With some funding from the Department of Archaeology’s Research Development Fund (University of York), we were able to bring three of the Bristol team to York for a couple of days, to expand the project to another city and explain – peer to peer – what exactly ‘homeless heritage’ is all about!
We were lucky enough to be hosted by Arc Light (link) who provided a fantastic spread of delicious homemade food and welcomed us into their cafe area with a big screen on which we could show our Turbo Island excavation film (see link).
Jane found someone in Bristol to look after Patch (the famous farting dog!) and was joined by Deano and Andy, who also travelled up from Bristol. We arranged to ‘do our talk’ and show the film in the afternoon which meant we had the morning free so we decided to visit the York Castle Museum.
I was born a heroin addict and an alcoholic, cos my mum was. I was gutted when I saw that bottle of gripe water in the museum [York Castle Museum, ‘Cradle to Grave’] and the thing that explained what it was used for. I didn’t realise they put alcohol and opiumin there. My mother, well, she never brought me up because I was in care at six weeks, but in my record from Social Services, you know where they tell you what your diet was and that, it says that she gave me Gripe Water and that was in the sixties. I was gobsmacked they allowed alcohol and opium in something you gave a baby! No wonder there’s so many alcoholics and addicts and that! In a way, it made me feel better too though because now my eldest daughter is an alcoholic and I’ve always felt guilty about it. But I used Gripe Water with her in the 1980s and they was still putting alcohol in that stuff until 1992! It just made me think, you know, seeing that written down there in the museum.
Also, in the bit of the museum where there’s a Big Issue seller, he’s spot on with what he says. People do look down on you. I sold the ‘Issue for years like and, well, it is better than shoplifting.
I thought Arc Light [homeless centre in York] was amazing! When I got back to Bristol, I told everyone about it. We had this big conversation about how there should be them kind of places all over the country, not just in York. It was like a palace compared to Jamaica Street [St Mungo’s homeless hostel, Jamaica Street, Bristol]. Thing is, usually I feel really uncomfortable going into hostels but that Arc Light, I felt really welcome and there was all this nice food and it was really clean. Amazing place. Shame not more people came to our talk but it’s a new thing for them, isn’t it.
After we left, me and Deano went for a walk, you know, around the city walls. You can walk all the way around York on the old walls. It’s so beautiful isn’t it? We was trying to work out like which buildings was Georgian and which was from Victorian times and we even found a place that said it was built in 13 something or other. Amazing! There was this one place where, because we walked around at night, the moon was full and we could see the full moon and the old city walls, like a photograph really. I was saying to Deano, ‘you have that one and I’ll have that one!’ about these lovely old houses and he was in stitches saying, ‘how will you find the money to buy a house like that?’ and I said, ‘well, I don’t know, maybe I’ll just win the lottery!’
We had a great time up in York. Just a shame we couldn’t stay longer. It’s such a beautiful old city. I’d like to go back and take my time.