Conference 2024: Spotlight on our speakers - Museums Association

Conference 2024: The Joy of Museums

Museum of Homelessness

Surfing Sofas

Surfing Sofas performing at HTCAP Photo credit Ross Noble

Jess Turtle and Matt Turtle

Matt and Jess Turtle outside Manor House Lodge
Jess and Matt Turtle outside Manor House Lodge Photo by Anthony Luvera

In 2023, Museum of Homelessness poet-in-residence Surfing Sofas released Objects and Concepts, a concept album created in collaboration with the Museum of Homelessness that tells the invisible stories of the UK’s homeless community. Join Surfing Sofas for a musical experience like no other as this profound and hopeful album is performed live in its entirety.

Produced by acclaimed musicians including Renell Shaw (Ivor Novello Award-winning bassist of chart-toppers Rudimental) and Camilo Tirado (Nithin Sawhney, James Holden), in partnership with Lyrix Organix (Glastonbury Festival, UK Beatbox Championships) this album blends poetry, music and archive recordings to weave a raw and moving tapestry out of museum objects given to the museum by people experiencing homelessness. The album breaks new ground for how collections can be worked with, and what meanings we can derive from the objects of which we are custodians.

Surfing Sofas, a social justice poet and community artist, brings a personal history of homelessness, racism, trauma, and mental health to life, inspiring audiences both in workshop rooms and on stage. He’s also a co-curator for the One Festival of Homeless Arts 2023 and has performed at renowned venues like Tate Modern and Tottenham Football Stadium.

This work is funded by The Linbury Trust, Paul Hamlyn Foundation and Arts Council England.

The performance by Surfing Sofas will be followed by a subsequent workshop later on in the conference that will be delivered by the co-directors of the Museum of Homelessness, Matt Turtle and Jess Turtle, and Surfing Sofas.

The Museum of Homelessness will deliver the workshop using the Riotlab concept, an experiential space previously facilitated at Queer House Party on NYE, Deptford’s iconic punk venue Matchstick PieHouse and the One Festival of Homeless Arts.

Blending trauma expertise from practitioners such as Gabor Mate with museum objects and spoken word, Riotlab brings the wisdoms held by the Museum of Homelessness survivor community to a wider audience.

Participants can expect to experience how museum collections can be used to create safety, learn some survivor-led trauma responses and find out what’s going down from Uncle Clive’s Riot FM special broadcast. Join us as we prepare to not only survive any upcoming riots, but to find joy in the midst of collapsing systems.

The Museum of Homelessness is created and run by people with direct experience of homelessness. It builds the national collection for homelessness, takes practical action, fights injustice with research and campaigning, and educates on homelessness through unforgettable art exhibitions and events. It will open its first permanent venue in Finsbury Park, north London, in May.

Michelle Charters
Director, International Slavery Museum
Michelle Charters Pete Carr

Community activist Michelle Charters is the first Black woman to lead National Museum Liverpool’s International Slavery Museum.

Michelle, a Liverpool-born community activist, will lead the museum through a £58m redevelopment project (which also includes the Maritime Museum) that aims to make the venue a global leader in understanding and exploring the impact and legacies of historic and modern slavery, and how it still influences the world today.

Michelle features on the International Slavery Museum’s Black Achievers Wall alongside figures such as Martin Luther King, Kofi Annan and Muhammad Ali, for her activism work, which dates back to 1979.

For the past 18 years Michelle has been CEO of Kuumba Imani Millennium Centre in Toxteth, Liverpool. The multi-purpose centre was the vision of the Liverpool Black Sisters, an organisation formed in the 1970s to address the many forms of discrimination experienced by the Black community in the area.

Michelle is the founding chair of the Merseyside Black History Month Group and first Black woman to be appointed a trustee of the Everyman and Playhouse Theatres in Liverpool.

Michelle has been an advocate for National Museums Liverpool since she was first introduced to the Transatlantic Slavery Gallery at the Maritime Museum in 1994. She is also a member of the Respect group, which was established in 2008, leading on from the Liverpool Slavery Remembrance Initiative Steering Group, and for the past five years she sat on National Museums Liverpool’s board as a trustee, before moving into her new role at the International Slavery Museum.

She is also the Chair of the Eric Scott Lynch Slavery Heritage Trail street plaques initiative in Liverpool.