News

Formerly homeless ex-addict in recovery has fresh start

Posted by on Jan 16, 2018 in News | 0 comments

Geraldine Crimmins, the new artist in residence at the Old Diorama Arts Centre, has recently become self-employed thanks to her art and photography.

Geraldine Crimmins in her studio at the Old Diorama Art Centre, London.

Despite passing a “not fit for work” test which allowed an Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), Café Art artist and photographer Geraldine has focused on art to get back into employment with the help of the National Enterprise Scheme.

“The only way I could get back to work was to become self employed, because I would have too many sick days [working in a regular job].” By also selling the MyLondon calendar this year she was able to fund her new art practice she says. “If I don’t sell [any art] for three months I have a bit of cash to get by from selling the calendars. [Selling the calendar] goes hand in had with my [art] practice until I start selling more, and build up my client list.”

The third Café Art artist to be artist in residence, following in the footsteps of David Tovey and James Gray, general manager Jacob Stevens says David and James really helped Diorama develop their creative identity. Geraldine has been given the art studio in the centre until the end of March, when she will have a solo exhibition in the main reception area of the centre in April.

"Jacob and Diorama have been amazing in helping not only raise the profile of homelessness issues, but by helping people with the opportunity to be an artist in residence. I have seen how it transformed David [Tovey] and James [Gray] and I feel really grateful to have been given this opportunity."

Geraldine says she turned to art about five years ago as she needed something to do after a lot of treatment for health issues. She had a few paintings in The Big Issue and this lead to her being interviewed by Channel 4 News – an item that has been seen more than 700,000 times on their Facebook page.

Talking about the artist in residence opportunity, she says she would like to get roughly ten paintings done, “which is quite a tall order considering it’s nearly a painting a week.” She says she is excited that the exhibition in April at Old Diorama will be her first exhibition in the West End “as it’s central for people to come to.”

Her first solo exhibition was in Shine in Turnpike Lane in November where she sold two paintings and three prints. Also last year she persuaded Café Art to organise the inaugural Café Art Competition Exhibition at the Hampstead School of Art and had a painting in the shortlisted top 20 paintings that were exhibited in September.

Geraldine was also successful in two photography competitions last year, both run by Café Art. She had six photos chosen for the Café Art Qbic Hotel photography project which commissioned by Qbic Hotel. The hotel had approached Café Art’s photography mentoring group, run by Neil Cordell and Mo Grieg from The Royal Photographic Society, to get its photographers to take photos of East London for their hotel rooms. Geraldine also managed to get a photo into the top 20 of the 2017 MyLondon photography exhibition.

Geraldine attributes the success in the contests for her the confidence to go from amateur to professional. She says that as well as the competition successes last year she is also getting a lot of positive feedback on Instagram. (please follow her at @geraldine_crimmins)

The National Enterprise Scheme

Geraldine says the National Enterprise Scheme will give her support for six months, adding however, “It’s important to work with your mentor.”

Before she stopped the ESA and started the National Enterprise Scheme she was able to do permitted work – earning up to £120 a week (the amount she can earn now is unlimted). “That was very valuable for me because I was able to pay off my debts. I got rid of my credit card. It gave me a chance to see what it was like to get up and go to work again. [Not working] is a big blow to your psyche.”

She recommends anyone contemplating taking the jump to do it. “It’s been great. The government was saying that it’s better for disabled people to be working – well I tell you, I agree with it because my self esteem has gone up. I found energy I didn’t know I had. I have to get up [every day] now. Before I used to get up and volunteer sometimes, but now I have to get up to pay my bills and develop my business and that’s really exciting.”

Art schools

“I started painting five years ago. I did a BTEC – like an O Level – at my local adult education centre. It was just one day a week. It gave me a chance to just explore [art]. I learnt how to approach painting in a professional manner: how to develop a painting. If it wasn’t working out [I learned] to leave it. I was shown how to go back and I was shown how to develop the paintings. If I wanted to make a painting I had to make six studies in different mediums, like chalk, pen and ink, oil, acrylic. And then I would do the finished product.”

