Hospitality and the Collective
by Carmel Ennis
Hospitality is important. If we are to reimagine our futures, we need to create spaces where we can meet, as migrants, as artists, as indigenous ,as young, as old, all together.
The stand out moment for me from our day in the park was the meeting with a father and son who came and stayed for the entire session. The father was a Saturday Dad who had nowhere to live. He was staying with friends, couch surfing he said. His son lived with his mother. After the son had made his cardboard head, I invited him into the cardboard house to decorate it. And then this small boy entered the house and transformed it into a story of journeys and gardens, of rivers and flowers, while his father tried to make sense of his own life and context, in this country that was squeezing him out of existence.
Homelessness is exposing….You have no anchor and no place.
So we talked about renting and about flowers and about how many homeless there really were and about how this was happening other places too. And I recognised his quiet desperation, the way he was trying to anchor himself, and how the hospitality of our space had for a brief interval given him that.
Hospitality was a big part of our service in Focus Ireland in the nineties. Creating the space to gather your thoughts, to drink tea, to have a laugh, to realise that what was happening was bigger than you and that maybe in the company of friendly others you could begin to focus on solutions.
We had parties where staff and service users could socialise. We were political. We believed it was possible to make a change. We knew that housing was not the only answer, that community and support, and being included were equally important.
Homelessness is exposing. People can see through your empty windows. You have no safe places for your possessions. You have nowhere to be hospitable to others yourself. You have no anchor and no place.
Creating the space to gather your thoughts, to drink tea, … to realise that what was happening was bigger than you and that maybe in the company of friendly others you could begin to focus on solutions.
The spirit of what we created in Fitzgerald’s Park reminded me of the gatherings we created in those early days in Focus Ireland. The fun and the inclusion and the slightly mad randomness of everything, while at the same time , there being a lot of choreography and great attention to the various needs of those present. Whether it was for those who wanted to wedge themselves into quiet corners to work, or those who worked openly and happily on blankets in full sun.
I remember all those singers from the nineties, the accordion players, the ones who attempted the unicycles or climbed up on saddled horses for the first time. I don’t always remember all the individual circumstances of everyone in those services but I do remember their spirits.
The activity in Fitzgerald Park was a day of spirit, a day when individuals shone and people could be themselves, a little vulnerable and unsure, but still happy to be there and to be included in what was happening.
About Carmel Ennis
Carmel Ennis was a student of Creativity & Change course 2023 @ MTU. Carmel wrote this reflection about the day of public art making in Fitzgerald’s Park, Cork.