Manchester Creative Residency - Final Sharing

Posted on: 14 April 2016

Written by: Molly

Cardboard Citizens' Creative Residency in Manchester culminated with a final Forum Theatre performance to the community on Friday 8th April at Z-Arts. Performed by and about young homeless people in the North West, 'Changes, Destiny, Choices, Voices' gave the audience the chance to hear their stories, get involved and change the outcome in order to work out what can be done to improve the situation as a community.

The piece was the final product of our creative residency project in Manchester, which saw Cardboard Citizens work with St. Vincent's Blackburn with Darwen Foyer and Manchester Foyer to bring together local young people who are homeless or at-risk of homelessness and develop a performance based directly on their experiences, exploring the issues, challenges and preconceptions faced on a daily basis. 

Performed as part of St Vincents’ Over2You project, 58 attendees came from all over the North West to enjoy the performance, including local artists, homeless and vulnerable residents, and social sector staff. This has not only helped to draw awareness to issues around homelessness in the area, but has also expanded access to the arts and strengthened vulnerable communities more widely.You can read more about our creative residency in Manchester in Big Issue North here.

We are hugely proud of what we have achieved with our first creative residency in Manchester, and want to extend a huge thanks to all those involved. Our final sharing was very well received by audience members, and we have had excellent feedback from our young participants - some of which were able to receive a PEARL employability and reflective learning qualification during their time working with us. We now hope to develop an ongoing workshop project in Manchester. Our next creative residency project will be in Peterborough in the very near future - watch this space! 

Please enjoy two summary blog posts from Kayleigh Hawkins, Freelance theatre practitioner currently working with Unity Theatre, Liverpool and Member of Open Exchange, and Kerry Norridge, one of our Trainee Facilitators.

Kayleigh Hawkins' reflections:

It's all over... Well for now at least and what an incredible experience it has been. I have learnt so much in this process. With quite rightly a lot of distrust for government in the room from young people, service providers and practitioners alike it has been affecting to think about a man who got arrested because he refused to not practice what he was preaching. This is not theatre to look pretty, to comfort or theorise over this is real and it makes a real difference. Boal talks of ‘crisis’ in scene’s with the Chinese definition; danger and opportunity. There is not one without the other. I believe this is true for the characters but for the process itself.

The last few days were filled with huge leaps forward in confidence, professionalism and acting craft. Terry's calm is infectious and before anyone knew it they had convincingly embodied another persons story, performed and improvised in front of a large audience of people and faced an abundance of fears and challenges. The performances were brilliant and everyone was elated at the end. I have been reminded of not only the power of forum but also the possibilities theatre can give to a young or vulnerable person who has already decided or had it decided for them who the are and what they can achieve. There is still a misguided idea out there that drama and theatre is a luxury. I saw heads rise, eye contact made, respect earned and a desire to be well presented created. If that's not preparing young people to work and be who they can be in the world, I don't know what is.

Kerry Norridge' reflections:

Alongside last years Forum tour of Benefit, Cardboard Citizens ran workshops up and down the country in some of the hostels and community spaces that Benefit was visiting. This year we’re back running longer residencies, working with hostel residents alongside local arts practitioners, creating short Forum Theatre plays that develop from the stories and issues shared, culminating in a public showing. For this first residency we’ve spent two weeks at St. Vincent’s Foyer, Manchester, a young persons hostel we visited last year.

It was great to see a couple of familiar faces from last year, keen to be involved in this longer project, and the rest new to us - some from St. Vincent’s, others from Blackburn and Bolton. So in the room were Cardboard Citz, local theatre practitioners who were shadowing and supporting, hostel staff and young people from different hostels…. lots of people new to each other, making for a tentative start. However, it never fails to delight how through the process of making a piece of theatre much can change and so much good is brought. Yes these young people are vulnerable and needing support (aren’t we all), but we see them demonstrate strength - resilience, courage, openness, empathy, and after a great performance by them at ZArts much joy. New friendships were forged and a positive chapter in their story written. An inspiring two weeks!


With thanks to

Arts Council England Lottery funded