Geraldine completed the BTEC Level Two & Three in Painting and Drawing at Westminster Adult Education Service. “On the course they taught me how to approach a project. It was like creating images. I had never approached art like that before. To me I had just wanted a picture. They were showing me how to develop it and explore it and how to work through the mistakes.

She won the Inspirational Festival of Learning Award for the London Region in 2016. Because her strength is limited, she says the college used to let her sleep at lunchtime, in their First Aid room.

Inigo Rousham at Westminster Adult Education took her under his wing. “He’s a very well-known tutor. He really inspired me and pushed me as well.” At Hampstead School of Art she was inspired by Des Healey: “I had gone to him years ago and had always followed him. He taught me a lot on how to do portraiture. He’s a portrait artist.”

Geraldine with Jacob Stevens, General Manager of the Old Diorama Arts Centre.

While Geraldine is surrounded by portraits in her studio at Old Diorama, she says she’s now getting more into landscapes. “Westminster really pushed me to try other things. I’m studying abstract now at the Mary Ward Centre until September. I’m going to do a year with them. I find that quite therapeutic. It’s a whole different way of working so it’s really exciting for me.”

Geraldine is very happy with the way her life has turned around. “You can’t stay in the house. You’ve got to go out and do a class. Learn skills. Keep your brain active. I could have sat at home and watched television for the rest of my life. I had passed “not fit for work” but I would have ended up getting very ill I think, mentally. It’s important to go out and do voluntary work and get involved in the community. That’s how to recover from addiction.”

Visit: Old Diorama Centre at Regents Place, 201 Drummond Street, London, NW1 3FE.

Follow Geraldine Crimmins on Instagram @geraldine_crimmins

Exciting plans for the Old Diorama Centre

Old Diorama have just launched the Associate Performance Scheme where they provide free performance and development space to new dance companies or dance companies experimenting with new work. They have signed up 12 new Camden-based charities that get completely free space. They are also looking forward to doing a short film festival hopefully in the autumn soon after David Tovey’s ONE Festival of Homeless Arts which will again launch on World Homelessness Day (10 October).

Hats off to you, Mr Taylor

Posted by on Dec 23, 2017 in News | 0 comments

'Still Here' by Lou Danby: January MyLondon 2018 calendar

We bid farewell to Mr Mick Taylor (1945-2017) today (20/12/17) as he was laid to rest at the City of London Cemetery and Crematorium, E12. He was a dear friend to one of the MyLondon 2018 photo winners, Lou Danby, who took a photo of him which made it into the month of January in the calendar. This portrait by Lou also won the Alex Davies Portrait Award. Friends gathered round to fondly remember Mick who was so much a part of Brick Lane's culture & history as well as the fabric of Spitalfields, including his renowned outfits, for more than 50 years. The Gentle Author of Spitalfields Life gave a touching eulogy as well as a wonderful tribute to Mick's life, the contents of which you can read here. (Highly recommended). Brick Lane will never  be the same again - rest in peace, Mr Taylor ...  

MyLondon Exhibition in Spitalfields

Posted by on Oct 3, 2017 in News | 4 comments

The Cafe Art Arts Market runs from Monday 9 October to Sunday 15 October (10am-5pm).

The annual MyLondon Photography Exhibition will hang in Spitalfields Art Market, Brushfield Street, London E1 from Monday 9 October to Sunday 15 October. The entire market has been given to Cafe Art to hang the photography exhibition which features 400 photos taken over five days in early July by people affected by homelessness. On Tuesday 10 October the 2018 MyLondon calendar will be launched at 1pm in the market. The calendar sells in the market until early January. This year the calendar will also be sold on the streets of London by participants in the project. The Arts Market will also host a market of paintings and photos for sale from artists who are members of art groups run by London homelessness-sector charities.

