Review: ‘Voices from the Hub’ at Open Eye Gallery

‘Voices from the Hub’

Words and images, Adele Emmas

Outside Open Eye Gallery, stands the ‘Voices from the Hub’ exhibition. A collection of poetry and photography produced by Liverpool’s ‘Waves of Hope’ creative writing group. The group is a national lottery funded organisation that consists of individuals who share experiences of homelessness, substance misuse, mental health issues, and re-offending. The Basement on Parr Street is a place for them to go and express their experiences, emotions and help support each other. 

The aim of the project, is to try to make you, as an outsider, relate; to see their lives from another human being’s perspective – ‘In someone else’s story you might find that, at your core, you are not so different‘. – Waves of Hope

Walking through the exhibition, I am struck by the powerful words that are mounted upon boards throughout the external space – ‘No one sees the daily struggle to get out of bed, to try to function as a human being in this complex, fast paced society. The daily struggle to not drink, to not use …’ – Ange . The photography displays images of empty pathways, telephone boxes and grey bellowing skies, one particular striking image is that of an empty blanket that is to be used as someones bed for the night. 

‘It’s a lonely life. No money. No food. Nothing to do. You think back to a time when you were a family and you wish and pray you were with them now.’- Joe

For thousands of people these issues are only escalating. Our current political climate has had huge effects on funding and has resulted in the withdrawal of financial and local support for vulnerable people – ‘We had a community centre called Waves before the council shut it off because of cuts.’ Not only this, but the rise in homelessness has doubled in the past two years and is on it’s seventh year of increase. 

So I sit here and ask myself – what comes first? Does mental health lead to homelessness? Does substance abuse lead to offending? We could place these issues anywhere in the cycle and realise that they could all easily be a product of one another, like the story of the chicken and the egg. 

But it’s organisations like ‘Waves of Hope’ that give people opportunities for a better future. Through peer mentoring, intensive support and giving people the options to learn new skills they are able to gradually boost the confidence and the well-being of their clients. 

‘It feels good to be a Dad and finally growing up’ – John

The exhibition itself has been a moment of victory for those involved – ‘As a group, we have often felt that we are dismissed and that our voices are drowned out, even in matters that directly relate to us. Having this work exhibited in such a renowned and important Liverpool gallery, to be enjoyed by internationals alike, is an achievement that we’re hugely proud of.’ – Waves of Hope 

It is my personal belief that we should be raising the voices of these people to be heard and respected as they so deserve. To help to destigmatise and change the thought process of society’s presumptions. That’s why the likes of ‘Voices from the Hub’ is so important. It makes you stop and think of others in less privileged circumstances. Others who struggle from day to day in ways we can’t comprehend. In my opinion these people are the strongest of us all. 

Climbing back to life upon the stairs of hope is all I can do for today. Tomorrow I will think how to go – David 

The exhibition was one of great meaning, beauty and visual subtlety. In all honesty, I almost walked past, didn’t give it a second glance and I’m sure that’s a true representation of how these vulnerable people feel every day. 

The fact is, if you stop and read the words, stop and empathise, stop to put yourself in the shoes of another we can start making small changes for the better.