The Homeless Library

The Homeless Library is the first history of British homelessness, combining interviews, poetry and art. The Library is centred around a collection of over 80 books handmade by homeless people, reflecting on their lives and how they connect with the wider, previously unwritten heritage of homelessness.

“If you don’t let them demons out, they’ll eat you alive…”


An arthur+martha project, co-directed by Lois Blackburn and Philip Davenport. Black and white portraits by Paul Jones, 2016.



After the exhibition launch at The Houses of Parliament, the Library had its public debut at The Southbank in London, at which homeless people led a creative workshop, tutoring members of the public. A free ebook accompanying the exhibition contained interviews footnoted by social historians and health professionals, and contemporary homeless people. This Southbank exhibition was reviewed in The Lancet as a significant contribution to the welfare of homeless people: "The books and stories from The Homeless Library carry an impressive emotional and political weight.” 





Jack Q

Life changes in every way after a war. You are refugee. You become a flying bird with nowhere to go... With art I have a voice, now I can make things. Doing the art, giving me a chance to speak, you make me feel important. Going to the Houses of Parliament and speaking I felt very good. It's what I've got now, it's all I own.


Poems and art can tell you the truth and that's healthy... It's facing reality.


Drugs were taking over my life utterly - and that's an understatement. It was making everyone ill - me, my wife, my mother, dragging us all under. Now at last it is all coming together I'm cleaning out the drugs, cleaning up my life. I am getting back on the computer, back on writing, getting back on art...I was right-handed before I got my fingers cut off, now I've had to learn to write with my left. Maybe it's finally changed my head, maybe it's opened me up. Artists are left handers and that's where I need to go.


We all need good things in life, otherwise there's no point in living. This project is about making something good out of the bad stuff.