Sarah: The initial stage of lockdown was disorientating and massively worrying. The virus itself was panic-inducing and then it had a major impact on my finances as my income stopped overnight. Production companies suspended their work which meant my presenting and acting jobs stopped, and venues and schools closed bringing my DJing and workshop presenting to an abrupt halt as well. I received no Government or Arts Council help.
I founded ShowerBox in 2018, having been a volunteer for various homeless organisations in London for years. Through conversations I had with individuals living on the streets, it struck me how daily life would be a little less challenging with access to free showers (and of course, more free toilets, more drinking fountains etc), which are offered in other parts of the world. I explored this in an article for HuffPost and started a petition to try to get politicians on board. Dissatisfied with the response, I decided to do what I could to help. I fundraised for a shower trailer, which has since serviced shelters and homeless services across London. We also received a grant from Somers Town Community Association last year.
My years of freelance work have been solid training for ShowerBox! I have to be extremely organised, open, creative and energetic to run the project, as there are quite a few different strands to it. I'm often juggling, and I know this feeling well from my freelance work! Despite this the role is enriching. ShowerBox was a concept in a conversation and now it actually is out on the streets.
I do have to work to ensure the responsibility doesn't overwhelm me. I receive messages from different parts of the country, requesting help in their city too. I have to detach at times, create a simple plan and follow the steps methodically. Recently the trailer had to be repaired and so it was out of action for two weeks. It was a reminder that there will often be parts of the project and occurrences which are out of my control. At those times I try to breathe out the stress, revise the plan, and start again.
Claire: I was the Artistic Director of a large venue in Catford as Lockdown began. I experienced a lot of anxiety at first, finding it really difficult trying to adjust to a sense of nothingness after working flat-out for the last 20 years and I felt guilty for the other artists I had employed and involved on my current project.
Sarah (Lamptey, ShowerBox Founder) is a friend and I was aware of ShowerBox but never had the time to properly get involved. It’s an amazing project that makes a massive difference, to feel clean, to have your sense of self-worth renewed and to not be wearing the dirt of London’s streets!
On a normal day, I arrive on the site, prepare a table of the "giveaway" items, prepare the showers, guide any new volunteers, and welcome anyone wanting to use the showers. We gently ask if there is anything they need and we let them know where they are in the queue. I keep an eye on how long each person is in the shower and clean it thoroughly after each use.
I worked for many years with marginalised groups and I am trained in facilitation skills. I think these skills pay a big part in terms of adapting to different personalities, treading gently with those who are suffering with mental health issues and feeling vulnerable. Regardless the role is incredibly satisfying. At a time when I have felt utterly directionless, confused and without any purpose, the structure and routine of being involved in the project has helped give my week a 'shape' amongst endless repetitive days. Having to be bright and positive around those who literally have nothing has helped me to take stock of how fortunate I am. I have felt useful and inspired by those I have met: I have been humbled by their resilience.