The church of the ever open door (St Martin-in-the-Fields) has just received 10 painted doors as part of A Year Outdoors, an initiative by conceptual artist Beau to raise awareness of the increase in the numbers of street homeless throughout the UK.
To Beau, a front door symbolises having a place to live
To Beau, a front door symbolises having a place to live – something which many people across the UK do not have access to. “Everyone should have a door and if not we need to look at our own to imagine being without it,” he explains. These doors speak of the critical situation of poverty and homelessness found in the UK’s cities today where cuts to housing, mental health and social services are driving more and more people into critical situations. “There are almost twice as many people without a home than there was this time five years ago. This is happening right around us, yet we walk on past. I hope Outdoors will act as a catalyst for conversation. Across the UK, we’re experiencing many of the same problems, in different cities. Hopefully things like Outdoors will help bridge the growing gap between us all.”
The reclaimed front doors were originally exposed to a year on the streets by being hung across the streets of Bristol during 2017. Hung in plain sight on the city streets they were, in the main, ignored by passers-by, although street-art culture did adopt some of the sites integrating them into graffiti artworks. The lack of attention originally paid to these doors is symbolic of the hidden homeless community who are often out of sight – sofa surfing, crashing with friends, staying in squats or communal homes, hostels and long-term B&B residences, all forms of homelessness often experienced for years.
Now, attention from well-known artists from across the globe (such as Ralph Steadman, China Mike, Will Barras, Alex Lucas and Jane McCall) has helped breathe new life into the doors. The doors are being exhibited around the country before being auctioned off in December 2019, with The Connection at St Martin-in-the-Fields one of the homeless charities that will benefit from the project.
The Connection at St Martin’s works with approximately 4,000 homeless people every year to move away from, and stay off the streets of London. Central London attracts thousands of vulnerable people, who wish to start their lives over or believe there are more opportunities available to them here. If these do not materialise, people can find themselves at risk of homelessness. The Connection at St Martin’s works with people to overcome their homelessness through a range of specialist day and night services which empower people living on the edges of society to take control of their lives and achieve recovery.
Organisations like The Connection at St Martin’s can open doors to accommodation and work for those who usually have to bed down outside closed front doors, The literal and symbolic resonances of doors mean that this installation is a conversation starter about the real issues facing rough sleepers and the significance of the rise in numbers of street homeless. Catalyzing these conversations is the concept underlying Beau’s installation.
Outdoors is in the Courtyard at St Martin-in-the-Fields from 16 – 31 October.
Words: Revd Jonathan Evens St Martin-in-the-Fields
A Year Outdoors – https://ayearoutdoors.com