We are exited to share our interview with textile designer Rachel Goldie and her friend Terry Murphy, who she met at a recovery group while trying to find someone to help on her university project. Although very different in age, they hit it off straight away and soon began to collaborate on projects. Rachel speaks about her encounter with Terry, who is a rough sleeper, and how Terry made her more aware of the massive issue of homelessness in London. Terry shares how his relationship with Rachel has made him question who he is and how their collaboration has started him on a new adventure in his life. A truly wonderful insight into how powerful and inspirational friendships can be with people who are different in age and background.They talk to The Age of No Retirement about their friendship, age, homelessness, friendship, life and what we can learn from each other.

Can you tell our readers a bit about who you are?

Rachel My name is Rachel Goldie. I recently graduated from the Royal College of Art where I completed my MA in Textile design. My work focused on the material experience of homelessness and the capacity of design to encourage empathy.

Terry Who am I? *laughs* Who am I? Just beginning to find out. I’m Terry Murphy. I’ve had a bit of a life. Rediscovering some of my talents. I’m living about six lifetimes in one.

Can you tell us a bit about your role in this project/your motivation for making it?

Rachel Homelessness is an issue which I have become increasingly aware of since moving to London. A personal encounter with a rough sleeper made me realise my own ignorance to the experience of others and motivated me to make this cause the focus of my work. There is a strong need for a shift in societal attitudes towards homelessness and I believe this change can be facilitated by developing ways to encourage understanding and empathy.

The project Made By Us was a collaboration between myself as a textiles designer and individuals who had experienced homelessness. The process involved making various objects together – a chair, a sweatshirt, a diary – that had significance and relevance to the individual, to help them re- establish and express a sense of identity following tough personal experiences.

Terry Yeah I was down at a recovery group and I met Rachel who was looking to collaborate with someone. As soon as you mentioned textiles as upholstery for furniture, which is my trade — I’m a furniture restorer, French polisher by trade —  my hand went up and we went from there. It was really, really interesting. It opened up a lot of ideas for me too.

Has this project changed how you view age?

Terry I’ve never really had a thing about age myself. I’ve always felt age is a state of mind. My mum is 81, she’s full of life and she always said you’re as young as you feel. I know people in their thirties and forties that are older than me because they are set in their ways and I don’t ever want to be like that.

"Homelessness. Does this have anything to with my age? Energy wise maybe. In my younger days I might have broken into a squat. I’ve not got the energy for that. Or to rebuild a boat. Put it this way, when I was eighteen to my mid-twenties I could rough it but not now."

Terry Murphy.

Photo by Rachel Goldie

Rachel I completely agree. I guess working so closely has made me realise that age doesn’t define our perception of the world. You can be any age and be open to new experiences and passionate to learn.

Do you think how old you are today is relevant to how you think about yourself and why?

Terry I would say with age comes a bit of wisdom. Learning to know where mistakes were made ... *laughs* Finally, knowing what roads not to go down and without being too judgmental. You have a better idea about other people and I am getting to know myself better all the time.

Rachel I don’t think my age is particularly relevant to how I think of myself. I think as a ‘millennial’ I feel positive that there is a tendency towards more liberal ideals and a fairer society. However, given our current social and economic situation we know that we're unlikely to do as well as our parents and with an increased investment in our digital selves I think this causes greater anxiety within our generation. Perhaps it encourages a redefinition of aspirational goals.

Do you think how old you are today changes how people think about you and why?

Terry Probably. People can be very judgmental. Sometimes people are surprised by my new ideas for artworks and openness to new things and actually that’s a boost for me.

Rachel Not particularly. I don’t really feel that my age affects how other people perceive me but that’s most likely because I’m in my twenties.

Is there a difference between people who know you and people who you have just met? Could you give us an example?

Terry That’s an interesting question. Recently I’ve been finding out that people that thought they knew me didn’t. I am finding a lot more about myself which is really important. As a youngster I was shy and I didn’t really fit in. In my life I’ve worn a lot of masks. Things like the alcohol used to help create a bravado which would help me in certain situations. So it’s not just strangers ... I’ve had some friends of late, not let me down as such, but they feel they don’t know me anymore. They think I am changing but I am changing because I need to.

"Lack of empathy is causing divides in our society. Whether it be across age, culture, religion, race, sexuality, gender, political affiliation ... whatever, we are struggling as a society to talk and listen to one another and that’s scary."

Rachel Goldie.

Photo by Rachel Goldie

Rachel People make assumptions and it takes time to get to know someone. I think that’s what worked to well with our project. We had an opportunity to share our skills with one another and working so closely encouraged a strong dialogue within the piece we created. There was a real building of trust and exchange of ideas and stories as the creative process developed.

What is the biggest stress in your life at the moment? Does this have anything to with how old you are?

Terry Homelessness. Does this have anything to with my age? Energy wise maybe. In my younger days I might have broken into a squat. I’ve not got the energy for that. Or to rebuild a boat. [Terry became homeless because his boat fell into a state of disrepair due to his struggle with alcoholism]. Put it this way: when I was eighteen to my mid-twenties I could rough it. There’s a difference through age there.

Rachel Finding a job I am passionate about. I know what I want to do. I’m just not sure the route to get there. It definitely has to do with my age. Having less experience. It can be challenging as a young person to get your foot in the door.

What do you think are the biggest challenges we share across all ages?

Terry Relating to each other. Without a doubt. There’s a lot of anger out there. There’s a new political movement going on. Young people have finally woken up but you can’t just write off the elderly. There’s a lot of knowledge there for young people to tap into. We need to encourage more respect. If you look at eastern cultures, they are taught from a young age to respect and care for the older people in their communities.

Rachel Yeah definitely. Lack of empathy is causing divides in our society. Whether it be across age, culture, religion, race, sexuality, gender, political affiliation ... whatever, we are struggling as a society to talk and listen to one another and that’s scary.

What can you learn from people who are older?

Terry The times that they went through to get society to where we are at now. The things they sacrificed. We owe them a lot.

"I’ve never really had a thing about age myself. I’ve always felt age is a state of mind. My mum is 81, she’s full of life and she always said you’re as young as you feel. I know people in their thirties and forties that are older than me because they are set in their ways and I don’t ever want to be like that."

Terry Murphy.

Photo by Rachel Goldie

Rachel I think what’s most important is that you never know what you are going to learn from someone. People can surprise you. The older you are, the more stories you have to tell. It’s important to listen to older people around you and to learn from their experiences. Terry shared many a tale with me in the studio.

What can you learn from people who are younger?

Rachel Younger people can encourage new ways of thinking and risk taking.

Terry Yeah. The zest and the energy. I would say, I feel they are waking up and youngsters have an awareness now that they need to get involved in politics if they want to change the way things are. I am impressed by that. They are actually reacting rather than being apathetic.

What do you think is the benefit of a society where our age does not define us?

Terry Well it would be a level playing ground. If you go into any situation and a person there has done something longer than you and has more experience, there is a natural respect there. In saying that, age should define certain characteristics such as wisdom and encourage respect.

Rachel A society where age does not define us would allow everyone to age with dignity and pride, without fear or loneliness. I agree with Terry that we need to cultivate a attitude of respect and care towards older people within our communities.

"A society where age does not define us would allow everyone to age with dignity and pride, without fear or loneliness. I agree with Terry that we need to cultivate a attitude of respect and care towards older people within our communities."

Rachel Goldie.

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