Inside Finsbury Park’s new museum

Co-founder Matt Turtle reveals what his team has been up to in the lead up to the opening of the Museum of Homelessness

It’s been nearly a year since we shared news about our arrival in Finsbury Park – what has been happening? Well, put simply, we are still waiting to move in! It has been a year where things moved slowly. Lease negotiations took
longer, building work moved slower, and timeframes slipped back a bit. However, after many months, we are now much closer to moving in.

This has led to a slight change of plans. Over the last year, the situation relating to housing and homelessness has worsened and the way we are getting ready to be in our new space is undoubtedly shaped by what is going on around us. In London right now, one in 50 Londoners are facing homelessness and living in emergency homes. Rough sleeping numbers continue to rise and London now has more empty homes than at any time since 2010. Set alongside this is a reduction in people’s rights and the fact that so many people are struggling for the basics.

We are therefore prioritising our community work over opening quickly to the public. As we get ready to relocate in
the autumn, we want to create a culture that is the complete opposite of what is happening in our failing political and economic systems. We want the site to be useful and helpful to people as we face winter in 2023. We want to be flexible, generous, and compassionate and this can’t be done by cutting the ribbon as soon as the builders have left. We want our crew to have time to settle into the building, enjoy the process and most importantly continue
developing our relationships with people in and around the park.

Therefore, if I am to talk about an insider’s look at our new museum, the simplest way I can describe it is that it will
be a developing rather than an immediate opening. In the coming weeks and months as you walk past the lodge, you might catch a glimpse of our new community gardeners Ellie and Dan in the grounds (and Dan’s amazing dog Lancelot). There may be a community meal happening, or maybe an art workshop. On that subject, if you have an idea for community events or activity please get in touch with Harry (harry@museum ofhomelessness.org).

Much of what we are initially going to be doing will be a continuation of what has been going on already. Over the summer, our team members Bekki and Dani have been working with Hackney Playbus and local families over the holidays to run creative sessions, seeing between 25 and 70 families a week. Meanwhile, we’ve been holding weekly sessions just down Seven Sisters Road to get ready for our new ‘People’s History of Finsbury Park’ project. Finsbury Park has long been an area of change, contradictions and churn and we are marking our arrival by creating a new multi-authored anthology, set of events, and a film in collaboration with filmmaker Becca Human.

All of this will be building up to our full public opening now set to take place in spring 2024. How can people get
involved? We are seeking contributions to the ‘People’s History of Finsbury Park’ and if you are interested in
being in our film or making a contribution to our book you can catch us at our final drop-in for the project on 1st September at the Streets Kitchen solidarity hub or at the upcoming StreetsFest taking place by Manor House gate in the park on 5th September.

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