In July 2011, This Is Collective were commissioned by homeless charity Depaul Ireland to work on the Life’s no picnic on the Streets project 2011 in association with Electric Picnic.
As part of the project, we held workshops in three of Depaul’s centres – Tús Nua
Apartments in Dublin and Mater Dei
Family Services Centres in Belfast. During these workshops we explored concepts of safety, security and stability in the lives of the participants by looking at weather.
We focused on the umbrella as a means to explore the thematics of weather and climate and their effects on the everyday lives of participants, and indeed, the general population. The umbrella attracted us from an aesthetic point of view (colour and form) but also from a functional viewpoint – umbrellas do not always shelter us, and can sometimes become fragile and a hindrance. We played with the functionality of umbrellas in the workshops and created umbrellas from materials that reflected service users’ ideas of what it means to be safe and secure or indeed, vulnerable and unstable. The workshops produced three parasols – one for each centre, as well as several smaller umbrellas created collaboratively with the service users.
Tus Nua Parasol
Transition was a key concept in the production of this piece. The panels are made from materials inspired by different phases of the residents’ lives.
They represent varying levels of security, whether it be living on the streets, in an institution or in a more secure environment.
Cloverhill parasol (wool)
The idea of an embrace as a representation of security was the inspiration for this piece. The audience are invited to sit underneath the woollen environment or to put their arms into the sleeves and hug those inside.
The weather will determine the cosiness and security of this umbrella – threadbare panels allow light to shine through but also could let in the rain. This feature highlights the thin line between insecurity and stability in the lives service-users.
Mater Dei (rainbow)
The idea for this umbrella comes directly from workshops held in the cent
re where the children wanted to create an enclosed space
as a place of shelter and safety but also a place where imagination could run free, a ‘secret space’ where one becomes invisible to the harshness of the outside world. The rainbow colours focuses on the positive aspects of weather, even if it is rain and wind.
The smaller umbrellas were made and inspired by service users in each of the three centres. Concepts revolve around notions of safety and security using the weather as a vehicle to represent these ideas.
The fog umbrella was made by a child in Cloverhill. He felt that the maze-like environment of fog was where he felt most secure and comforted.
The cartoon umbrella was created after conversations around nightmares amongst participants and the insecurity and paranoia they can evoke, but also the relief that the nightmare is not real. Here, we used childrens pillowcases and distorted the happy smiling faces into something more sinister.
An umbrella made in Tus Nua entitled ‘Wheel of change‘ deals with the transition from a life of addiction to one of normality. Each stage in thisjourney is depicted on the non-linear nature of this particular journey. The wheel can begin at any panel reflecting the umbrella, from chaos to stability and back.
Other umbrellas are made out of torn and twisted bedsheets, newspaper, lace, and a variety of other media to reflect issues and ideas that came up in workshops when talking about weather, safety and security. They depict times and places of particular security but also instability that the residents have found themselves in, both past and present.