Your Rabbit is Menacing the Neighbourhood

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YOUR RABBIT IS MENACING THE NEIGHBOURHOOD Writing and art from residents of Lewisham Homes

Your Rabbit is Menacing the Neighbourhood Writing and art from residents of Lewisham Homes

Created as part of Meet Me At Lewisham Homes, a project produced by The Albany and Entelechy Arts in partnership with Lewisham Homes. Funded by Arts Council and Baring Foundation Celebrating Age fund. Lead artist: Katherine McMahon Assisting artists: Emma Cooper and Fred Aylward Designed and edited by Katherine McMahon Watercolour illustrations by Dick Graham 2019

Introduction In Autumn 2018, I arrived in a lounge in Sydenham – the communal area of a block of flats which provides support for people over 60 to continue to live independently. The room holds comfy chairs, a pool table, a darts board, and a worn piano, and opens out onto a garden. My plan was to work with residents over twelve weeks to put together a book of creative writing – about their lives, experiences, memories, and whatever they wanted to say to the world. I came with some possible activities in mind, but I wanted to chat to the residents to see what they would enjoy. Most of the people who came to the sessions regularly spoke languages other than English – such a range, in fact, that no two people shared a first language other than English. It was wonderful to hear the stories of people who have such different experiences: from growing up in Japan and experiencing earthquakes, to being taught to kill a chicken at home in the Caribbean, to a rabbit menacing the neighbourhood in London. 1

Together we found ways to tell these stories in this book. It is not at all what I expected – and I think it is richer for that. Having edited several collaborative anthologies before, I was imagining neat rows of text and the occasional drawing, but what we have to offer to you here are poems in different languages, visual stories, unique drawings, and more. We were also fortunate to have Dick Graham join us for a few weeks to capture our sessions in paint – his images are spread throughout the book, and give you a sense of the creativity and focus of those afternoons. I loved getting to know the residents over these months. We played darts, chatted, drank tea, ate a lot of biscuits, devoured beautiful Turkish food made by Rose. One of our most regular visitors was Oli’s granddaughter, who took her first steps in one of the sessions. I feel privileged to be entrusted with their stories, and I hope you enjoy this eclectic and vibrant mix of writing and art. – Katherine McMahon, lead artist and editor



Correspondence Anonymous


A man for all seasons Anonymous Summertime blues And there will be seasons Tiny Tim got his turkey in the end Summer fades as hats are pulled over ears Leaves pour off trees We have less light to see the day Bulbs pushing through the ground Looking for the sun The seasons are changing Spring is coming


Winter Christiana Ramatu King The winter is dark I can’t go out on a cold day. I fear the winter because of the cold.



Hedgehog Anonymous A mound of mulch Is a hedgehog’s secret place, The garden where he lives Is where his house is, And the garden is the place where his family will grow up. Mister Hedgehog left the garden at night, To look for Mrs Hedgehog. He headed for the party in the park. He walked back with Mrs Hedgehog and the family was made. All the hedgehogs lived happily ever after.


Nature Anonymous 1. Blood is red in all but colours and shapes are many, God is one in all faiths but names and forms are many, God lives in all hearts but hatred and wicked cannot see, Fighting for God is bad when he lives in all hearts. Love is God and God is love. 2. The baby in the cradle laughs at the toy hanging above The foams on the dive in the ocean kissing the sand at the beach, bees flying in the garden Taking the honey on the flowers


What a sin, the rowdy roaming in the city, stabbing the innocent for nothing. (No more troubles please) 3. The nature is the mother invention. But the powerful nations are indifferent in their deeds. The beautiful mountains, the roaming oceans, the silvery waterfalls, the running rivers, the jungles, the dense forests, woods, the slopes and plains, the rocks, sands and shining minerals are common to all living beings by nature. But all powerful nations are confronting, fighting, and conjuring for your own please and welfare, ignoring the natural justice. 4. The nature, the Earth, is rotating in a balance of power. Taking of underground coal, oils, gas, minerals in the land and the beds of the ocean disturbs the balance of stability in the nature, the Earth. Earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes, and unseasonal storms, cyclones, frightening thunderstorms, lightning, heavy showers, unimaginable and uncontrollable floods, and 10

devastations are caused by the unlimited fracking of the nature, the earth. 5. The developed, rich, and powerful nations who are engaged in the multiple production of deadly arms, and exporting to underdeveloped countries and creating misunderstanding, hatred, interminable wars, and unrest. They are responsible for the devastation of the nature, and thereby creating unwanted poverty, starvation, displacements, immigration and refugee problems. 6. All people of good hearts should try to join hand in hand to protect the beautiful nature from destruction and devastation by the selfish nations, for the welfare of all living beings without wasting time any more. This is of paramount importance. In my vision at present, the horrible, terrible, brutal wars against nature resemble the beautiful queen in the paradise tortured and made naked in tears.


