A BOOK OF OURS is finally in the world, you can visit it in person at Manchester Cathedral for the next 6 months until March 2022, before it goes onto John Rylands Library for its place in their permanent collection — and in history. Because this is a big, big book containing many lives in an untold history: the story of British homelessness.
Manchester Cathedral, 14 October 2021. From top left: Chris Keane, Christine Johnson, Philip Davenport and Lawrence McGill, Calligrapher Stephen Raw (in green) sharing the book with audience members, artist Lois Blackburn showing a golden page from A BOOK OF OURS.
“This book, here you have our world at your fingertips. Damaged in every bloody way, look at the state of us. We are terrible and we are beautiful.” Chris Keane
On 14 October A BOOK OF OURS was launched with readings, singings and an official welcome of the manuscript into the Cathedral by Canon David Holgate, who also blessed the book for good measure!
The experience of homelessness is usually shared quietly, person to person, through private conversations that disappear into the air. And as a rule, these experiences go no further. In A BOOK OF OURS, such quiet conversations have finally been recorded on a page, using the exact words of the tellers. And not just recorded. Here they are given rich colours, decorated in gold, and most importantly of all they have been given time — time to be heard, time to arrive on the page, time to be witnessed for their own beauty.
While the world was going into lockdown it was a great antidote knowing that poems were still being written, songs were still being sung over the phone and artworks being made — those little conversations were still happening. This book is constructed with paper and ink, yes, but really its materials are memories and hopes, jokes, worries, grief, joys, the things that make us alive.
WAKE EVERY MORNING CAN’T BLOODY MOVE
Wake in the darkness of me
Wake with the sun in my mouth.
A BOOK OF OURS Calendar, lines from October.
We’d like to thank all who came to the Cathedral on 14 October for such a big-hearted reception to A BOOK OF OURS. The performers Chris Keane, Lawrence McGill, Andy Crossley, Joan and Christine Johnson all shone brightly, illuminating the pages with deep feeling. Thanks is due to all the makers. Thanks also to the Booth Centre and Back on Track for their extraordinary help for nearly three years, and for the support from the Cathedral and John Rylands Library where A BOOK OF OURS, a book of homelessness, will have its permanent home.
Supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. We wish to acknowledge the unswerving commitment and belief of the Heritage Lottery Fund and all National Lottery Players for making this piece of homeless heritage possible during difficult times.
The launch was reviewed in The Meteor online news co-operative here and a short video documenting the event is here.