Life stories from the barber’s chair

Everyone has a story. That’s the take-home message after spending time chatting with Craig Hollywood at the RTRFM studios in Mt Lawley, where he hosts the Full Frequency program every  Tuesday afternoon.

Who better to listen to our stories than the local barber? There’s something about sitting with a total stranger as they cut your hair which allows you to open up and share some of your life. Craig  isn’t a barber; but he is one of the founding members of a new charity giving dignity to people doing it tough. Teaming up with local music producer, Ta-ku, and mates Justin Howley and James  Howe from Weston’s Barbershop in inner-city Perth, Short Back and Sidewalks is a simple idea having big impacts on the lives of people living rough on Perth’s streets.

With their hipster vibe and good-guy attitude, these ordinary lads have shown that anyone, anywhere can get up and start something to make a difference – however big or small. Working with  local community service providers, Short Back and Sidewalks gives free haircuts to people most in need. It may sound like a trivial idea, but Craig believes that the benefits of a simple haircut and  beard trim can mean much more than we could imagine to someone with no regular access to these kinds of ‘luxury’ services.

“The fact of the matter is, that in the world that we live in, first impressions are really important,” he said. “But also from a mental perspective; if someone looks good, then they feel a bit better about themselves – which is just the way that things are.”

While he recognises there can be many more pressing items of need for people, such as food and shelter, Craig wanted to work with local community service providers to help provide that extra  boost.

Brad in the Short Back and Sidewalks barber's chair.

Brad in the Short Back and Sidewalks barber’s chair.

“Service providers like UnitingCare West, the Salvation Army or St Bartholomew’s house, are obviously very, very busy trying to help people with shelter, food and clothing. But we took it upon  ourselves to give them a bit of a hand,” he said.

Over the last six months, Short Back and Sidewalks have sent out invitations to clients through agencies working with people experiencing homelessness in Perth. Clients then just turn-up at the advertised time and place for a free cut, free of judgement. Cutting events have been held in numerous locations around the city, and while this approach has worked well so far, they’ve recently decided to also offer walk-ins at Weston’s Barbershop. On a specified day of the week, Weston’s will provide free haircuts using donations from the public. Donations of $20 will go directly to  providing one free haircut. There are also dreams in the pipeline to eventually expand and offer services to female clients as well.

Working as a civil designer to pay the bills, Craig said that he’s always wanted to do something with his life that was helping out those less fortunate. After volunteering briefly at The Shopfront, a drop-in-centre in Maylands run by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Perth, he decided he wanted to do something that created more interaction with people and helped to break stereotypes.  With inspiration from Melbourne based street barber, Nasir Sobhani, and after some conversation with mates and massive support from local creative services such as Juice Box marketing and  photographers, Ian and Erik Regnard, Short Back and Sidewalks was born.

Craig said that one of the best parts of being involved with the charity is getting to know people he would otherwise have no opportunity of meeting, and hearing their stories. Clients are all invited  to appear on the Short Back and Sidewalks website to share a bit about themselves.

“Hopefully that humanises people and makes people look and realise, hang on a minute, this guy might be what they would consider to be a street sleeper or whatever, but this person also likes Cat  Stevens, or this person  also really enjoys eating a mud crab salad, or this person also really would like to tell people about the fact that he’s a twin,” Craig said.

“Just because you’ve got no money doesn’t mean you haven’t got a story.

“I just think that everyone deserves a fair chance. A lot of these people, that’s all they really want; is for someone to sit and talk to them for ten minutes. And that doesn’t cost anything.”


Heather Dowling

Top image: Warren, receiving a free cut from Short Back and Sidewalks. Photo credit: Ta-ku

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