the warm /&/ the cold quilt (2012)

The first of the arthur+martha “history” quilts, describing lives that are often overlooked in words and stitches. Here are fragments of stories, the lives of people who’ve experienced homelessness, embroidered onto quilts and painted on ceramics, by the tellers themselves in collaboration with artists Lois Blackburn and Claire Parker and poet Philip Davenport. They are responses to simple questions – which don’t have simple answers. When were you warm? When were you cold? Created out of denim fabric, the quilt is made of denim from recycled pairs of jeans – twenty-seven in all.

This project was part of the ongoing partnership between arthur+martha and The Booth Centre, which resulted in a decade of collaborations with the homeless community in Manchester -generating a body of work that pioneered a heritage of homelessness. The quilt was the first of the arthur+martha “history quilts” that combined words and embroidery to create collaborative histories that are made by many hands. Poems from this project, including lines from the quilt poem, featured in the later arthur+martha publication, also titled the warm /&/ the cold (2018).


The project challenged stereotypes about homelessness, combating hate crime against homeless people and emphasising needs shared by us all – especially shelter and acceptance.

Philip: “The quilts are traditional, but also represent warmth, hospitality and the home – and the stories they tell are preserved through touch. It’s a very ancient ritual we’ve tapped into, the passing on of personal histories.”

Lines from the denim quilt were shown as text animations by the BBC, on Big Screens in Manchester and Liverpool in November and December 2012.

In partnership with The Booth Centre and The Big Issue in the North. Supported by Arts Council England



160 Homeless participants, 22 student participants


Live and online: 1.9 million

Exhibited at 

2017  Manchester Central Library. Audience approx  57,000

2013 Summerhall, Edinburgh (As part of The Dark Would). Audience 2000

2012/13  Holden Gallery, Manchester. Audience 1000

2012/13 BBC Big Screens, Liverpool and Manchester. Audience approx 1,800,000

More information

Blog  On-line audience 9000

On-line portfolio

Press and media coverage

City Life

Manchester Evening News, one story and feature

The Big Issue


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