Bradford College’s commitment to social inclusion and determination to ensure our graduates are not just commercially aware but socially aware and ready to make a difference has been underlined by robust support of the Hidden Voices campaign, which unveiled its first billboard to an excited crowd of project participants and supporters on 6th December.
Hidden Voices is a major project on homelessness managed by Artworks Creative Communities which began in June and has a steering group of former and current homeless people. It aims to give the homeless a voice and challenge stereotypes around homelessness. This is a hidden issue in Bradford, where 99% of the homeless are accommodated in hostels but suffer isolation and feelings of being outcast or rejected. A key aspect of the project is publicising the fragility of circumstances which lead people to homelessness and explain that rather than being different to those more fortunate, most people facing such challenging circumstances once had the house, the car, the job, the family etcetera and that this is not a remote or deserved tragedy, but could happen to anyone.
Billboard displays are just one of the ways that this ambitious project will address perceptions and prejudice. Suzy Russell, Project Officer for Artworks explained that as well as giving a voice to the homeless, they aimed to “challenge stereotypes and challenge legislation which sees the homeless in unequal situations. We have so far run creative writing and digital media workshops and before the project ends will have shown projections, created a film and published a book full of images and text about homelessness. The project so far has been a fantastic example of partnership working and wouldn’t have happened without the energy and enthusiasm of a host of supporters and partners.”
The School of Arts & Media at Bradford College has been a key contributor and has supplied facilities plus ten weeks of teaching, allowing two groups of learners five weeks of Photoshop training and work on Apple Macs so that they could transform their ideas into potent images. As well as specially devised classes led by lecturers Paul Holmes and Lefteris Heretakis, we also provided crucial support from student volunteers.
Four students on the BA(Hons) Graphic Design, Illustration and Digital Media course: Poeyan Chan, Victoria Foggin, Matt Lamont and Lucy Wileman; have attended every evening session. They have mentored, helped the project learners use the software, assisted them with design ideas, supported their work and befriended them. The students have also produced their own images in response to the issues which will feature on billboards later in the campaign. We will also be unveiling all their work on our website as the stages of the project unfold to maximise attention for this important cause. Hidden Voices has received funding from the Media Trust and will feature in a TV documentary following the project.
Course Tutor, Paul Holmes said “It has been a pleasure to work with Artworks and our ex-student, Ged Walker, who as their Senior Project Officer, appealed to us for help. The quality of all the work produced is very professional and I am delighted that the final two of the six billboards will show work by students Poeyan and Lucy. This has special importance for them as the selection was made by a panel including the homeless steering group as well as the Artworks team. It is good experience for the students to work on a live contextualised project in poster format and seeing the work develop from design ideas to outcomes is so exciting for the students.”
The project learners have gained the skills to express their ideas, gained confidence, recognised that they have potential and that they will be made very welcome at Bradford College if we can play a part in helping them build a brighter future. This has been a mutually beneficial exchange of experiences.
As the crowd gathered on Station Road, off Canal Road, shivering as they watched the first billboard being posted and listened to the speeches, the freezing conditions highlighted how desperate it would be to be living on the streets and how much the homeless need our compassion and support.