• Categories: 21st Century
Images of Leigh from our art and drama workshop at New Hope Trust Watford.

Images of Leigh from our art and drama workshop at New Hope Trust Watford.

My story starts in 2004, I’d been living in Bradford with another woman that I’d been with for a long time in a relationship and we were evicted. She said to me ‘Oh, they won’t evict me’ because she was actually the bionic woman, has a metal leg out of the ordinary, like a cyborg really! She’s
a lot stronger than the rest of us.

So then it was like a bombs been put on your head, we were literally on the streets, we got four giant cases, six holdalls that weigh a lot more than me. which is why I’ve got a para-umbilical hernia cause I was carrying stuff that was much too heavy, and I’m afraid that I did actually, rather embarrassingly, have to take a shopping trolley, at one stage and push it round the streets. We did sleep on the streets, literally in doorways in Westminster and then, I heard it on the radio that Barnet is helping the homeless with a Winter night shelter, so I said right we’ll go there, and we did… and even at that time, with the domestic violence, she still carried on on the streets and some of the others that we saw in the homeless day centre at the time, said ‘Why are you putting up with that Leigh?”

Well to me she keeps saying that she’s like messing around, which of course she wasn’t and like making up afterwards of course, so loving and affectionate, cause she’s not doing it everyday because I’m not landing up in hospital you don’t see it as like serious, and of course being a bit of an idiot you just let it carry on…but obviously it did carry on and it was only seven years at that time we were street homeless, but some of the time we were in a winter night shelter well I put up with it for quite a long time till July 2014 and it had been 21 and a half years .

So she didn’t even know that I’d left, she said aw Leigh you going to go round the corner and get some cigarettes and bread and milk, and I said yes I am, and I said alright I’ll see you shortly, but that day I sort of realized, right I’ve had enough of being a mug and an idiot , I said, I’m just going to not come back and it really did tear my heart out and I doubt if I’ll ever be in a relationship again, maybe in a few years time, but not at the moment.

And I thought, well it’s so important to get through to people, to really think about your life, one minute I am in a domestic violence situation cause they might not realize it neither but then you do realize and see the light.

Oh so that’s another thing, you don’t realise, she’s telling you what to do, do this do that, oh you can’t do that, what the hell do you think you’re doing? Again when you walk away you realize, what a mug and you can literally do your own thing, especially with New Hope Trust, well I’ve done farming, had a falconry day, where I fed a fantastic falcon on my arm, I just loved the Queen of Sheba, she was amazing.. I’ll certainly never forget it. And of course a taste of bricklaying course here, unfortunately because of my hand and eye I couldn’t carry on with the bricklaying. I did well though! I did actually build a level wall.

Cause when she used to keep hitting me , like literally punching I was covered in cuts and bruises, welts, I wouldn’t hit her back. So that’s when I smashed this into a chest of drawers which unfortunately was not plywood . That was Jan 1st 2010. So it’s now six years, and last August I got news that my fingers would have to be amputated…

Then my eye, I realised it was like a curtain was over it, I thought well that weird, what on earths this. Me being me I left it, and thought well it’s just one of them things. And then finally I thought well there’s no more of her saying you’re not going to no bleedin opticians cause she did tell me that at the time, you’re not going to no opticians no dentist, none of this none of that. I’m blind in my left eye because I’ve tested myself, I can’t even see light in it or anything. Anyway she tested em and she said yeah, you’re right. Your retina has detached. Now she said it you’d have left it a couple of months we could have operated. And you’d have been eyesight saved.

And now I’m writing a memoir about myself.

Extract from an interview with Leigh Van Hove, taken by Joanna Scott

I don’t care what happens
Im ready for anything

Purple stripes
Am I going to survive?
Beautiful but deadly
The powerful one
Powerful deadly
Helper and protector
Come what may
Our inner strength is phenomenal
Shedding the skin like the snake
Missed my calling in life

Scared then thoughtful, can I do it?
Been through hell
Had enough
Change everything for the better
No more nonsense
My dragon would be my guardian, lay down its life for me
Freedom yes!


Words from Leigh