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Art in Action: The Whitechapel Centre and New Beginnings

Updated: Sep 14, 2021

by Jessie Jones


"This is why "MEP" is such a refreshing thing to witness. The care that they provide extends beyond temporarily housing homeless people but also helping them to integrate into communities"

One service users' photograph taken through the New Beginnings pathway.

(For the sake of anonymity and protection, service user’s names have been left out.)

The Whitechapel Centre is the leading homeless and housing charity in the Liverpool region. Flourishing in ways that the third sector often doesn’t, prioritising the material conditions of service users and action within the community, Whitechapel has exponentially increased in momentum in the past fifteen years.

Whitechapel has witnessed the legacy of centrist Blairite governance, transmogrified into Tory government’s austerity measures, our Neoliberal landscape marked by increased levels of homelessness, addiction, job loss, and mental health crises to rival the Great Depression.

Amongst this destruction, charity often falls short of activism; Whitechapel however, fight to prevent homelessness by directly challenging injustices. Part of the service they offer is to people at risk of homelessness as well as those already rough sleeping.

New Beginnings, a pathway within Whitechapel, provides formal and informal learning from photography and creative writing to upcycling and restoring furniture.

The aim of New Beginnings is to allow members to use their time, in shelters and across the different Whitechapel projects, to learn and develop meaningful skills and knowledge.

They have built up strong connections with external organisations to ensure that this work continues to branch out. The work they do as a team extends through these networks to create opportunities for education, employment, and training, for when service users are ready.

Across all of the different venues, the project has been centred around using art as action and creativity as a productive way of unifying people with the communities they’ve been materially, and politically, cut off from.

Mural created by service users displaying photographs taken with Tony Mallon (Credit: Author's own, 2021)

New Beginnings is part of the umbrella service ‘Meaningful Engagement Pathways’ (subsequently “MEP”).

Each of the pathways is designed to help service users become part of a local community. Where other charities can often fail in caring for those who fall outside of the system, emerge out of it, or are no longer eligible for certain services, Whitechapel and New Beginnings combine to care for vulnerable people from initial risk to reintegration.

Exhibited as part of Group Therapy: Mental Distress in a Digital Age, group exhibition at FACT, Liverpool (Tony Mallon,

One of the most significant New Beginnings projects has been with local photographic artist Tony Mallon. Born in Kirkby in Liverpool, Tony has consistently focused his artistic efforts upon marginalised peoples and ostracised communities.

Knowing from the early stages of his artistic education that he wanted to work outside of mainstream institutions, displaying and using his work outside of the academy and gallery space, he made a concerted effort to combine his creative practice with community care.