Joe’s story

Artist and inventor, Joe, found the tools, equipment and space he needed in the Share Shack to be even more creative. Introspective and calm, Joe enjoys quietly drawing, repairing or whittling amidst the hustle and bustle of the shared space. Joe believes in the Share Shack ethos of sharing skills and resources within the community, so he gladly shares his creations and skills with others in the space. Spending many hours in the Share Shack, Joe has found common ground with people he wouldn’t have spoken to on the street. He’s even found friends who make tea like they do back in his Caribbean home. This space round the corner from him has renewed his creative ambition and connected him with people he now considers family. 

I lived in Montserrat until 2019, when I moved to the UK to join my family in Birmingham. I first discovered the Share Shack in May last year. At first, I thought it wasn’t the kind of thing you see in Ladywood, it seemed too good to be true, but as weeks went by, I thought, this is something I want to join.  

You see art, I love art. Joe* gave me a book about art, nearly 200 pages long, and in one month I finished the book. Coming in here, drawing in the book. In Montserrat, I wouldn’t do that as lots of things are imported, so just a normal felt tip costs like $20.  

I love my art, carving, making walking sticks, decorating canvas bags. I even made a cabin and chairs out of ice cream sticks for one little girl who comes here. I think she take it home, yeah man she love it! The Share Shack has helped me a lot in terms of art, craft and stuff. So, I contribute back. If I make five bags, I give back two bags. If I make two sticks here, then I give them one. 

I feel comfortable here. There are things you can’t do at home that you can do at the Share Shack. If there’s not space to do it at home, you can make it and take it back. Art is like my meditation; it puts me in that trance. If I have the pencil on paper, I’m concentrating, so you can leave me alone. We can talk later, and then we can talk all day. 

Back in Montserrat, I’m a quiet kind of guy, I love to be by myself. In the Share Shack, I’ve met people I would never believe I would actually talk to. If I saw them on the street, I would never talk to them, but here I do. 

Since coming here, they’re like my small family.  We express things, where we come from, what we do, what kind of food we eat, these kinds of things. We talk like sisters and brothers. We share things, ask how you’re doing, what did you do yesterday? Some of the people who come to the Share Shack even make tea like we do in Montserrat. They will boil it in with the milk. It’s surprising. I thought it would be different, that they would cook different, but they cook identical, just like us. Jamaicans don’t do it like that and they’re closer. I’ve brought my grandson down here and I plan to let my sister bring some food down for everyone, so that people can taste food from Montserrat. 

People need to understand this little area is very important to the community. All I’m saying is it needs to expand; the biggest problem is the Share Shack is too small. So like maybe 12 people come in, it’s overcrowded. With more space, more things can happen and more people can come. I even want the Share Shack to open on Saturdays  it’s a good day to open! 

If you don’t hold it, you’re not going to feel it. What you need to do is to come here and feel it.  

*who works as an artist and support worker in the Share Shack. 

Start your creative journey at a Share Shack near you
Bryony Lawless
Author: Bryony Lawless