Behind the Blue Doors: A new exhibition by Jim Grover

Behind the Blue Doors: A new exhibition by Jim Grover

Pictured: Trinity Homes Almshouse photographed by Jim Grover

In celebration of the 200th anniversary of Trinity Homes Almshouse, Brixton

A new exhibition by south London social documentary photographer Jim Grover is opening in Brixton on the 19th April. It tells the story of a Brixton almshouse endowed in 1824 and which still functions as charitable accommodation 200 years later.

The photo-story charts the history of the building from the nineteenth century through to the present, including its early operation as an almshouse for ‘pious aged women.’ The exhibition also delves into the lives of the seventeen current residents, who are still making the almshouse their home two hundred years later.

Jim Grover says of the exhibition: “I’ve often wondered what lay behind the blue front doors of this distinctive Georgian building on Brixton’s busy Acre Lane, and which are always firmly shut. Who lives there and what are their stories? How did it come to be here and who was the man whose name is prominently displayed above its doors? It’s been a wonderful voyage of discovery for me, full of extraordinary revelations that span 200 years. I am so pleased to be able to throw open the doors and share the remarkable and inspiring stories that lie behind them.”

Grover, a long-time resident of south west London, says his passion is to celebrate daily life and the ‘unsung heroes’ of the local communities. This exhibition celebrates both the historical and modern ‘unsung heroes’ of Trinity Homes Almshouse, shining a light on their intertwined stories with a combination of photography and contemporary interviews alongside historical documents and portraits from the nineteenth century.

Continues Jim: “Coupled with the inspiring stories of two, hitherto unrecognized, Brixton residents, the founder Thomas Bailey and his nephew John Illidge (who turns out to have been the Sheriff of London in 1834), are the remarkable and varied stories of five of the current residents who are leading wonderfully full lives, including making a difference in their local community.”

Amongst these current residents are 72-year-old Wallee McDonnell, who was nominated for a 2024 Lambeth Civic Award for his work in the community and organises peace education workshops in London prisons, 76-year-old Christine Holding who volunteers at her local GP surgery and 78-year-old Guy Hunting, a writer who has just completed his second book. Peter Avery, 84, was the first male resident in 1996. A former senior art lecturer, he has converted his bedroom into a studio and is currently designing a stage set for a south London theatre, having staged an innovative puppet theatre in Venice last year

Peter Avery in his studio photographed by Jim Grover

Trustee Nick Guppy, who commissioned Jim Grover to create the exhibition, commented, “Almshouses have been around since the tenth century and they still have an important role to play in our society, especially in our current economic climate and social housing challenges. We’re proud to be able to continue to offer the compassion and kindness of our founder, Thomas Bailey, and are delighted to be able to mark our bicentenary anniversary with this exhibition that tells our story over 200 years.”

You can see the exhibition in the new Lambeth Archives facility in Brixton, featuring a mixture of documents and artefacts along with some personal possessions that the current almshouse residents have selected which highlight the diversity of their lives.

The exhibition will be running until 1 June 2024.

Jim Grover is an award-winning social-documentary photographer based in Clapham. His images have appeared in many publications and online including The Guardian; the BBC; The Times; The Sunday Times; The Observer and The British Journal of Photography.

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