Working with Catching Lives
I work at Catching Lives, a homeless charity in Canterbury. Catching Lives work tirelessly 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 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.
Literature for Life
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 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.
Writing with Catching Lives
As part of the literacy project I worked with clients on each step of the story writing process from the initial brainstorming of ideas, to focusing on the ideas that resonated with them. We looked at characters, settings and possible plots before embarking on the story-boarding process. We took these story-boards into drafting our stories and planned illustrations to accompany the text.
We visited the locations of our story settings in the Canterbury area to help with our descriptions. The places for our books have been guided by those that are important to our homeless community and many feature in the incredibly moving “A Walk in Our Shoes” guide to Canterbury written by the homeless of Catching Lives.
We also undertook considerable historical research for the characters and time period used in the books. This research has included the work undertaken by Dick Sheppard for the homeless in London and Canterbury who has inspired our clients.
These many facets have led to the development of the Harbledown book series. The photographs below give a flavour of our creative journey.
Creative Writing Workshops
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 took this workshop to a literary festival in France. In 2017 we professionally published our written and illustrated work and it is a pleasure to be able to share it with a wider audience.
The title of this first book is Harbledown Hope, a story of a young fox’s traumatic journey through Canterbury. It is a story of hardship, pain, loss and discrimination, but through friendship, courage and sacrifice, comes hope. It draws upon the challenges and experiences faced by the homeless.
Art work at Catching Lives
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. There are many more examples of this brilliant art work in Harbledown’s Gallery.
Video about Catching Lives
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!
Get involved with Catching Lives
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. In fact, why not buy our book Harbledown Hope while you are there!