Homeless People find a voice at the Olympics

7 Nov 2011 01:56 PM

Award-winning charity Streetwise Opera will be presenting an Open Mic Showcase during the London 2012 Festival to platform the skills of 200 performers who have experienced homelessness from all over the UK and abroad.

The event, With One Voice will be hosted by the Royal Opera House in the Paul Hamlyn Hall and is being organised in partnership with the Gulbenkian Foundation and Homeless Link who want to ensure homeless people were involved at the heart of London 2012. This will be the first time in Olympic history that homeless people have been given an official platform. 

Arts groups who work with homeless people such as Cardboard Citizens, the Choir with No Name, Open Cinema and Streetwise Opera will take 5-10 minute slots throughout the day to sing, present drama work, poetry and to screen films. Newer homeless choirs, theatre groups as well as solo singers, poets and instrumentalists from around the UK will also be given the opportunity to perform. The evening will culminate in all performers and the audience coming together to sing a newly-commissioned work by world-renowned composer Gavin Bryars.
Matching the ethos of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, the event will also profile the work of homeless people internationally. Throughout the day audiences will watch pre-recorded performances on film from international groups such as the Choir of Hope and Inspiration in Melbourne and Musubi in Osaka. 
The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson said:
"The Olympic and Paralympic Games offer a unique platform to celebrate a vast range of talents and I am proud that for the first time this will include those who have been homeless at some point in their lives. As we strive to end rough sleeping in London, it is important that we recognise and champion the creativity of those who have experienced life on the streets, which is precisely what Streetwise Opera and its fantastic programme of events seeks to do.’
Ruth Mackenzie, Director of Cultural Olympiad said:
"The creative contribution of homeless people is inspiring and it is important to respect and celebrate their achievements. We are thrilled to be working with Streetwise Opera, the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation and Homeless Link."
Christopher, a Streetwise Opera performer said:
"Streetwise Opera has helped to broaden my horizons, given me a new perspective and developed my skills. This event is a really good opportunity and it will help to raise the profile of homelessness. I wanted to be part of the Olympics in some way but I didn’t know how it was going to happen so I’m pleased to have this chance."
This ground-breaking performance event will give a voice to homeless people – a group who are often ignored and side-lined. It will be a chance to raise awareness about homelessness to a global audience and shine a light onto the achievements and skills of hundreds of homeless people on the world’s biggest stage. 
For the performers involved who have experienced homelessness it will also raise confidence, self-esteem, skills and social networks. The arts is now a recognized part of the support of homeless people and Streetwise Opera’s evaluation has shown that building confidence and skills has resulted in 60% of performers experiencing tangible changes in their lives such as re-establishing family contacts and finding paid employment.
Homeless performing arts groups and individuals can apply to be part the event from December 2011 – details will be published on www.with1voice.org.uk and will be advertised through the homeless sector.