Haunt and Collaboration

Since Haunt got shortlisted for the Saboteur Awards I’ve been thinking about the collaborative part of the project a lot. Throughout the last eighteen months we’ve worked with a lot of participants. Some were improving their situation. Others had chaotic lives. Many we didn’t see every time we ran a workshop. Some of the participants only attended once, leaving us with several pieces of work, or insightful conversations that helped tweak my worldview.

One participant has been present all the way through, yet until now I’ve never really talked about him. My 16 year old self.

It may seem like a twee sentiment but there’s an important point here. To be actively engaged in writing creatively for Haunt I’ve had to meet the person who I was just after I was kicked out of home 24 years ago. His language is not mine. His view of the world is not mine, and his relationship with Harrogate is certainly not mine. It’s been a disconcerting experience.

We change by degrees and it’s only through Haunt that I’ve looked back and seen how much I’ve alteredĀ  since I was that 16 year old, still doing my GCSEs, living in a bedsit with no contract and not quite enough money to get by.

Recently a good friend passed away. He was very supportive around the time I was kicked out. His illness and passing brought back a lot of memories of what a great generous person he was. Those memories also collapsed time and made me feel 15 and 16 again.

The fear about making my 16 year old self an active participant is the fear I’ll slip back to who I was then. That somehow the ghost, who was hurt, angry and upset, still lives in me somewhere and will become too easy to wear. But if I see him as a participant, a collaborator in Haunt, then I can listen to his stories without tumbling into my past.

I’ve found that by listening to who I was, as the person I am now, it’s helped me be compassionate, patient and have empathy. Maybe, personally, that 16 year old past self is my most important collaborator.

Saboteur Award Shortlist and Collaboration


(Warning. I use the word collaborate a lot in this post.)

At the weekend we had some fantastic news. Haunt has been shortlisted for the Saboteur Awards in the category of Best Collaborative Work.

I’ve been thinking about Haunt and collaboration quite a lot over the past couple of weeks. I chat about it in my latest newsletter but wanted to go into the subject in a bit more detail.

I’ve had the idea at the heart of Haunt since at least 2009, wanting to explore how people living in Harrogate bedsits or experiencing homelessness are haunted by the opulent identity of the town.

Even before I discussed the idea with Tessa at Imove I knew for Haunt to work it would be a collaboration and that meant allowing other people influence Haunt. On a day-to-day basis I’m a page writer. I sit in a room by myself and write stories by myself. This was going to be very different. If you’d asked me in 2009 how I felt about this you might have got a different answer, but now, in all honesty, I’ve found the collaborations the best part, and am really excited about working with different artists and participants on the performance and installation part of Haunt.

Part of the reason I’m really looking forward to working with others on the next stage is that so far the core idea has stayed unchanged, but the way Haunt has grown as a project is far beyond anything I could have hoped for. That’s down to all the people who have collaborated so far.

And there have been a lot. At the core of Haunt is the collaboration between Imove Arts (Tessa Gordziejko and Elenid Davies), fellow lead writer Becky Cherriman and the particpants who have experienced homelessness or vulnerable housing. Without those core relationships there would be no anthology, no performances and no Haunt. Beyond that there have been many, many more, for example Harrogate Homeless Project and Foundation Harrogate who helped us find people interested in participating in our workshops. Bean and Bud who hosted on exhibition of Paul Floyd Blake‘s photos alongside words from Haunt, as well as letting us hold a pop-up reading and selling copies of the anthology for us. Corrina’s Homeless and Vulnerable Project also let us hold a pop up reading in their cafe.

Harrogate Museums have worked with us, allowing us to launch the anthology at the Royal Pump Room Museum, and included stories from Haunt in their Harrogate Stories exhibition. Both these events were symbolically important, because it meant the words of people normally excluded from the narrative of the town were repositioned and included.

In the next stage we’ll be collaborating with Harrogate Theatre, choreographer Zoe Parker, Dancer Tom Hunt, music producer Kwah, Al Orange and Steph Jones, as well as still keeping up those key relationships.

On all levels, Haunt is all about collaboration, working together to make experiences of homelessness more visible, while preserving the core idea, which is why I’m so pleased we’re shortlisted in that particular Saboteur Award category.

(If you like what we’re doing with Haunt, please consider following the link, clicking on ‘Vote here’ and giving us a vote. http://www.saboteurawards.org/)