The first publication by New Social Art School addresses the contentious issue of street begging, includes 12 interviews with street people and others who know what they are speaking about.
The book was initially triggered by Aberdeen City Council's proposal to ban begging (failed), supported by a local press campaign, which completely excluded the people concerned. The book challenges this one-sided approach to a serious social problem and takes an opposite stand; from the beggar's point of view!
The interviews and dialogues are the rarely heard voices from below - the street people tell it like it is, who they are and how they see themselves in the city. They provide fresh understanding of the root causes of begging; homelessness, addiction problems, social poverty, and how society deals with these issues.
"...most of it is a façade that we see. You have to break all the shells open to get to the real person and you're never gonna get that with socially excluded people, living on the streets. You're never gonna get inside them until they feel their self worth again and you're never gonna get that when people don't give a shit. That's how people on the streets feel. The more people that walk on by, the worse they feel."
Simon Misselbrook (from interview)
New Social Art School is an arts movement founded in Aberdeen by artist Eva Merz, who, in collaboration with others, sets out to intervene in social and political contexts. In this project Merz invited ex-homeless artist Bob Steadman to contribute with his ideas, experience and artwork. Through this book they attempt to provoke a much needed public debate.
"...there are some fine people on the streets and, however much they have hit the bottom of society, they will always be part of it. If we listen to them and begin to understand, maybe then we can have a decent debate, and maybe then our politicians will realise that big social problems need to be addressed - not banned."
Funded by Scottish Arts Council