‘It’s all connected’. Homeless heritage mapped

‘York as residents know it’ seemed to have no representation online back in 2004, and was the reason I started this website and began taking photos of the city and suburbs. Things have changed so much, and I’m glad that there’s now so much recording of the ‘real York’, from different perspectives.

‘Homeless Heritage of York – A different kind of mapping’, offers another perspective on this multi-layered city as residents know it. Nothing to do with the ceaselessly promoted tourist-friendly face.

I heard a little about the excavation at the time but hadn’t realised that it had been filmed and that there’s also a website (see ‘More’, at the bottom of the page). The project’s creator, Rachael Kiddey, is a PhD researcher at the University of York.

Like Undressing the Viking this film represents York’s less well-known locations. Even more so, as this really is ‘hidden’ York: doorways and the corners of car parks suitable for a night’s sleep, bins where food can be found.

In Undressing the Viking the women drink cocktails in the evening at city centre bars. In this film the men drink cider, during the day, in Bootham Park and under Scarborough Bridge.

Just one of many obvious differences.

In other ways, as the man speaking in this clip says of the railway lines he’s sitting near, ‘it’s all connected’. This still from the video should begin at the relevant point. (If not, it’s at 5 mins 47 secs)

Men sitting on riverside under railway bridge

By Scarborough Bridge


We’re all living here, using the same streets, crossing the same bridges, listening to the same trains rolling in and out of the station. We walk the same ways, me and the men in this film, through Bootham Park, along Clarence Street, down to the river, past Scarborough Bridge. I’m heading off home to our nice middle-class house and they’re heading back to a bed in the Arc Light centre.

There have been complaints about the Arc Light and about people drinking in the areas around it. I’m not judging. I’m interested in their stories and their views of this city I love, and I’m counting blessings. (As several people in this film do. As perhaps we should all do a bit more often.) One of my blessings is that I can sit here and watch a free film about a carefully-crafted and inspiring project, adding a modern mapping of York as another overlay to the multitude of maps I’ve looked at in the past.

Peasholme Centre

It includes one participant, Jack Johnson, talking about the Peasholme Centre. I doubt anyone else bothered to record the history/significance of this building, as it was so short-lived. Like many ‘hostel’ type buildings, like the nurses’ accommodation at Bootham Park Hospital and the YWCA in Clifton, it had a short life. Extremely short, in fact. But so many people must have stayed here, and it’s important that its significance is on record, from the point of view of someone who knew the place properly, and remembers friends who have passed away who also knew it.

This still image from the video links to what should be the relevant point, if not it’s at 6 mins 56 secs.

Man sitting by wire fencing around demolition site

(Update, 2014: this is now the site of the new Hiscox office.)


I remember when this organisation started, as it’s based in the rooms behind the Central Methodist church on St Saviourgate. The same place where, in the 1980s, I used to go to ‘Off the Streets’, a cafe/club, a place where many of us ‘alternative’ young people met, and where we could also get advice on coping with problems at home, getting benefits, that kind of thing. I don’t think that’s running anymore, but Carecent is, doing valuable work.

Steven Cochrane talks about Carecent, and sleeping sometimes on the steps of the church, under its grand portico, sharing a duvet.

Image is cued to start the video at the relevant point. (Or, it’s at 9 mins 57 secs.)

Man sitting on steps of Methodist chapel, York

Other perspectives

Watching this film has reminded me … of complaints twenty years ago, via letters to the local paper, about homeless people and street drinkers giving a bad impression as they gathered in Exhibition Square. I was working in King’s Manor at the time, right next to the square. I wasn’t offended by the street drinkers, but was offended by the letters. God forbid that a tourist should see a bit of real life in York instead of that Toytown perfect image we were beginning to present to the world.

There are of course many ways people end up homeless, drinking on the streets, maybe ‘begging’. Some of us think ‘There but for the grace of God go I’. Others just get offended. Each to their own. But we’re all connected, it’s all connected, we’re all walking the same streets. With our own personal maps, in our heads, of the significant places we head to when we need food, drink, company, sleep.

I’m thankful to the cartographers and excavators of the less well-known places.

More … elsewhere on the web

See the homeless heritage website for more videos, including information on the finds from the excavation at Bootham Park. I hadn’t realised, when writing my recent page on the site of the (demolished) St Maurice’s, that the homeless heritage project has recently studied this site in its Monkbar survey.

Arc Light, once based at Leeman Road, had a long struggle to find new premises. It is now based in a purpose-built facility on part of the Union Terrace car/coach park.

Carecent, St Saviourgate

About Lisa @YorkStories

Lisa @YorkStories is the creator, administrator, and writer of content on www.yorkstories.co.uk. She can be contacted on this link or via Twitter, @YorkStories
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