Building up to HOME: Arts and Homelessness
We are now four months away from Coventry’s first arts and homelessness festival and exciting plans are taking shape. The festival is being supported by the wonderful Arts and Homelessness International and their ethos of co-production has been integral to the foundation and working practices of the festival steering group, which consists of people working and participating in the arts and homelessness sector, fifty percent of whom have lived experience of homelessness. Co-production is about working with and not speaking for those who are or have been homeless and this will be the case from the initial design of the festival to its delivery. It values the fact that everyone has skills and experience to contribute and the festival is all about giving those who are or have been homeless agency. The festival is a chance to celebrate and showcase the arts and creativity happening in the city from theatre to visual art to photography, music, shadow puppetry and poetry. It recognises that opportunities for those who are or have been homeless to be involved in art and creativity is not just about the contribution this can make to improved well-being, social connections and resilience – it produces great art!
As a member of the festival steering group, I find the meetings inclusive, fun and energising. We are getting to know each other, and every session begins with an ice-breaker when we learn a bit more – favourite foods, what superhero we’d like to be and what colour we are feeling like. We also have creative slots that have involved everything from creating a story word by word to drawing self-portraits. The rest of the time is spent discussing and planning for the festival – how do we want it to run, what do we hope to achieve, what should the visual identity of the festival be and how can we work with other events happening in the city such as the St Basil’s sleepout in the ruins of Coventry Cathedral to coincide with World Homelessness Day? Although we have been restricted to Zoom meetings the energy and passion for what we are doing jumps from the screens. There is a lot of negativity around homelessness and those who are or have been homelessness. We are determined that the festival will challenge perceptions and shine a light on art and creativity that deserves to be seen and heard.
Professor of Theatre and Perfomance, University of Warwick.