Priyanka, 28, and Damiano, 30, met in 2014 when he made a documentary about a library project she’d launched for the homeless community. They now live together in London and plan to marry next year
Priyanka was in her final year of a journalism course at Kingston University London when she had an idea for a new community initiative. “I was interning with the UN Association,” she says, “and one day I came across a homeless man who was reading a book to pass the time. It sparked an idea.” Soon after, she launched Spread the Word, an initiative to open mini libraries in homeless shelters. “I got press releases published in news outlets about what I was doing,” she says.
In May 2014, Damiano was studying for an MA in documentary film at the London College of Communication when he stumbled across Priyanka’s project. “I’d been asked to make a film on any topic and decided on the issue of homelessness,” he says. After approaching some homeless men at a church, one of them gave him his number for an interview. “I didn’t have my phone on me so he scribbled it on the back of a magazine called the Pavement, which is published for the homeless community,” he says. “When I got home, I started to read it and that’s where I learned about the Spread the Word project.”
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Working clay is as much meditation as craft, but there is so much to learn, from ram’s head wedging to coiling and glazing. And the results sometimes leave a lot to be desired
It’s an awkward start to my pottery journey. I’ve arrived at the Kiln Rooms in Peckham, south-east London, dressed as Demi Moore, star of the movie Ghost, and the most famous pottery scene ever filmed. “Should I have worn a tank top?” asks my tutor David McGuire. Tank top? I realise with horror that he has never seen the film. “When you say you’re a potter, people always mention Ghost!” he winces, almost in physical pain. I have no idea why he thinks Patrick Swayze wears a tank top in it. Then again, when I check the film, I realise I am dressed nothing like Demi Moore either. Is McGuire choosing not to watch Ghost purely on a point of principle? Perhaps, he admits. You should watch it, I insist, it’s classic Whoopi Goldberg. “Shall we make a start?” he says.
The lesson begins with physical heft, pushing and turning the clay in an arduous technique known as ram’s head wedging. Wedging removes air pockets from the clay, lest they cause the finished product to bloat or explode in the oven. It’s like kneading dough, I remark, always thinking about pizza. It’s the opposite, says McGuire, apologetically, as kneading introduces air to dough. He has a lovely Donegal accent, which makes corrections easy to hear. Also, I’m thinking about putting a quattro formaggi in my oven tonight, which will certainly lead to bloating, possibly an explosion.
After the death of her husband, Marilyn Bersey struggled with her identity. But she had been a performer all her life, and suddenly a new world opened up to her
When Marilyn Bersey, 74, stands on stage and removes her last piece of clothing to reveal her nipple tassels, she triggers the pyrotechnics. From the audience there is “the admiration, the affirmation, the claps, the whoops, the cheers”. Well, she explains: “When I retired, I promised myself I wouldn’t be one of those pensioners who sit and knit.”
Becoming a burlesque performer may seem an extreme form of resistance to this stereotype, but Bersey, who lives in warden-assisted accommodation in Ventnor on the Isle of Wight, had finally stabilised a huge weight loss. At the same time, she was adjusting to life without her second husband, whom she had cared for through Parkinson’s disease. She was searching for a form of exercise and self-expression that would fit the new shape of her life.