The founder of Accumul8, Marice Cumber, created the charity to help support and encourage young homeless people to explore their creativity, visually portray their opinions and gain employability skills.
Accumul8 run photography, film-making, illustration and creative writing workshops for long term homeless residents in hostels all over London. Annually they hold a photography exhibition where the prints are sold and the young people earn money from their creativity.
We recently met up with Marice to find out more about the campaign, her motivation and hopes for the future.
How did you come up with the idea of starting Accumul8?
It all started with wanting to include the homeless residents of Crouch End’s YMCA hostel into the local community summer festival, which I am a director of.
The residents were often bored with little to engage or motivate them and needed something exciting and challenging to do that was about them, their voice and their expression. They were also part of the community but didn’t feel part of it or engage with it in any way. So the solution I came up with, was to run photography sessions and workshops at the hostel and then put on our own exhibition as part of the festival which we would invite all of the community to.
Now in its third year the charity has grown exponentially. This summer the Accumul8 crew held an impressive exhibition at The Guardian, King’s Cross curated by Luke Dodd and Brett Rodgers OBE from the Photographers’ Gallery. The event drew a sophisticated arts crowd and gained airtime on ITV’s London News and across print media.
We now have workshops running across the capital with the North and East London YMCA Hostels, Evolve Housing in South London, Freedom from Torture and Stonewall Housing, and we don’t just do photography any more, but also film-making, illustration and creative writing, so are expanding all the time!
What drove you to start Accumul8?
My background is in creative education and enterprise.
I have had my own design business, taught in art schools, set up online business advice schemes which have reached 10's of thousands of creative people (students and graduates) all of whom wanted to make money from their creativity, and have even taught offenders in Maidstone prison how to set up a creative business.
Accumul8 grew from this – its success demonstrates how you can use creative led education to really make a difference in a very localised way.
Education does just that, someone comes in knowing "y" and leaves knowing "x" and it doesn't matter what else happens in their lives, "x" can never be taken away from them, and it could change their whole life.
I love seeing the transition in the Accumul8 participants - how they "internally" change, they have confidence, they start to feel good about themselves and become motivated to achieve. All these feelings just didn’t exist before - their transition is my motivation - it's quite emotional at times, and also quite tough, but absolutely every bit of it is worth it.
Who are the people attending the Accumul8 courses?
The participants often have backgrounds of poor mental health, substance dependency, histories of abuse and dealings with the criminal justice system. The course provides much needed structure to their week and escapism from their actuality.
Many are now thriving - moving into their own accommodation, finding employment, coming off benefits – ultimately gaining the motivation they need to make positive changes and steps to move their lives forward.
What have been some of your highlights so far?
The Accumul8 group’s photographs have been tweeted about by Tinnie Tempah, featured in a Barbican exhibition and been written about in The Guardian.
The group attended London Fashion Week and made it onto the pages of Vogue, carried out session photography at the Roundhouse, created a media storm with a Little Mix backing dancer.
We’ve won a film competition and also produced our own magazine called DECAY with words and images by the young people. We’ve also just received charitable status… there have been so many amazing things that have happened I could go on and on!
One of the nicest things to happen is that Sam Adesanya who took part in the Accumul8 project has now received a scholarship to study design and digital media at Ravensbourne Arts College.
He’s also doing some work experience on a magazine, which will be amazing for his portfolio, got himself a job at the local cinema and moved into his own accommodation.
An amazing outcome and change in someone’s life.
What’s really rewarding is that this year, Sam will be helping on the Accumul8 project - helping others, who were in the position he was a year ago, to learn about photography and develop their skills. We also have another previous participant, Dan Fifield from the Evolve hostel in South London, helping on the project.
This is what the project is all about – learning and using your learning to improve your life and those of others!
You’ve just won an award – tell us about that?
Amazingly I have just won Social Entrepreneur of the Year 2016 at the Leadership Awards – it’s just fantastic to get the recognition and I was blown away to even be nominated!
I was told by the lead judge, Beverley Jullien, Chief Executive at Mothers’ Union that “Accumul8 came across as an organisation set up to meet a clear local need, which has engaged multiple different stakeholders to deliver positive outcomes together for the young people in the hostels.”
She particularly liked the fact that beneficiaries were enabled to gain a range of life, business and self-motivation skills, equipping them to take charge of their own lives.
What hopes do you have for the future?
We have seen a huge jump in demand this year for the course and are working with more hostels than ever before – we don’t want to turn people away but are having to as we need funding to be able continue our work.
There are many ways in which you can help us keep running these sessions and whether you have £3 or £4,600 to donate, your money will be spent how you choose.
You could buy a one-day travel card facilitating someone’s journey, you might choose to buy chocolate bars or even lunch for everyone, you may decide to purchase some photography equipment that can be used in our workshops or you could help to really change someone’s life by sponsoring a scholarship (which will be named after you) so that they can continue their creative learning and study Digital Design and Media at college.
In return, not only will we be eternally grateful, but you will get an invitation to the Accumul8 exhibition private view and also, for those donating over £100, the opportunity to visit, meet the Accumul8 participants and be part of an Accumul8 photography workshop.
If you would like to donate, you can do so through the link below.