100 disposable cameras, 2,300 photos taken, 400 selected by the photographers for the exhibition, 20 winning photos chosen and 13 chosen for the 2018 MyLondon calendar.

Farewell Mick Taylor (1945-2017)

Posted by on Oct 3, 2017 in News | Comments Off on Farewell Mick Taylor (1945-2017)

The late Mick Taylor as photographed by Louise Danby in July. The photo won a place in the 2018 MyLondon calendar being launched in Spitalfields Market on Tuesday 10 October.

We were very sad to hear that Mick Taylor, one of the subjects in the upcoming 2018 MyLondon calendar, passed away on Friday 29 September.

Mick Taylor. Photo: Louise Danby (2017 MyLondon Photography Exhibition, Spitalfields Market 9-15 October)

Louise Danby had taken a photos of Mick during the annual MyLondon Photography Project by Cafe Art in early July, with one of them getting into the top 20 exhibition photos. The photos will be exhibited next week in Spitalfields Arts Market, Brushfield Street. One photo of Mick was chosen for the 2018 MyLondon calendar which will be launched on World Homeless Day - 10 October 2017  - in Spitalfields Arts Market. Louise was a close friend of Mick and regularly visited him and took him for walks. Interviewed in August, Mick said: “She’s a great help. She comes around and takes me for walks.”

Mick Taylor pictured at the vote for the MyLondon calendar photos. The photo of him by Louise Danby is January 2018 in the calendar.

Mick Taylor came with Louise Danby to the public vote for the MyLondon exhibition and calendar photos. Louise says Mick Taylor was known as ‘Teapot’, ‘Little Harvey’ and more nick names. Interviewed in August, before Mick passed away, Louise said: “Lots of people know him as he’s been round a bit. People had thought he was dead so I took a photo of him in front of this mural on Brick Lane!” Mick grew up in Clapton, Hackney but has lived near Spitalfields for years. Lou says he was one of the last proper Cockneys. His upbringing was hard and they were very poor, says Lou. “At the same time, he had a lot of fun and there was a lot of love.”  

East London highlighted by Cafe Art in local project

Posted by on Sep 26, 2017 in News | Comments Off on East London highlighted by Cafe Art in local project

  An exhibition of stunning shots of East London by a group of Cafe Art MyLondon photographers who have experienced homelessness is due to open in Qbic hotel next week. Qbic Hotel partnered with Cafe Art and The Royal Photographic Society (The RPS) to take photos of East London. Paul Ryan from Cafe Art says Rebecca Waters from Qbic approached Cafe Art wanting to give them a new challenge - to take photos of interesting parts of east London near Qbic. "They wanted to add a more personal and interesting piece of work created by local artists of the area. Rebecca said they thought of our MyLondon photography project. After a meeting we decided to give the challenge to the photography mentoring group. It was a perfect challenge - it was a real job for them. Our goal is to empower people and this has more than achieved that goal." Neil Cordell from The RPS says that the Society has been helping the MyLondon calendar project for several years and this type of extra project was perfect to improve their photography skills. The 14 East London photos will be hanging in Qbic Hotel cafe from Monday 2 October. The annual MyLondon exhibition will be also hanging in the hotel on their gallery staircase from that date. Join us for the Private View in Qbic, 42 Adler Street, London, E1 1EE at 6pm on Monday 2 October

Cafe Art Hampstead competition exhibition opens

Posted by on Sep 20, 2017 in News | 2 comments

Zin Vaitiekunas stands in front of two of his paintings which made it into the exhibition, one of which won the Figurative Prize.

