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The Chartered Institute of Housing is the independent voice for housing and the home of professional standards

“Let’s put the control back into the people who can actually make a difference.”


We spoke to David Tovey, artist and homelessness activist and Patron of the GEM programme about his upcoming session at The Big Conversation 2018. David’s session focuses on how to use art to cope with diversity and build confidence as part of your own personal development.

How did you become a Patron of the GEM programme?

I was announced as the first Patron of the Gem programme in 2017 and set about creating the David Tovey award which recognises students who implement homelessness policies in their companies.

This is the second year I’ve been working with the GEMs speaking about how we as individuals and housing associations together can help with homelessness and the recovery process. I am a massive supporter of social housing and what we do in the social housing sector is amazing but it can always be improved. As an artist I’ve explored many housing concepts, such as stigma, with the GEMs by getting them drawing and painting whilst increasing people’s knowledge on homelessness and what’s happening. I believe that with little additions we can make a massive dent in helping the homelessness in the UK.

In the first year I set a small challenge for new post graduates – see if you can make a personal dent in helping homelessness, i.e. volunteer at a homeless shelter, make a donation or ask your employer to help. Charlotte Senior, participant of the GEM programme at the time, asked her employer Orbit to sign up to the veterans nomination scheme and sign up to the military covenant. This is a pledge Orbit made to give priority to ex servicemen who are homeless or becoming homeless, giving them employment.

I painted Charlotte a portrait as a prize and asked the rest of the group if they could think of something they could do to help, no matter how small, but it would make a big difference to someone. There’s now a group of people in Liverpool putting plans in place to help get a shelter up and running with different facilities, to act as access points for homeless people.

Can you tell us a bit more about your session at The Big Conversation 2018?

For my session in Leeds, I want to throw this challenge out to everyone attending and let each other’s ideas bounce off one another. The idea is that my session will consist of café style tables and there will be top three ideas, which will then be thrown out to the floor to discuss. I’ll also be joined by Charlotte Senior and Jessica Quinn, participants from the GEM programme in my ‘Call to action’ session at the end of the conference where they’ll be sharing examples of their own approaches.

David Tovey is a formerly homeless artist, educator and activist who works in a range of media.

David is also one of the 16 commissioners for Shelter’s Big Conversation, a national consultation about social and council housing in England. The report will be published and taken to government by the end of 2018.

To view the full programme for The Big Conversation and to book your place click here

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