- Date: 1 May 2014
- Area: North
The Booth Street Drama Group. Credit: Courtesy Royal Exchange Theatre
The Royal Exchange Theatre, an Arts Council National portfolio organisation, recently hosted a national one day event to discuss poverty and theatre in partnership with the Booth Centre, a support service for homeless people. Backstage? Me? was held on Friday 11 April offering the opportunity for debate and discussion and shared intelligence learned through the project with other homeless charities, arts organisations, practitioners and social change professionals. The outcomes of the event will form the basis of a Good Practice Guide for organisations available later this year.
Speaking at the event, Tony Lloyd, Greater Manchester Police and Crime Commissioner mentioned the high rates of success when homeless participants are encouraged to pursue personal development opportunities through performance activities. He referred to evidence from current theatre projects engaging homeless people as proof that arts participation and creative adult education improves the chances of homeless people finding stable accommodation, employment opportunities and qualifications and helps to build confidence.
For the past five years the Booth Centre and the Royal Exchange Theatre have been working together on a number of projects, and the two organisations are now coming to the end of the Theatre's Community Leader programme. As a result of their participation and the support of the Booth Centre, 80 homeless people have now moved to more stable accommodation and 20 who were at risk of losing their homes have been helped to maintain a home. A further six have moved into paid employment and 46 have gained a new qualification.
Fiona Gasper, Executive Director of the Royal Exchange Theatre, said: 'We have been working with the Booth Centre for the past five years, using theatre processes and practice as creative tools to develop the social and personal skills of homeless adults. Over the course of the programme we have seen first-hand the value that this work has for the participants. As an organisation we believe that giving people opportunities to realise their creative potential and to express themselves is fundamental to personal development, and the partnership with the Booth Centre has been all about that.'
At the event, Homeless Link, a national charity supporting people and organisations working directly with homeless people in England, published a paper recommending continued investment in arts projects for homeless people. The Get Creative: Art For All publication calls for organisations to embrace the arts and creative projects, thinking innovatively about ways to inspire change in homeless people and move away from traditional methods of support.
Backstage? Me? was delivered in partnership by the Booth Centre and the Royal Exchange Theatre with contributions from Homeless Link, Streetwise Opera, Liverpool's Collective Encounters, Cardboard Citizens, The Performance Ensemble, Hidden Voices in Wigan, Rochdale's Digital Sparks and Life's a Stage in Lancaster.
More information about the day can be found on this Storify link.