Cardboard Citizens National Residencies – Manchester (shorter version)

Two short stories for you this afternoon. Essentially, they’re based on
true-life experiences. Everybody you see appearing on stage today
has had some experience of homelessness. – What’s it got to do with you?
– He’s my mate. – Well, you’d better back off…
– What you doing? Put that down. Anything else that Andy
could have done differently? Any services that he might have gone to that meant that he didn’t end up
on the street at the end of his story? What you gonna do? As you watch the story, just ask yourself
what would you have done in his situation? You’re the one sanctioning me! Cardboard Citizens is doing a series
of forum theatre residency projects across the country, bringing together residents, clients
and staff from housing and homeless organisations. In Manchester, we work with
St Vincent’s Housing Association, who brought together
the homeless young people and staff from Manchester and Blackburn Forums. We also invited three
theatre practitioners from Manchester Royal Exchange
Open Exchange Network to shadow the project. It’s a fantastic way to get people involved. It brings out all kinds of talents
that people didn’t know they had. It opens doors for them.
It gives them opportunities. Have you seen him? He’s nothing! They’ve had lots of not-so-good
experiences in their lives and they may suffer with low self-esteem
and lack of confidence. What they’ve been able to do
through this project is explore their feelings
and explore their experiences. Cheers, love. Thanks(!) The aim of each project
is to provide an opportunity for the young people to share their stories and identify some of the barriers
that are stopping them from either moving on
into independent living, to entering work
or entering further education. Why did you think getting a house was easy? When you look at these kids, they’re enjoying it, they’re developing they’re learning things like empathy,
confidence, how to talk to each other, how to have a presence in a room –
those really important things. I’ve had to interact with complete
strangers that I’ve never met before and I felt completely comfortable
talking to them. Friendships have actually
come out of this. It can get people,
especially young people, it can get them out of their shells. It can show you
the true person underneath. Through theatre you can actually channel
what your feelings are. So, yeah, it’s very useful. I’m getting quite a lot –
socialising with other people, confidence in myself, and all the different skills
that come with it like time-keeping. You’re 20 minutes late.
You reek of alcohol… Being in the project’s enabled me
to learn new skills and it enabled me to think that I can
actually do stuff if I put my mind to it. The only thing that was stopping me was me from getting up in front of that
audience and doing that performance. I liked it when you stood up to him. The character Liam was stopping
on his friend’s sofa. I’ve been in the same situation where
I’ve had to sofa-surf for a little while because you’ve got no way
of bringing money in. That’s where things get tensioned
and the atmosphere gets horrible. You end up getting kicked out
because you can’t stay for that long. That was one scene
that definitely related to me. Woo! The performance provides an opportunity to share the issues and stories
with a wider audience, raising the awareness about the issues
young people face and discussing as a community
the potential solutions. Getting you to think about how you would
react, you take that home with you. You’re putting yourself
in those situations. Where in the story was it possible for Liam to have done something different? It’s very positive. You get to look at
all the options in a calm, peaceful way. Also you’ve got that release of anger –
you can use that through acting. I wanted to ring the Jobcentre… It was really good for services
that were invited to see what we see and how situations can develop where young people can end up potentially
being homeless, street homeless. If you can get the right audience in and get them to see what happens
with these people on the ground, you could do amazing things with this. I’d never heard of forum theatre
before I took this course. Every single day I’ve learned something
new from it. I was so nervous at the beginning, but once
I’d met everyone and we started doing it, it was the best experience ever –
I’d do it again in a heartbeat. (CHEERS AND APPLAUSE) The projects can be accredited
with the PEARL qualification, which looks at social skills,
communication, employability and reflecting learning. The PEARL qualification, I think, will
improve my chances in finding employment. I think getting that qualification’s
really helped. Before I started,
I didn’t know what I wanted to do. That’s why it’s helped me,
it’s helped my anxiety, my depression because it’s given me a better outlook
on life completely. The forum theatre helped me get out
the negative energies that I had. Such as anger. Anger was a big one.
Massive, massive problem in my life. Meeting new people,
socialising in places that I never would. I’m a totally different person. I’m joining the Fire Service,
the Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service. In the past, I would have never thought
I’d be a teacher. I didn’t have the confidence to do it
and now I’ve got this new-found confidence. I’ve applied what I’ve learned from there
to everything else I do. Prince’s Trust being one.
Employment being another. At the moment, I’ve just started a course
with the Open University studying to become a personal trainer. A lot of people would find forum theatre
a really good way of surfacing emotions. It was a really good experience
and I recommend it to anyone. Even if you’re not thinking about it,
definitely do it – it changes you a lot! It’s been an amazing experience
and it’s one that I wouldn’t have done. I’m glad I had the opportunity to do it
and that I did it. Cardboard Citizens does exist
and get yourself involved. If it can make me feel the way
I do with the problems I have, I’m sure it can work for other people.

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