Heritage & Homelessness (Bristol, UK)

Underneath the arches. A rough-sleeping place in Bristol mapped and interpreted for us by its former occupant. Drawing by Eddie Lyons.

Other researchers:

Rachael Kiddey (PhD Student)

In line with the FARO Convention's recognition that every person has the right to engage with the cultural heritage of their choice, and the recognition that archaeology can give voice to subaltern views and perspectives, a study is underway of contemporary homelessness in Bristol (UK). The study is pioneering in that homeless participants are central to the project. They are more than informants: in some ways they drive the project, by determining what we see and how places and artefacts are interpreted and assessed. Fieldwork is always fun, and challenging. We visit places we couldn't have imagined, and hear stories that are hard to comprehend. But ultimately the project involves standard archaeological practices of observation, documentation, mapping and recording. We record finds as we see them, and all of the places we have encountered. We are also mapping journeys, encounters, and people's perceptions of the landscape we pass through. Homeless people have their own lives, centred on particular places and routines. They also value particular places and types of place for interesting and at times surprising reasons. This project seeks to map those perceptions and document them, bringing what some might consider marginal views of heritage and landscape into the mainstream. One specific part of this project was the excavation of a particular homeless place, Turbo Island, involving a team of students and homeless diggers. The wider project has been published in The Big Issue (November 2009) and British Archaeology.

Rachael Kiddey interviews Punk Paul about his vase, while Liam looks on.

This project was funded by a Challenge Grant from the Council for British Archaeology and supported by English Heritage.

Rachael Kiddey interviews Punk Paul about his vase, while Liam looks on.

Project website.

A film about the excavation can be seen on youtube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8GbiQrbp33s.