In 2017 I was invited to take part and show my collection titled, 'No Colours for My Coat', as part of the B37 project in Chelmsley Wood.
My links to the area are routed in the education system. Aged 8, I and several of the 'homes' children were sent to schools in Chelmsley Wood as we were seen as a bad influence on the local parish children.
Chelmsley Wood was a large estate created to house those that were cleared from the slums of Birmingham, a fresh start, new housing but still the same old problems. However in Chelmsley I found and met kids who were troubled, who were viewed with suspicion and negativity by the wider society and neighbouring towns. I was accepted and fitted in for the first time, a very new experience for me.
'No Colours for My Coat'
Growing up in institutions for children was always going to be a difficult experience. Combine this with society's reaction to immigration and a backdrop of illegitimacy & racial intolerance, meant children like me were subjected to verbal and physical onslaughts from those who should have known better.
Their language and their words contributed to those feelings of not being equal to, or good enough, compared to children who had a family. Knowing you're not welcomed or wanted is a difficult feeling to comprehend when you're a child, even more so when you don't understand everything, except that their intent tells you you're not worth anything.
I have tried through this exhibition to give a glimpse into the world I was forced to grow up in. No Colours for My Coat is my attempt of showing the impact negative labels can have...when all I ever wanted was someone to recognise something good about me.
The combination of art and verse highlights a system that failed me and countless others.
I hope it's message and it's relevance is still as important today as it was back then.