Above: Stephen Carolan holding his photograph of a sculpture in Kingston Upon Thames. Cafe Art has helped hundreds of people who have lived experience of homelessness since 2012, especially since we launched MYLONDON on 30 July 2013. Most of our income comes from the support of the public through the sale of the annual MYLONDON calendar for which we are very grateful.
Today, 30 July 2023, marks 10 years since Cafe Art handed out 100 Fujifilm single-use QuickSnap film cameras from St Paul's Cathedral so we thought it would be a good opportunity to look back on what we have achieved! See ITV News item from 30 July 2013 here
The MYLONDON project has helped fund many arts projects since that first contest in 2013, from framing paintings by people attending art groups run by our many partner organisations such as Crisis, St Mungo's, West London Mission, 240 Project, The Connection at St Martins in the Fields and more.
Working together in collaboration with, and supporting, other art groups and charities is important. The year before, in 2012, we launched MYLONDON we produced another calendar featuring paintings by 12 artists from 12 London homeless-sector charities and named it ONE to symbolise the coming together as ONE of all of these groups. We printed 1,000 2013 calendars. The ONE calendar raised £5,000 which we distributed to those charities as vouchers to a local art shop called Atlantis and we didn't even pay ourselves.
Above: The first calendar was called ONE and had 12 paintings from 12 artists representing 12 London art groups. We donated 100% of the £5,000 raised to the art groups run by those charities. Read more of our history here.
In 2013 we started MYLONDON, printing 3,000 2014 calendars. We were grateful to Spitalfields E1 Market for letting us set up a table to sell the calendar with the vendors and we are grateful to them. We still sell in Spitalfields when the calendars are printed every year with vendors who are now working on their own, rather than supervised. In 2013 the calendar sales were cash only - last year they were 75% tap and go card sales. Since 2012 we have paid out more than £200,000 in prizes money, photo commissions and vendor commissions to participants in the project. We now have more places to sell, including many corporate head offices in London and the new Elizabeth Line stations.
Brexit has made is a lot harder to post the calendars to the EU, due to new customs regulations, but since we went viral in 2015 we have sold thousands of calendars to buyers in not only the EU but all around the world and those online sales help us in a huge way.
In 2015 we went viral: One of our jury selecting the top 20 photos was the late Chris Cheesman (who we named the annual Most Creative Photo Award after) and in early 2015 he posted an article about the annual project. It was seen by someone from Peta Pixel, a US-based photography website and they asked if they could post the photos. Within days we had hundreds of media asking for the photos. Fortunately we we doing a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign with the above video - and the rest is history.
We ended up raising more than £17,500 that year and in the following years helped seven more cities do our project: Budapest, Sydney, New Orleans, Toronto, Sydney and Perth in Australia and Brighton & Hove here in the UK. In 2015 we joined a group of UK charities on a visit to São Paulo and while we were there we ran Minha São Paulo. We are grateful to Matt Peacock from With One Voice and to People's Palace Projects who are based in London and in Brazil.
In 2015 Neil Cordell from The RPS offered to set up a photography mentoring group. The group still meets regularly and is run by Julian Rouse. The volunteers teach participants in the group how to use digital cameras and also help run the annual MYLONDON project. The photo below is of a cheque for £5,000 being presented to the group in 2017, though it usually runs on a shoe-string budget and is part funded by the London RPS. Thank you to everyone from the RPS who has made this group a huge success over the years.
Above: The Cafe Art RPS Photography Mentoring Group has exhibited regularly and currently holds an annual exhibition in theBrixton Library. This photo is by Damian and is of Brick Lane.
Cafe Art has helped thousands of people through it's art in cafes programme, the This Is Where I Live international art exchange (also started in 2013) and of course through MYLONDON. As a social enterprise we focus on creating and selling to finance our business and we have received very little grant funding compared to other homeless art social enterprises.
Mumbai was one of our This Is Where I Live cities and this year Pehchan are doing MYMUMBAI thanks to Fujifilm who have donated 100 cameras for them - it will happen in September and they will create a 2024 MYMUMBAI calendar. MYWORLD, a new charity set up to help cities like Mumbai, is looking to help more UK cities, like we did in 2017 with MYBRIGHTON & HOVE.
Above: The voting for the 2024 MYLONDON calendar started at our "base" - The Corner Hotel. The Corner Hotel have let us store all our paintings, photographs, props and stationery in the hotel for no charge since November 2014. Two of their staircases are covered in framed photos (five floors) and art and they even have a photo from one of our photographers in every single hotel room as they commissioned the mentoring group to take photos of East London in 2017.
The 2024 MYLONDON calendar campaign launches on Monday 7 August with a goal of funding the production of the MYLONDON calendars and exhibition. We are already releasing photos from the new calendar on social media in the buildup to the launch of the campaign so please keep an eye on us over the coming days!
You can preview the 2024 MYLONDON photos, and see the photographers, on: