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Spreading the love

SPREADING THE LOVE: Marice Cumber (centre) with residents Shaun and Ramsey

LONG-TERM homeless residents in north London donned aprons and hairnets to make jam and chutneys so they could participate in a photographic exhibition.

The initiative is the brainchild of the social enterprise Accumul8, which was set up by local resident Marice Cumber. She hopes to build employment skills, confidence and hope among long-term homeless residents at north London’s YMCA (NLYMCA)and help them to move forward with their lives.

With experience developing creative start ups – including support courses in prison – Cumber decided to make jam and chutney with the NLYMCA residents, with the intention to sell them, and raise funds. The money raised would help the residents to put on their own photographic exhibition at the Crouch End Festival this summer.

With this goal paramount, Cumber put word out to the local community and was overwhelmed by the amount of local donations of fruits and vegetables from allotments, back gardens and vegetable patches.

Consequently, Cumber and a group of NLYMCA residents would head to a local church kitchen each week to make a variety of chutneys and jams to sell.

It was not an easy feat, however, as each resident came with their own set of challenges, from poor mental health, substance dependency, histories of abuse to dealings with the criminal justice system.

Many of the residents also lacked cooking experience and had very low basic skillsets. But despite the challenges, a morning spent making chutney quickly became popular among the residents.

CULINARY SKILLS: Resident Omar making chutney in a church kitchen

Garfield, 26, a NLYMCA resident said: "It was the highlight of my week. It made a change to watching TV, visiting the dole office or just hanging out at the YMCA day in day out."

A grant from the New North London Synagogue Social Action Project helped fund the jar labels and initial costs to set up a local craft fair stall.

The jams and chutneys proved to be a sell out success, with 300 jars costing £5 each sold in just one month.

With funding from the chutneys and jams sales in place, Cumber had her sights set on the photo exhibition, and invited Crouch End's creative community to get involved.

Local photographer Kit Oates took on the role, and ran weekly photographic workshops at the YMCA. Two BA photography students also provided support, giving the homeless residents valuable insight and experience.

Samuel Adesanya, 27, told Life & Style: "It’s opened my eyes, I notice things which I wouldn't have noticed before. I've learnt to appreciate the outside world more and find hidden gems others might overlook. I'm more open minded and appreciate where art can take you."

JAMMING: Homeless Shaun packs up the completed jars

Adesanya, who escaped a violent past, likes to keep “as busy as possible”so he doesn’t have to think about his current homeless situation. He dreams of being an artist, and feels that the workshops have helped him get on his way.

The photography workshops also helped Jodie Leigh Clay, 23, to see the world in a whole new light.

She said: “This has given me a different perspective on the world, it’s helped me to look at it in a different way. One picture can tell lots of different stories.”

The finished photographic projects, which include portraits and abstract work, will be shown at an exhibition across two venues during the Crouch End Festival in June.

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