The inaugural Cafe Art Competition Exhibition opened at the Hampstead School of Art (HSoA) last night with a short award ceremony. See photos from the opening here (Facebook) While we have had many exhibitions since our first one in the Guardian Building in August 2012, this is the first time we have awarded prizes. The exhibition can be seen in the HSoA's new building. The connection to the school began a few years ago (the first exhibition was in January 2015) and Cafe Art is very appreciative of the support from the school, especially the principal Isabel Langtry who was one of the judges for the contest who chose the top three prizes. The other two judges were Jimmy Lek from ArtGemini Prize and art therapist and long-term Cafe Art volunteer Simon Richardson. The HSoA chose another three prizes (listed below). Twenty one paintings are in the exhibition, (having been selected from 80 entries) and are on display until Friday 13 October. See a selection of the images here (Facebook) The three main cash prizes were funded by the Spitalfields Market vendors of the MyLondon calendar. Last year when the calendar had to be reprinted in early December, the vendors agreed to contribute 25 pence from each calendar sale they made, and this raised more than £1,000 for the prize money. The judges chose three main prizes, each winning £200 for themselves and £100 for a charity of their choice: The Figurative prize went to Zin Vaitiekunas, an independent artist but formerly from Kids' Company. The Self Portrait prize went to Michael Crosswaite from 240 Project. The Abstract prize went to Aaron Little from Crisis. The HSoA prize winners were: Mateus (Abstract Prize) James Gray (Special award of free tuition at HSoA) Justin (Principal's Prize) May thanks to Camden New Journal and Ham & High for running a feature in their papers 🙂

2018 MyLondon calendar

Posted by on Aug 18, 2017 in Featured, News | Comments Off on 2018 MyLondon calendar

Thirteen beautiful photographs, taken by homeless people, are part of the 2018 MyLondon calendar. Created by 100 homeless people in a project lasting five days.

The viral success in 2015 and 2016 saw thousands of calendars being sold overseas.

See the Exhibition and 2018 MyLondon photos here

Once the actual calendar is printed, it sells thousands of copies in Spitalfields market and other London markets.

The project trains people in photography and when the calendar is ready people gain work experience selling it. MyLondon has inspired similar projects in Budapest, Sydney, New Orleans and Toronto.

The MyLondon Kickstarter raised £8,707 to pay for the printing of the calendar which was launched in Spitalfields Market on World Homeless Day on 10 October 2017.

Order the calendar online here.

First solo exhibition for Cafe Art artist James Gray

Posted by on Aug 2, 2017 in Event, Exhibition, News, Press release, Publicity | Comments Off on First solo exhibition for Cafe Art artist James Gray

Jacob Stevens, Diorama general manger and James Gray.

James Gray is having his first solo exhibition and we at Cafe Art could not be prouder.

James has come a long way. When we first met him in 2012 he had only recently been sleeping rough in London, and was being housed by Wytham Hall in West London. He was one of the first artists to lend his paintings to us to hang in cafes, and when we approached him about creating a calendar to bring together all the art groups for people who had experienced homelessness in the ONE calendar he willingly contributed and his painting of poppies was the November image.

Last year James took a huge step - to take on a flat and live independently, and earlier this year he became the artist in residence at Diorama Arts Centre.

I Dream in Colour showcases fantastic art in vivid colour, influenced by the inner world of dreams. A mix of psychedelic abstract paintings and figurative sgraffito skylines of London, where he lives and works.

His compact abstract paintings on canvas draw you in to an intricate fantasy world of colour spectrums, twisting kaleidoscopes and glitter, where the physical fluid movement of thick acrylic paint is captured in glistening textured surfaces. The imagination wanders amongst swirling paint to find order in the chaos, with shapes morphing into surreal creatures and landscapes. Evocatively described as ”jewellery on canvas”, “ice cream” and “candy made in dreams”, the sensuous and soothing paintings are a sight to behold and treasure.

His figurative grafitto works depict luminous city skylines and trees in acrylic on paper. Layers of painted are scratched through to reveal what is underneath, creating texture and depth. The dark foreground and brightly coloured lines give the impression of atmospheric night scenes. James loves to immerse himself in the experience of painting and the feeling of creative flow. He is constantly surprised by what emerges, and by people’s interpretation of what they see in his work. This sense of wonder and discovery is a great source of inspiration that drives him develop his artistic practice.

