Theatre Royal have worked with services and communities that offer support to homeless people since 2015 – developing a programme of opportunities to engage and enhance the cultural experience of homeless people. This has ranged from ticketing opportunities at Theatre Royal to delivering workshops in; photography, visual art, writing for theatre and acting, attending rehearsals and meeting cast and directors of visiting productions to unpick the creative process.
‘A process of discovery based on acceptance of self, others and self-expression. I like it because it’s so so exciting … so encouraging to see people grow and to stretch their own boundaries…How adventurous we can be…and the creative qualities that are within them…The benefits are about discovering a positivity within one-self and the breadth of expression we are capable of with awareness and without fear of being wrong’.
The work generated through these relationships has appeared on the theatre’s main stage in the production by the Community Company, The More Things Change, led by Lucinda Meredith and Danusia Iwaszko. This production explores the saying “the more things change, the more they remain the same” in relation to themes brought to the devising process by participants including; homelessness, addiction, poverty, women’s rights and domestic violence and performed on the theatre’s main stage in its 200th anniversary year. The play became a celebration of the people and the work of the theatre in the community.
‘Through this process we have met and worked alongside extraordinary individuals in positions of influence and power from town leaders to funders – as well as extraordinary individuals who have felt without power. The opportunities we have created through the arts engagement have been inspiring for all involved.‘
In November 2018, Theatre Royal took the work made with homeless communities to With One Voice – International Arts and Homelssness Summit and Festival in Manchester. Here we presented the theatre’s work with homeless communities in rural Suffolk to an international audience of 250 delegates from 15 countries. We presented a short performance of two monologues developed through our work with The Bury Drop In – performed by Howard Saddler and a photographic exhibition. We facilitated World Café style conversations, focusing on “Arts and Hidden Homelessness – from rural communities to people leaving care and people living in squats”, and drew on our experience of working with young homeless people in Bury through the YMCA and hostels. The summit was a great opportunity for us to learn from our peers across the globe and share our approaches to arts, culture and its relationship to the jigsaw of support that can wrap around homeless people.
‘You have helped us to enable a group of people to experience the wonder of theatre and music who might otherwise not be afforded these opportunities. For one person it was his first visit to the theatre and he was completely overwhelmed by the wonder of it all. For another, it was his return to a theatre that he performed in as a young man and the back stage tour you gave us following the show was a very moving experience for him, and also for us as we witnessed just how much this meant to him.’
– Wintercomfort Staff