Supporting Mustard Tree Manchester with Artist Graham Hudson

We’re thrilled to be supporting Mustard Tree Manchester We caught up with Mustard Tree’s very own creative programmes curator and artist Graham Hudson to celebrate the launch of his original artwork on our website where 20% of proceeds go to Mustard Tree Manchester. Read on to find out more about Graham’s work and the outstanding work of Mustard Tree Manchester…

Self Portrait by Graham Hudson

Tell us about the work of the Mustard Tree Manchester.

Mustard Tree helps people to change their lives, secure better accommodation and economic well-being. Our focus is on tackling both the causes and consequences of poverty and homelessness. Since 1994 we have created opportunities for people to help themselves through providing practical support, friendship, connections into work and improvements to health & well-being, alongside new experiences to encourage aspiration.
We welcome people from across Greater Manchester to our Community Shops in Ancoats, Eccles and Little Hulton offering access to low cost food through the food club, clothing and household essentials such as furniture, pots and pans.

What type of opportunities can Mustard’s Tree clients and volunteers get involved with? 

We run structured volunteer programmes through which our clients can get involved in the enterprise side of Mustard Tree. Our Freedom project volunteers help us run successful charity shops, furniture collection/distribution, our professional kitchen and we have a metals recycling and flat clearance project in Salford, Manchester. We provide vocational training as part of the volunteering programme and find work placements for clients who wish to set employment as their goal. We tackle poverty of experience through providing creative activities such as art, music, drama and IT/Media resources. 

By helping people engage creatively, we help build confidence, recover self-esteem and unleash new potential. Some people progress into paid employment but the real joy is see self-confidence and hope return to some of the most disadvantaged and marginalised people in our communities. 

How does Mustard Tree help tackle homelessness? 

We help people into new tenancies through the provision of furniture and items that make up a home and provide support around budgeting and money management. We advocate for our clients to find emergency accommodation and support our clients with landlords to help retain their housing. We help people improve their health and wellbeing through helping to increase access to health services, providing friendship, community and something meaningful to do.

How have Mustard Tree been operating during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Mustard Tree has stayed open throughout and operating as key workers under the categories of food distribution and charity delivering front-line services, as per latest gov.uk guidance. We are currently providing an emergency food offer, supported by our volunteers. We are refocusing the charity on food clubs, toiletries, clothes, food supply and distribution including managing donations from the public.
Our services are applicable to those on benefits and on no income.
We have been around for the last 25 years – combating poverty and preventing homelessness – and working to our values of Belief, Dignity, Opportunity, Diversity and Partnership. We think these values are more relevant than ever and we are committed to continuing to support people across Greater Manchester at this time.

How did you come to find Mustard Tree Manchester?

I was sent to Mustard Tree from the Homeless Hostel I found myself in after a period of Sleeping Rough, I was homeless for around 3 years. As part of my get well plan I was sent “against my will” to this place called Mustard Tree to volunteer some of my time. Fortunately for me my key worker at the Hostel recognised the state I was in, by this time I was feeling suicidal and can still remember how that felt crying constantly. From the very first day I landed at Mustard Tree March 2009, which by the way, I had never heard of before this, I realised this place could save my life.

How did the Mustard Tree help you? 

I volunteered for 5 days a week in each area of Mustard Tree and joined the very first Freedom Project. The Freedom Project has grown since and is the main flagship volunteering program we resource. I helped by delivering furniture across the city to those in most need, and sorting through all the donations in the warehouse. It still never ceases to amaze me the generosity and kindness of the people of Manchester and beyond, we are constantly sorting through donations!

I kept telling those who might listen, I’m a bit of an Artist, I would like to paint if possible. It was then I was given a little space in the loading bay in which to paint.  Soon after I was painting in the expanded communal space upstairs where others could see what I was doing and they started joining in. In what seemed like a very short time 3-4 months, I was running art classes at Mustard Tree. Other agencies and organisations were sending people to join this amazing, popular Art group!

The creative programs were born out of this Mustard Seed of an idea and now, we have an expansive Art Studio, 2 Recording Studio’s, A purpose built Performance space as well as a Health and Well being Suite. In normal circumstances, we run various weekly Art Sessions, Music based workshops, Health and Well Being Activities such as Yoga, Table Tennis and many more and diverse sessions over the years. All sessions are generally full to capacity, most of which are run by Friends of Mustard Tree Volunteers, staff and seasonal workers.

Tell us more about the meaning behind your work 

My work as an Artist ranges from Simple and Calm to Complex and Explosive. I can see a progression in my work and a maturing over the last 3 or 4 years, My passion is in the Abstract, this idea of expressing the unseen, manifesting that which didn’t exist until the painting of it. I am often inspired by the written word and my favourite word of all is “Ineffable” there are times when I feel inspired to attempt to express that which is Ineffable. I continue to try. I paint almost every single day.
I have painted a self portrait once and created a few sketches. I mostly like to paint portraits of people and loved ones along with commissions.

Tell us about your commission art work 

By far most of my commissioned work are portraits, I tend to work quite big with bold colour schemes working from photos to capture an aspect or essence of that which I recognise and understand from consultations and photo’s of the subject.

Who are your favourite artists / inspirations?

By Far the biggest impact on me in life and artistically is Jimi Hendrix. When I first heard Jimi’s music, accidentally, at 9 years old, it changed my life with what I can only describe as an epiphany. Seriously, it remains the single most important experience of my life, which I have spent 51 years since trying to understand just what happened in that moment. It’s a story within itself. Needless to say my mind was opened up and inspired to find out all I could about why I am here, what does it all mean, which lead me on a path of knowledge gathering, spiritual quests and artistic explorations. I paint Jimi lots.

What advice would you give to anyone who was thinking of starting to paint/ sell

This is where I am least addressed. I have been lucky in that word of mouth spread early on in my painting journey, added to where I work has afforded me opportunities that I wouldn’t otherwise have gotten. It would appear that the general wisdom on the way forward is Instagram in order to advertise and sell work, although, I am new to that platform and currently exploring it, trying to understand how best to use it, it isn’t coming easy. So explore social media platforms thus negating the need to use expensive galleries. The main advice is more around integrity, try to stay true to yourself in terms of expression. Paint for the love of it, work at improving technique and use the best quality materials you can afford.

Shop Graham’s original artwork here 20% of proceeds go to Mustard Tree Manchester. For further details on Graham’s commission work please contact artistgraham@gmail.com.

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