working with clients on each step of the story writing process right from the initial brainstorming of ideas, to then focusing in on a few ideas that most resonated with them. We have looked at characters, settings and possible plots before beginning the story boarding process. We are now taking these story boards into drafting our stories and also beginning to consider possible illustrations to accompany the text. We have recently visited locations for possible story settings to help with our descriptions and undertaken historical research for some of the potential characters. The photographs below give a flavour of this work.
In October 2015, Catching Lives hosted three days of arts and literary events, showcasing and celebrating the talents of our wonderful homeless community. As part of this, I ran a creative writing workshop, together with my friends from the centre. We were incredibly excited to share the techniques we have used to develop our stories and to highlight how our written work and skills have developed. In June 2016 we are taking this workshop to a literary festival in France. Towards the end of 2016 we will be professionally publishing our written and illustrated work and can’t wait to share it with a wider audience!
Catching Lives is always a hive of artistic activity. The centre, where we meet near Canterbury East station, may look humble from the outside, but step inside and it is alive with the clients art work, as the photos below demonstrate.
The following video further highlights the amazing impact the arts have had on clients attending Catching Lives. I even manage to sneak into the background of some of the shots!
Catching Lives are always looking for new volunteers and are incredibly open to exploring how you can use the talents that you have within the work of the centre. Click on the link if you want to find out more.
If you would like to donate to further the amazing work Catching Lives do, please click here.
And finally, as an author and lover of books why wouldn’t I want to encourage you to visit Catching Lives’ beautiful bookshop. Just look out for Canterbury’s most crooked door. Pop in, browse, buy a book and support us all.