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How painting talent saved former drug addict from the streets

After years of homelessness in Victoria, Geraldine Crimmins rediscovered her passion for art

10 August, 2018 — By Samantha Booth

Geraldine Crimmins: ‘I couldn’t hear when I was on drugs’ 

ARTIST Geraldine Crimmins becomes emotional reflecting on her remarkable progress over the past 10 years.

“I never thought I’d be here, I cry thinking about it,” said the 60-year-old.

Ms Crimmins has been on a life journey, having become addicted to crack twice and lost her home and her job.

After an intervention she went clean for eight years and now works as an addictions counsellor.

However, after a breakdown in her mental health she then relapsed, describing what happened next as “mayhem”.

“I was homeless for about two years, on and off, sofa surfing around Victoria,” she said.

“And then I got mugged, I ended up in hospital. I nearly died and I got discitis of the spine, and then that got me into the system.”

She spent the next four years in bed and breakfast before getting a flat but suffered with severe leg ulcers, tuberculosis and hepatitis C.

“In the beginning it’s very glamorous [taking drugs], you have loads of money and you’re spewing all your money and everyone wants to be your friend. After a while then you just crash. I just wasn’t really equipped to deal with that street life. I did deal with it and I survived. I cry when I say this but I sat there and said to my father, ‘God help me’.”

Then during a spell in prison, she was forced to detox and read a book about spirituality.

She said: “People say that you have an epiphany and it’s true. I have never used since, 10 years ago. I couldn’t hear when I was on drugs, but when the drugs cleared, I could hear, and then I got well.”

While in prison for a drug offence Ms Crimmins reignited a passion for art, something she had not explored since her A-levels. She sold her first painting, a nude, for about £70, which spurred her on to keep exploring her talent.

“I thought people like what I do, I must develop this,” she said. “It was really such a huge turning point for me when someone wanted to buy something of mine.”

Ms Crimmins, who still suffers from health conditions and lives off Abbey Road in Westminster, has since exhibited and won awards for her skilled portraits across London. She is currently the third artist-in-residence at Old Diorama Arts Centre, in Camden, while also volunteering for homeless organisations, Crisis and Cafe Art.

Until September 22 her work will be on display at Outpost, a social enterprise shop and gallery for the Peter Bedford Housing Association (PBHA) in Holloway Road. Paintings will be on sale from £70 to £600.

Lorna Coxall, a co-ordinator at the shop, said: “PBHA is delighted to provide a platform for  Geraldine at Outpost, showcasing her artwork and celebrating her achievements in our Big Lottery-funded Supporting Makers programme. Her journey of recovery is an  inspiration, which we’re proud to share with the local community.”

• To see more of Ms Crimmins work, visit geraldinecrimmins.co.uk

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