Sharon Bailey: Home Alone Together
Since the lockdown I’ve been in regular contact with older people I connected with for my Home Alone project, individuals stuck at home for long periods of time. The project now seems somewhat prophetic and this period has continued to highlight the problems in our social care system and the social inequalities in our communities.
Their situation has worsened but, in many ways, it has remained the same. Not one person I visited has the internet or a mobile phone. For a while I panicked and worried, felt powerless to help and support the people whose stories I am telling in my installation and live performances. Then I started to write letters and to record my telephone calls with five women I know the best, all in their 80’s and 90’s, documenting what is happening to them and trying to make sense of what is happening to me. As they are feeling more trapped inside I have been spending more and more of my time outside, photographing and filming the flowers, the river at the bottom of my garden, listening to the birds, seeing the small changes as spring develops into summer.
This documentation has been made into short pieces of moving images, which combine the words from my letters and the audio from the telephone calls, with the film extracts from my local surroundings. This on-going diary captures the changes inside and outside, as a way of not forgetting these women’s hidden lives.
Home Alone is a touring installation using photographs, diary excerpts and the spoken word to tell stories about older people living alone, stuck in their homes for long periods. Audiences encounter the day-to-day life and voices from those normally hidden from view.
They listen to an audio piece, whilst sitting in the armchair of a ‘living room’ and experience a live performance by an actress, delivering a monologue using older people’s authentic words, written by Catrina McHugh MBE of Open Clasp Theatre and taken from my Home Alone diaries.
Before the lockdown the project was reaching large audiences across northern England highlighting social isolation and loneliness amongst our older citizens as a human rights issue, uncovering the failings of our care system and questioning our current social policies.
Home Alone challenges our ideas about ageing, social responsibility and cultural entitlement, showcasing the part culture can play to relieve and support vulnerable people isolated and lonely.
Sharon Bailey is a socially engaged artist, activist and creative producer working within communities across the North East of England and internationally. Her projects span art, heritage and health and tell the stories of those she connects with, those living on the edges of our society, creating a space where individuals can talk, make and share and where hidden stories can be revealed. This has manifested itself through both her personal artist-led projects and through projects she has initiated and produced as a programme manager and producer.
She has many years of experience of working collaboratively with people of all ages to create work of quality with particular experience of working sensitively with older people – in people’s houses, residential homes, day centres and at their hospital bedsides, which has been presented in exhibitions, as installations, in books, on digital platforms and within our public spaces.
RISE Together on BBC Radio Merseyside
Want to find out more about the RISE Together programme? Culture Liverpool’s Head of Arts & Participation and RISE curator, Alicia Smith, took part in the below BBC Radio Merseyside interview with Jermaine Foster. Just press play and skip to 51.50 to catch up now.