The Book of Homelessness is the first graphic novel made by homeless creatives

The team behind The Accumulate Art School for the Homeless compiled the 160-page anthology of drawings and written work to tell its participants’ complex and emotional stories, from their perspective.

18 November 2020


The Accumulate Art School for the Homeless was founded five years ago by Marice Cumber, and does incredible work to help young homeless people move forward positively in their lives through creative projects. It runs courses in graphic design, illustration, fashion, photography, sculpture and more, building skills to enter education, employment or training, and even has a scholarship through which 20 of the course’s participants have gone on to study at Ravensbourne University. Now it has published what it states is the world’s first graphic novel made by homeless people, The Book of Homelessness: an anthology of drawings and written work that gives its creators a platform to relay their life stories and experiences from their perspective.

The 160-page book – designed by Patrick Fry – features drawings and other visual work alongside personal accounts and poems, made by people living in hostels, shelters and temporary accommodation, who took part in Accumulate’s creative writing, drawing and illustration courses. These were held at Autograph gallery in Shoreditch. The aim is to give ownership and control over who tells the stories of their lives and in what context, shedding light on the complexities of homelessness, what causes it, and the struggles people have gone through to flourish, explains Cumber. “The stories contained in the book are personal, emotional, raw and honest. The stories are of pain, of abuse, of dysfunction, of families, of war and of rejection and of misplaced love, of overcoming difficulties and of fighting and succeeding.”

She adds that The Book of Homelessness has been a long time in the making, complicated further by Covid. “We started creative workshops for our participants in January 2020, funded by our Crowdfunding campaign to make the whole thing possible which we started back in October 2019. I’m so proud of each and every one of our participants who have taken part and let us into their lives in this visual way.” In its five years, Accumulate has also held exhibitions and launched several landmark projects like this, such as Sound Judgement, the UK’s first radio station run, produced and written by those affected by homelessness.

One of the participants in The Book of Homelessness, named Amalia, commented on the book’s publication: “Through my experience of homelessness, I quickly realised that life does not always give you what you want, but it does give you what you need to be the best version of yourself. Through the Accumulate workshops, they helped me to tap into an energy of creation and to use my talents to create pieces of art and poetry for the book. The sessions helped me to grow and transform and heal from domestic abuse, from being homeless and unstable. I have no destination, but I am blessed enough and happy to have the journey and to be on the path to my destiny and to achieve all my goals.”

Actor Samantha Morton, who was previously homeless, has written an introduction to the book titled How homelessness shaped my life while fellow actor and supporter of the charity Colin Firth has commented in a statement: “This is a remarkable collection in any context. The fact that these beautiful, personal works are the expressions of our neighbours who are homeless makes it untenable to ignore them ever again.”

All profits of The Book of Homelessness are shared with its authors and Accumulate, so it can continue to provide creative workshops for people who are homeless. It is available to pre-order now for £25.

GalleryAccumulate: The Book of Homelessness (Copyright © Book of Homelessness, 2020)

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Accumulate: The Book of Homelessness (Copyright © Book of Homelessness, 2020)

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Jenny Brewer

Jenny oversees our editorial output across work, news and features. She was previously It’s Nice That's news editor. Get in touch with any big creative stories, tips, pitches, news and opinions, or questions about all things editorial.

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