Exhibition showcasing the hidden talents of Stonebridge residents is launched
PUBLISHED: 13:11 19 April 2016 | UPDATED: 13:13 19 April 2016
An exhibition tackling loneliness and isolation by reaching into the hidden talents of residents has been launched in Stonebridge as part of a new interactive 'people's library'.
Plans to transform the Hub in Hillside into the Stonebridge People Library have launched with an interactive exhibition.
Over the next two weeks residents are invited to come in and write down their stories which will feature in an “interactive wall” when the library is complete.
Designer and artist Julie Howell spent six months photographing residents who live in housing owned by the Hyde Group, who commissioned the project.
Ms Howell said she was motivated by bringing people together. She added: “I was really shocked by what happened here in 1994. A man called John Shepherd was found four years after he died in a tower near here.
“People are out of communication. We don’t know our neighbours, people are isolated and loneliness is on the increase. Hyde has a transcient population but also people who have lived here for years, so I wanted to do something that people can interact with.”
Huge photographs of talented Stonebridge residents, such as poet and lyrist Clifton Tobin, 81, and Bernie Walsh MBE, who worked in the BBC canteen for more than four decades, shine out of the outer windows of the hub.
More residents are inside, hanging from the ceiling, some who have done something for the community and others who have not, “it doesn’t matter”.
Mr Tobin, who wrote lyrics for many musicians including Bob Marley, said: “I’m a poet, singer and song writer. My dreams and aspirations are not left behind because they say I’m old. I do what I do because of love.”
Arriving from Jamaica aged 15, he said that life was “a struggle at the beginning”. He said the Lord’s Prayer had supported him. “Every child should have an understanding of that. It’s something to fall back on when you get low, are wondering who you are, why is this happening, who am I?”
Patrick McKay, 53, who runs St Michael’s Youth Project and the St Michael and All Angels Steel Orchestra, stands on an outer wall.
He said: “For me this is a celebration. I was trying to find a face among them all that I didn’t know. Brent is a microcosm of the whole world. Brent is misrepresented in parts of the media as a crime capital, which just isn’t true. We have community cohesion and we work hard. The purpose of our project is to raise the self esteem of youth and young people. We get them on track and we keep them on track.”
Food at the launch was supplied by Mum’s Caribbean Takeaway, a family business based in Kensal Green.
Cllr Ernest Ezeajughi, labour representative for Stonebridge, said: “It’s a very good initiative.”
Cllr Zaffer Van Kalwala, his colleague, added: “It’s fantastic we have a project that captures the history, the hopes and the fears of our close knit community.”
Tom Gardiner, project manager for the Hyde Group, said: “Stonebridge has a reputation which isn’t nearly as bad as people make out. People can feel lonely but for them to read people’s stories and see what people living here do, or did, makes it all more human. This project shows people endless possibilities.”