Lora, David and Matt: With One Voice. Credit: Alan Kerr
In March 2018, then AD of charity Streetwise Opera (STWO), Matt Peacock MBE wrote this blog, introducing With One Voice (WOV), the international arts and homelessness movement (WOV).
Two years later, WOV is now a co-produced, independent charity with 50% of its staff and board people who are or have been homeless. Days before the launch of one of its biggest projects – the Cultural Spaces’ Responses to Homelessness Programme – producers Lora Krasteva and David Tovey explain how the Programme supports venues to deepen their access and work with people who are or have been homeless.
David: I’m from a working-class background, joined the Army at 16, became a chef and a business owner. At the age of 36 I lost it all after a stroke, this led to a multitude of illnesses including HIV, alcoholism, depression, attempted suicide and a complete breakdown. Lost my home and moved into my car. I became homeless.
This was back in 2013, since then I’ve become an artist and founded the One Festival of Homeless Arts and met Matt who offered me a job last year, over lunch, with a blank job description we co-created together. I am now WOV’s Creative Producer.
Lora: I am a theatre maker, producer and immigrant. I came to London to finish my studies in 2011 and when it was time to “go back”, I had nowhere to go. After many trials and tribulations, I joined Streetwise Opera in 2017 and when WOV became independent in April 2019, I became its Executive Producer.
David and I co-lead the Cultural Spaces’ Responses to Homelessness Programme. It comprises an international report, offering examples of what people around the world are doing; a free toolkit (downloadable on 19th March) of practical advice on how and where to start and a paid-for training. We work across the organisation, from building FoH teams’ confidence and skills to talking with management to ensure policies reflect their commitment.
The training and toolkit were co-designed with partners Museum of Homelessness and tested at our flagship venues Manchester Museum and Tate Modern.
David: At the heart of the Programme is the idea that arts is a human right (Article 27 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights). This is translated in WOV’s advocacy model, “The Jigsaw of Homeless Support”. We believe arts and creativity need to be part of this – so people can thrive, not just survive.
I really love seeing how engaged the people in the venues we are working with are. Being someone who used to be that person to be turned away when going into a cultural space, I find it quite amazing to now be the one who is instigating change. It’s intimidating but amazing.
Lora: I’ve often worked in theatre spaces, both at FoH level and in the office. I know first-hand how people in our industry want to do more and I want to support that. Theatre has been a real home away from home for me, I have found family in theatre and those things are so important in people’s recovery…
In a time when people are more and more divided, it’s so important to have places where you can come together, for a cuppa or a show or to look at something beautiful. Or just be.
David: The cultural sector is doing a lot already; we are just highlighting how they can put a cherry on the top of it. It’s inspiring how many are contacting us and how it doesn’t feel tokenistic – people actually want real change. Cultural Spaces have a big role to play in becoming real community hubs, engaging with all parts of society so than there is no more “us and them”!
If you agree or are intrigued, you should come to our Programme launch! It will be on 19 March at Manchester Art Gallery from 1pm. You will be able to hear more about how this came about, what is in the training and how to use the toolkit.
See you there?!
For more information and (free) tickets to the Cultural Spaces’ Responses to Homelessness Programme Launch on 19th March click here.
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