New book celebrates the art created in a hostel that inspired Orwell, the Progues and Madness

17 Mar 2022

Arlington and Beyond is a new book that celebrates the creative work of residents living in Camden’s famous Arlington homeless hostel, the centre’s storied history and it’s holistic approach to helping rough sleepers off the streets.

Over 50 works of art and written contributions from past residents are featured in the book, that includes a full history of an institution that once accommodated writers George Orwell and Patrick Kavanagh and inspired music from both the Pogues and Madness.

The book, which formally launches on 24 March, can be purchased online, with the revenue going to charities that support Arlington residents and those in similar schemes.

The book includes a foreword by Madness frontman, Suggs, who reminisces about his long involvement with the local landmark, with some colourful anecdotes including:

“I had the great privilege to meet Joe McGarry who was running the place in the 80s just as it was starting to change and grow more inclusive, he showed me round the top floor which was almost a museum to its past. Just lines of 10 foot square cubicles; I remember him telling me that the big problem in the old days was the partitions didn’t reach the ceiling so every now and then some rascal got his hands on fishing rods and would ‘fish’ the fella next doors trousers when he was asleep".

The book was occasioned by the 10th anniversary of One Housing’s management of the historic hostel. The book will be launched at an event that will allow people to hear from those who have been supported by the service and those running the centre today, reflecting how the hostel aims to foster creativity, artistic expression and learning, in order to provide a gateway to employment and training.

Martin D’Mello, Group Director for Care and Support, One Housing, stated:

“We’re tremendously proud to be presenting a selection of work that shows the transformative potential of art to help people rebuild their lives from the trauma of homelessness.

Arlington is a very special place in the history of London, for generations it’s been the place where people have found a foothold out of homelessness, and this book tells that story. It also brings us right up to date, and describes how the holistic care Arlington provides with the support of Camden Council can serve as a model for how rough sleepers can be successfully supported across London and beyond.”

Camden Council funds the support provided by One Housing to the 95 vulnerable single homeless people and ex-rough sleepers who live in Arlington, which is a critical part of the Council’s Adult Pathway provision. The Council refers people into Arlington and works with One Housing to help them move on into their own independent accommodation.

An artist’s story

Camden artist and Arlington resident Stephanie Griffiths, has fulfilled her dream of setting up her own bespoke animation making stall which will soon help her deliver interactive workshops locally, thanks to some local funding from Camden Giving and the support she received at Arlington.

“At Arlington, everyone has been very supportive. I have my own studio, within the building, which allowed me to develop my creative projects,” she told us.

The concept behind the booth – entirely built by Stephanie with the raised funds – enables participants of all ages to design unique, animated characters by using a single thread, along with a built-in camera to capture a stop-motion sequence. The outcome is a one of a kind, quirky, short animation.

Officially launched at a taster session with Arlington residents in December last year, the idea is now attracting more interest locally.

At Arlington,  Stephanie has been able to access a wide range of free training courses via the Employment and Training Centre on-site – from ‘Start your own business,’ to ‘Film making,’ to ‘Shoemaking’. She has also been renting her own studio within the scheme, where she has been developing her creative projects.

Her interest in entertaining audiences of all ages has been driving her to pursue this project. She said: “I love the idea of an entertaining cabaret and puppet theatre. The live reaction of the audience – putting a smile on people’s faces – gives me the buzz”.

Stephanie’s shows are funny and unconventional. She said: “I like breaking the rules with what I do”.

Alongside her current projects, Stephanie – who formerly directed BAFTA award-winning children’s series Old Bear Stories – has been teaching ‘Experimental animation’ and ‘Model animation’ practical courses at Citi Lit in Central London, where she takes students through the process of creating puppets and coming up with animated sequences. She’s now working on a brand-new project called ‘Switch’, a surreal fairy tale of a witch, full of twists and turns.