Estimated reading time:5 minutes, 29 seconds
Everyone has a story. As the weather gets colder and the winter shelters open Rosie Roksoph talks about her time spent homeless, the healing power of paint and her plans to make a documentary about London’s most diverse and creative people. Interview by Nicola Baird. Photos by Kimi Gill.
â€śItâ€™s important to me and a lot of people that we donâ€™t live in a fucking place full of wankers,â€ť says Rosie Roksoph. Rephrasing for Islington Faces she says, â€śItâ€™s important that diversity is considered as a valuable thing.â€ť
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So sheâ€™s teamed up with filmmaker Jake West, known for his horror films such as Razor Blade Smile (1998) and Doghouse (2009) though heâ€™s done docs too. Their plan is make a documentary about â€śwhat real life is like for someone at the bottom of our society and how to survive difficult times. So many people I know are told to be poor elsewhere. Many, if not most, of the most enriching people are struggling to keep going. And places are being shut down to be turned into things we donâ€™t need,â€ť she says mentioning the likely closure of Club 414 in Brixton which will soon become a wine bar. â€śPeople are mad about the place. Itâ€™s always packed. Itâ€™s one of the few places I can go and feel comfortable and be myself. In London weâ€™re lucky we have these tiny satellite cultures where you can find your place. But for how much longer?â€ť
The relentless gentrification of London â€“ factories and warehouses into pricey housing, corner shops into coffee shops and privately-owned shopping centres â€“ is changing who can be a Londoner. Thatâ€™s why Rosie is hoping that there will also be interviews with people who help, such as Savvas at Islingtonâ€™s Crashpad, the only homeless shelter for 17-25 year olds in the country and Damo who is fighting to keep Nomadic Community Gardens in Shoreditch open.
Filming starts in early December and looks certain to start with Rosie giving the big steel door outside CNDâ€™s Holloway Road office a turquoise make over to match CNDâ€™s new logo. â€śJeremy Corbyn is very involved with CND so we hope to try and get him to be in this. When I was two or three years old he used to come round to my house a lot to see my granddad, EP Thompson [who wrote The Making of the English Working Class] who was one of the people who founded CND. My grandad died when I was about 11 but he was really good to me as I got a lot of stick for being quiet and borderline Aspergers,â€ť explains Rosie.
Jake and Rosie also hope to film the creation of a large mural of Helen Bamber, who founded Amnesty International, which is due to be painted at the Nomadic Garden in Shoreditch. They will then do more interviews with characters on a â€śsocial crawlâ€ť between the new mural and the Serato studios in Hackney.
Places Rosie Roksoph likes in Islington
- The Big Issue office in Finsbury Park. â€śThe Big Issue was in Vauxhall until they got priced out. It was thanks to someone from the Big Issue, when they were in Vauxhall, that got me help from Victim Support.â€ť
- The Parkland Walk is very heavy on street art.
- â€śThey know me well at the Ringcross Community Centre. Itâ€™s a good place and I help out there sometimes.â€ť
Rosie was born in Islington and brought up around Junction Road. She became homeless at 15 while she was at Ackland Burleigh School [the rapper Ms Dynamite was another student]. Thatâ€™s when Rosie learnt the hard way that if you are â€śsingle and homeless you are at the bottom of the pile. You have no rights. When I was homeless I had two options on how to get somewhere to sleep and both were not very nice – have sex with someone you didnâ€™t want to have sex with and the other is so horrible I canâ€™t even remember.â€ť
Now 34 and with a somewhere to live in Islington, art is both Rosieâ€™s passion and a way to maintain her wellbeing. â€śI find I can express myself in paintings. Before painting I self-harmed, but painting is brilliant because Iâ€™m able to pour myself into it.â€ť
She likes to create beautiful varnished works on newsprint, which she gives to the Sisters of Mercy (a street art collective she manages) to glue on to walls using a homemade glue of flour, sugar and water.
Rosie has just sold one of her paintings, Day of the Dead, which was on display in the One Festival of Homeless Arts exhibition at the Ringcross Community Centre this autumn (October 2017). â€śMy original was smashed as it was done on plastic, which is hard to hang, so I had to do another the day the show opened,â€ť says Rosie.
If you see any of her work and tag yourself in it Rosie promises you a signed print of her Angel Statue. â€śI did this when my brother Tom died, he was about my age now. For about a month I had an experience where I couldnâ€™t feel where I ended and the canvas began. Itâ€™s a really sad looking angel, but itâ€™s fine art and the best Iâ€™ve ever done. And it got out a lot of bad feelings.â€ť
If you can offer any financial support to Rosie and the filmmakers please contact her via the facebook page she manages, Sisters of Merci. Small businesses are particularly asked if theyâ€™d let the film crew use their toilets or could offer tea/coffee. Good luck to you all.
Over to you
If youâ€™d like to nominate someone to be interviewed who grew up, lives or works in Islington, or suggest yourself, please let me know, via nicolabaird dot green at gmail dot com.
If you enjoyed this post you might like to look at theÂ A-Z Â index, orÂ search by intervieweeâ€™s roles orÂ Meet IslingtoniansÂ to find friends, neighbours and inspiration. Thanks for stopping by. Nicola