Dreams & Realities in Camden

“One voice gets lost in the crowd. Many voices raise above the crowd to be heard” – ATD Fourth World Bookmark Project.

On Sunday 9th June, the Dreams & Realities exhibition held the launch of it’s display in London, at Camden Town Methodist Church, with a hope-filled afternoon of art, music and poetry.

Dreams & Realities is a series of nine portraits of nine people living in poverty, created by Sheffield based artist Stephen Martin. Each picture shows the person, something that depicts their economic reality, and something that represents the dreams and ambitions they would pursue if they were not held back by poverty and unjust systems. The portraits are currently touring across the UK, sparking conversations about the journey to end poverty.

At the event, the artist Stephen commented: “It feels like a dream come true, but it also feels so surreal that the exhibition is actually in Camden, especially during the General Election period. We need to make poverty a key issue during the election – that’s the most important thing, to get it over to the voters and politicians, that poverty needs to be high on the agenda. It’s people lives we’re dealing with, their lives and their circumstances and their extreme need to survive and get by on the little they have.”

“Listening is our superpower.” – Kevin

“To the powers that be: take notice and listen to me” – Amanda

Throughout the afternoon, the experiences, expertise and creativity of people struggling against poverty were amplified through performances and speeches. Members of ATD Fourth World, a human rights based anti-poverty organisation, with more than fifty years experience of tackling inequality and promoting social justice in the UK, opened the afternoon with contributions of poetry and creative reflection.

Patricia, Kevin and Amanda read their own compositions as well as poetry from other participants, expressing their hopes and challenges. The poetry covered themes of isolation, activism, caring, parenthood, challenge and hope for the future. They demonstrated the commitment of activists to share their own experience as part of the journey to end poverty in the UK, and to use their lived expertise to inspire others.

Displayed alongside the performances was a photography exhibition brought together by ATD participants, highlighting their experiences of poverty. Artists involved in producing the exhibition shared the challenges of engaging in creativity whilst struggling against poverty and hardship, but also the satisfaction experienced in the process. Part of the exhibition honoured activists who have passed away since their participation in campaigns, and carries their legacy into the future.

Wayne Green, an anti-poverty campaigner and participant in Church Action on Poverty’s Speaking Truth to Power programme, performed two striking pieces on the saxophone. ‘Loveland in Blue’ expressed the challenge of being ‘unloved’ when experiencing poverty, and ‘Black Murder’ captured the struggles for racial justice alongside economic justice in the UK.

On performing at the event, Wayne commented: “Playing here today was inspirational. It’s not about being on a stage or platform, it’s about being with real people, telling real stories, sharing real emotions. Camden is alive and there are real people who do work on poverty and have something to say.”

The Camden and Islington NHS Choir were a highlight of the event, performing a repertoire of upbeat, inspiring songs including two original pieces, ‘Everything’s Alright’ and ‘I see love’. The choir meets at St Pancras Hospital on a Tuesday evening, and brings together NHS staff, service users, volunteers, friends and the local community to build solidarity and action through music.

The Mayor of Camden, Councillor Samata Khatoon, was also present at the event, sharing the borough’s mission to reduce child poverty. She highlighted the passion of people across Camden to celebrate diversity and unite to tackle injustice.

The event also heard a call to action from Let’s End Poverty’s Pete Duberly, to engage with local candidates about poverty ahead of the election on 4 July. Attendees were invited to sign the Let’s End Poverty pledge, and add their voice to call for change.

The Dreams & Realties exhibition will be on display at Camden Methodist Church until Thursday 20th June. It can be visited between 3-5pm Monday-Friday, and 12-5pm on Saturday. To explore future tour dates, click here to visit the Dreams & Realities webpage. 

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