Where Have I Belonged?

Where Have I Belonged?

Over the next 6 weeks of Lent we will be posting daily a creative anthology around our theme of Belonging as mini creative retreat. We are going to post poetry, excerpts from novels, passages of scripture, a little bit of theology & philosophy, and hopefully some thoughts and reflections from various contributors  too. We will explore a number of different visual art works to help us to engage meaningfully with the season of Lent through the theme of Belonging.

Yesterday I led a half day arts trail around the theme of Belonging with some of the L’Arche Community. We visited some really meaningful art works that provoked some great discussions over lunch. Our first stop was:

Manchester Art Gallery:  “Return to Manchester” by Martin Parr

(open from Friday 16 November 2018–Monday 22 April 2019) Entry is Free

“The exhibition brings together a selection of Parr’s Manchester photographs. Ranging from black and white images of June Street, Salford in 1972 and Yates Wine Lodges in 1982-3, to colour photos of people shopping in 1986 and 2008, his work shows how the lives of Mancunians have changed but also how there is continuity in how we live.”

We begin by looking to the left hand wall as you enter, to a series of photographs entitled June Street with Daniel Meadows 1972, taken as a project with fellow student Daniel Meadows when they were studying at Manchester Polytechnic now MMU. Wanting to document to real Coronation Street, the students found that it had been demolished so found a similar place nearby that was also due to be flattened. The images document the residents of June Street in Salford, photographed in their front rooms in the early 1970’s in family groups with the kitsch decoration and the ordinariness of everyday life. The final image in this series shows all the residents standing together outside their houses in the street, capturing a community spirit that has since often disappeared. To learn more about the images you can watch this video by the artist Daniel Meadows.


These photographs provoke memories of belonging in all of us, be it visits to grandmas house, our own childhood, or a sense of a community spirit that is fast disappearing. We will discuss some of his other photographs on another day but today spend a little time quietly remembering your own story.

  • Where have you belonged? What reminds you of home? What emotions do these photographs generate in you? Is there a familiarity or do they seem alien to you? Consider your own experiences and memories of home.
  • Create a timeline of your life story so far. Mark all the places that you have lived in and perhaps include some special places also where you felt at home, ie a regular holiday place, a grandparents home, a classroom at school? Which spaces hold the deepest of memories, both positive and negative? You might have experienced tremendous joy in some spaces, but others are important to you because you experienced trauma or loss that make the place special.
  • Consider where you have felt known and accepted. What spaces gave you the greatest sense of safety? It might be the corner of a room where you used to escape the tumult of the household you grew up in with a book or a toy when you were a child. It might be a garden, a beach you often visited, a favourite relatives home, or big family celebrations. There might be lots of spaces that come to mind as you reflect.
  • Do you experience a deeper sense of belonging when you are with a large group of others, in a small group or do you find connection with nature and a sense of ‘another’ when you are alone in a particular place?