The private view of Moving Forward photography exhibition took place on Thursday 14th July at the glamorous offices of The Guardian in Kings Cross, on a rare sunny evening with sun flooding into the space. Moving Forward features beautiful photographs by a group of young students who have been taking creative workshops at Ravensbourne College, but what makes this exhibition all the more remarkable is the obstacles these fledgling photographers have had to overcome in order to get to this stage.

These talented young people are from homeless backgrounds and are living at hostels around London – many residing at the YMCA north London. The residents have coped with myriad problems throughout their lives, from traumatic family situations and disrupted schooling, to lack of self esteem. Yet here they are, exhibiting their work at a prestigious art space, talking and mingling with the crowds who keep pouring in.

Sarah-Jane Smyth
Sarah-Jane Smyth

Rewind three years: a chance phone call by the north London YMCA to Marice Cumber, one of the directors of a local arts festival, lead to the formation of the Accumul8 charity. The hostel hoped the festival could find a way to unlock the creative potential of its residents. Marice rose to the occasion, setting up workshops with Ravensbourne College, where she is a work based learning coordinator.

However, the workshops were going to need some funding. So Marice started the Accumul8 project with jam making sessions, using windfalls, provided free by locals, which were used to make jams and chutneys and then sold at craft fairs. In this way, the hostel residents, many who couldn’t cook, were taught how to make jam – another skill under their belt.

Since its foundation in 2013, Accumul8 has grown in leaps and bounds; Moving Forward displays a maturity and professionalism in the work of the students. The show has just been featured on ITV News at 6.

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For Marice Cumber, the private view was a rewarding and emotional experience. I asked her about her overriding feelings: “the best bit of the exhibition is seeing the young people who participated in the programme, so excited, happy and confident, so proud of their work, chatting with people and being the stars of the show. It’s a real high for them and something so positive to remember, and which will hopefully show them that everyone can achieve and move their lives forward.”

Moving Forward is on till 31 July, at The Guardian offices, Kings Cross.

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All work is for sale, 40% of the profits go to the photographer with the remaining 60% to Accumul8 so it can continue its work providing creative workshops to young people living in hostels.

To order please go to www.accumul8.org.uk/shop

What do you think?