opera house

Homeless people and opera singing are not two phrases that you’d automatically put together. But that was one of the sessions I attended today at the Booth Centre, a Manchester drop-in where I’m currently spending some time taking pictures. The singing group has already performed a number of times and I will be attending a show they’re putting on next month in the city’s Cathedral to mark the Booth Centre’s 15th birthday. I think I feel a multmedia piece coming on.

what’s cooking?

I spent the day at the Booth Centre today, a drop-in for homeless people in Manchester, where I’m going to be taking photos several days a week over the next month or so. It’s an amazingly positive little place, where the 100 or so users – many of whom are street drinkers, drug users or living with mental illness – engage in a variety of positive activities, from art groups to swimming and gym sessions and music classes. This afternoon was cooking. Obviously.  Fishcakes, in case you care.

What I think is going to be an interesting challenge for me as an inexperienced photographer is to deal with the fact that a few users really don’t want to be photographed – for a variety of reasons – while others are fine with it. But during the activities they all completely mingle, which means I’m going to have to bear this fact in mind at all times. Even today out of the three people at the cooking session, one man didn’t want me to show his face. That put me out of my comfort zone immediately because it limited the way I could move around the space.  I guess this is something that will just resolve itself over time, as I get to know individual people more. I hope that my approach may win some of the more reticent ones over – I try to be very gentle and sensitive in these situations and to draw as little attention to myself as I can. Maybe once they learn to trust me and get their heads around what I’m doing there, they’ll change their minds.

wet paint

I spent some time taking photos at the Booth Centre today, a drop-in centre for homeless or vulnerably housed adults in Manchester. It’s a great little place hidden away beneath the city’s cathedral, which puts on loads of activities from singing to cooking, gardening and museum visits. Users get qualifications for completing the various courses and the idea is to move them on from their often chaotic lifestyles to a more stable point in life. The Booth Centre marks its 15th anniversary this year and I have been given the green light to spend as much time as I want there over the coming weeks, documenting what they do and hopefully getting to know some of its characters. This week staff and a small group of users have been redecorating the centre but I’ll be spending some more time there once it opens again after Easter.