7 December 2020

“I do not want much for Christmas but I want everybody who reads these cards to be happy, healthy and loved,” said Guan who has been creating colourful Christmas cards at a day centre for the homeless.

Guan is a regular attendee at the art club at the Baron’s Court Project in Hammersmith and is known for his colourful artworks.

But it wasn’t always like that - when he was feeling low his palette was much more sombre.

“It reflected how I felt but one day I said I don’t want to be like that.”

He added: “I try to express my feelings in my paintings and hopefully they will lift people’s mood.”

Guan was working as a store manager in retail and got made redundant. At the time his father passed away and he was unable to return home for the funeral. This impacted upon his mental health and he ended up having a breakdown. With this and the loss of employment he became homeless.

But things are much better now.

Guan and fellow artist Lui are now creating Christmas and greetings cards for the new Home (Less) Made shop run by the day centre.

And as the orders have started to come in, the project’s success has boosted Lui and Guan.

“It’s really given us a lot of hope and confidence,” said Guan.

The cards are on sale for £4 each or three for £10.

Baron’s Court Project director Michael Angus said it was a red letter day when a company order came in for 450 cards.

Proceeds are split between the project and the artists to help them get on their feet.

Mr Angus said; “We share 50 per cent of our profits with the artists experiencing homelessness or mental health conditions. Our aim is to raise awareness of the work we do, raise funds and showcase the amazing skills and gifts of our guests.”

The centre, which normally offers a hot meal as well as showers and a range of support and activities has to raise 73 per cent of its funds. It gets 27 per cent of its income from grants and Hammersmith and Fulham Council supports it. The council funded the building in Talgarth Road.

Last year 450 people came through the doors, clocking up 8,000 visits.

This year, the pandemic has severely affected its work.

Guan said he encourages other people who use the centre to have a go.

“I keep saying to them you don’t have to be a Picasso.

“It’s a mindfulness exercise. I put all of my mind into my painting.”

And he is delighted proceeds from the cards help the other people who use the centre for the homeless and those with mental health problems.

Not content with his artwork Guan is also helping the homeless at Trafalgar Square.

He is a volunteer for the Rhythms of Life charity which is feeding people in central London.

“I started in April. It keeps me busy. It has been a difficult year for people.”

And he added: “I want to feel valuable and belong to the community.”

Initially he said he saw a lot of “regulars”, but since the second lockdown he has noticed “a lot of new faces turning up".

“Some of them have lost their jobs and are first time homeless," he said.

Source: MyLondon