“My journey started 10 years ago when I found myself homeless. I’ve struggled throughout my life, but nothing prepares you for a life on the streets. Surviving each day and night, that’s what it’s all about. Not knowing what’s next. A life outside of life. First you think it’s just a dream and then it hits you. There is no comfort or joy, just pain and sorrow. Being kicked, being woken up and moved on. Being a stain on society, a piece of dirt. Just another statistic.”

“I am thankful because it opened a door for me. A path that led me to where I am. I joined an art therapy class in a day centre. I taught myself different techniques and soon fell in love with art. Art saved my life.”

“I’ve exhibited with Café Art. I now live in my own flat. I’ve started my own business as a self-employed artist. I’m Artist in Residence at Diorama Arts Centre. And now have my own exhibition at Outpost. That’s how far I have come.”

Peter Bedford Housing Association (PBHA) are proud to work in partnership with Café Art to provide a platform for James Gray at Outpost, as part of PBHA’s Big Lottery funded Supporting Makers programme. The programme provides support for artists and makers experiencing barriers to accessing the art world. Participants are supported to become creative entrepreneurs and to develop, showcase and sell their work.

Outpost – Shop | Gallery | Community Hub 546 Holloway Road, Islington N7 6JP

www.peterbeford.org.uk/outpost @OutpostN7 @jamesgray Open: Mon - Sat 10.30am – 6pm Private View: Thursday 10 August, 6pm to 8pm. Please join James at this event!

Vote online for the 2018 MyLondon calendar

Posted by on Jul 30, 2017 in Calendar, Exhibition, News | 15 comments

We have exciting news - for that first time you can vote online for the photos in our 2018 MyLondon calendar! You can have your say here.

One hundred one-time-use Fujifilm cameras were handed out to people affected by homelessness at St Paul's Cathedral on 30 June, resulting in more than 2,000 photos.

From 2,000 photos submitted from 89 cameras returned, 20 have been chosen for the public vote to decide the 2018 MyLondon calendar. We hope to get thousands of votes from the public in Spitalfields Arts Market from Monday 31 July to Sunday 6 August.

London Photo Festival

Cafe Art has partnered with London Photo Festival and this allows us to find out what you like from the 20 photos chosen by the official selection panel in mid July.

London Photo Festival has been supporting Cafe Art and MyLondon for many years. Every year they have a representative on the MyLondon judging panel, either Emma Mapp or Kit Shah. For several years they have generously sponsored one of our photographers to join their annual exhibition in May, giving exhibition experience and really helping us to connect with local London photographers.

See this year's top 20 and vote for as many photos as you like now! Please note that we are doing voting in Spitalfields Arts Market and all voting results will be analysed before choosing the 2018 calendar on Monday 7 August.

Vote now!

MyLondon in Spitalfields from Monday 31 July

Posted by on Jul 25, 2017 in News | Comments Off on MyLondon in Spitalfields from Monday 31 July

See more than 400 photos from the 2017 contest. Vote for the top 20 to help us choose the 2018 MyLondon calendar!

More than 450 images of London as taken by people affected by homelessness feature in the largest MyLondon exhibition yet - 25% more photos than last year - in Spitalfields Arts Market from Monday 31 July to Sunday 6 August.

There will be a small opening ceremony with some of the photographers at 1pm on Monday - please join us!

The contest photographs were taken with one-time-use Fujifilm disposable cameras over five days in early July.

A Glimpse of London posted about us last year. Why not come down and see this year's exhibition?

The results are incredible - from haunting scenes by participants who live in the shadows of the Grenfell Tower in Ladbroke Grove, to creative observations by participants on a London we all love.

This is their love letter to London and and we encourage you to come and see it.      
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