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Arts, Creativity & Homelessness

Home - part of the 2021 Arts and Homelessness festival

Project lead: Professor Nadine Holdsworth (Theatre and Performance Studies)

Project dates: 2019 - Present

Funding: This body of work has been funded via various schemes including, the University City of Culture Partnership Seed Funding Calls and Coventry Creates Partnership Funding Call (University of Warwick and Coventry University), the University of Warwick's Research Development Fund, the University of Warwick's Arts and Humanities Impact Fund, the University of Warwick Getting Creative with Sustainability Funding Call.

In a body of place-based research spanning over four years, Professor Nadine Holdsworth (Theatre and Performance Studies) explores how arts and creativity can contribute to health and wellbeing, equality and social justice.

This research uses arts to engage with those who are homeless or those who have experienced it within the city of Coventry, and examines how creativity and co-production can enhance self-confidence and social connections and, ultimately, help to change policy and perceptions.

This evolving body of work has led to an exciting new collaboration with the Don Calabria Institute in Rome, for a project titled Comprendere l'homelessness. This project will develop an Italian version of the 2020 Understanding Homelessness: A Creative Toolkit.

Homeless monopoly board game

Homeless Monopoly

‘Homeless Monopoly’ is a prototype board game featuring real life testimonies and scenarios of people who have experienced homelessness in the area.

Players explore the Coventry-based board, gathering resources and dealing with real-world scenarios such as addiction, abuse and severe weather in order to get the key to their own home.

The game was piloted with local schools, Universities and Coventry City Council with the aim of raising awareness and encouraging empathy towards the issues faced by Coventry’s homeless and street sleepers.

This project was co-developed with Dr Jackie Calderwood from the Disruptive Media Learning Lab, Coventry University, and involved a collaboration with Coventry Cyrenians charity.

Homeless creative toolkit cover

Understanding Homelessness: a creative toolkit

In 2020, a creative toolkit was developed as a resource for voluntary organisations, youth groups and schools, exploring the context of homelessness and the support available. It includes discussion points and a range of exercises encouraging creativity to explore homelessness through writing, art and drama.

As part of Coventry Creates, Holdsworth collaborated with artist Frances Yeung to develop illustrations for the toolkit, and Frances responded to the themes explored in the toolkit with a timelapse piece.

Arts & Homelessness in Coventry Report

Arts & Homelessness in Coventry

As part of City of Culture 2021, the HOME: Arts and Homelessness festival was a celebration of arts and homelessness projects in the city, co-produced by those who have experienced homelessness.

A research report was produced by Professor Nadine Holdsworth and Jennifer Version. Based on three years of study, the report aims to and re-position how arts and creativity can change perceptions, policy and outcomes for those who are or have been homeless in Coventry.

Taking the Lead

This project explored the work of Underground Lights, a member-led community theatre organisation run by and for people experiencing homelessness and/or mental health issues.

Researchers tracked weekly creative workshops run over 12 weeks (April - July 2022) at the Belgrade Theatre with Underground Lights members exploring themes of community, compassion and connection.

Data gathering techniques and analysis included participant observation, semi-structured interviews and creative methods of documenting events including diary entries and photography.

The project culminated in a shared informal performance, discussion and creative evaluation document. The final report “Taking the Lead” has been widely distributed amongst Underground Lights staff and members to help articulate their approach and impact.

Underground Lights performance
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