Blackberries Margeton Muauka Mulata


Mes fruits son bon Venez manger Je vous en juie

My fruits are good Come eat It is my pleasure


Safe / unsafe Thomas



Nature Margeton Muauka Mulata


Je bénis L'Eternal des Armé qui a créer les arbres parmi les creatures, et les fleurs sortent des arbres. Je remercie le Seugneur qui m'a donne les yeux pour contempler la nature. Il est bon le Rois de rois Je L'adore Il m'assiste dans tous que je fais I bless the Eternal Unarmed One who created the trees among the creatures, flowers bloom from the trees. I thank the Lord who gave me eyes to contemplate nature. He is good the King of kings I adore Him He helps me In all that I do


Woodland mindfulness Christiana Ramatu King


Menace Oli This pet rabbit wasn’t cared for, so I let it out. It got romantically involved with a wild rabbit and had a litters of baby rabbits under Mr. Nice’s shed. He grew pink carnations, which the rabbit family enjoyed. It hung out on the cul-de-sac. Then I received a letter from the council which said: “Your rabbit is menacing the neighbourhood.”


Coo coo Marie Gaskin Illustrated by Oli When I was a young girl, we had to learn to cook, as a girl it was a thing you had to do. All of us learned to cook coo coo plus rice and peas and flying fish. Mother always insisted you do your share of household duties. This is like the chicken that my mum used to kill and cook for us.


Housework Christiana Ramatu King Looking for dirt to hoover on the boat One two one two one Lovely


Home GĂźl (Rose) Mehmet


From the window Thomas

(I was playing all the time) 23

From the window Oli


The dogs were always barking out of the window when we first moved in, so I hung up these thick brocade curtains that I got from a mansion I was squatting – really heavy, striped Regency, you know. I hung up crystals in the window so when the sun shines there are rainbows all over the room. There’s a big tree, and day or night, when I look at it there are the shapes of dogs in the branches.


Playing card poem Margeton Muauka Mulata ArrĂŞtĂŠz de jouer sur la table Il ne faut pas chasser mon ami! Si tu as de l'argent tu peut tout acheter, meme les pommes Ta maison est comme celle de ma voisine Le toit de las maison a fuit

Stop playing on the table Do not chase my friend! If you have money you can buy everything, even apples The woman next door has a house like yours There is a leak in the roof



On to something Christiana Ramatu King


The Sea Anonymous Illustated by Thomas My dad liked to drive He had a Humber Hawk Felixstowe, Southend, Ramsgate, Margate and Clapton The clashes between mods and rockers Lambrettas and Vespas and motorbikes I never got involved Eight or nine feet deep, you feel the waves Like a see-saw I swim towards the beach


Fresh eyes Christiana Ramatu King


Picture Christiana Ramatu King When I think I write, And what I make is lovely, Lovely for you, lovely for me, lovely for all.



Collage Christiana Ramatu King


I am Rose Gül (Rose) Mehmet



Hollowcoombe Katherine McMahon


Taste with first Anonymous



Meet Me At‌ A programme of activities for isolated older people in the borough of Lewisham, produced by Entelechy Arts and the Albany. Begun in 2013 as an all-day arts club at the Albany Theatre, the programme has developed into a portfolio of creative projects across the borough ranging from artist-led activities to interactive community cinemas, taking place in locations from public theatres to sheltered housing schemes.

Meet Me at Lewisham Homes Meet Me At‌ and social housing provider Lewisham Homes have worked in partnership since 2015, delivering creative sessions in Independent Living schemes run by Lewisham Homes. For the last two years the work has been supported by Celebrating Age funding by the Arts Council and Baring Foundation, enhancing the activity happening at these schemes through the commissioning of specific artistic projects, and by 2020 there will have been 16 projects in total. For further details please contact Lucy Warren at


Acknowledgements With thanks to Heidi Longford, Emma Cooper, Fred Aylward, Cara McAleese, Sarah Phillips, and Lucy Warren – and to all the participants for trusting us with their stories and making Monday afternoons a lot of fun!