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Human stories of homelessness in Norwich to come to the stage

The panel debate which launched the Norwich Theatre Royal's homelessness Creative Matters season.  From left to right, Dr Jan Sheldon, chief executive of St Martins Housing, Rob Lancaster, advice services manager at the Mancroft Advice Project, Stephen Crocker, chief executive of the theatre, Michael Newey, chief executive of Broadland Housing Group, chief inspector Sonia Humphreys, of Norfolk police, and Gail Harris, deputy leader of Norwich City Council. Photo: Lauren Cope

The panel debate which launched the Norwich Theatre Royal's homelessness Creative Matters season. From left to right, Dr Jan Sheldon, chief executive of St Martins Housing, Rob Lancaster, advice services manager at the Mancroft Advice Project, Stephen Crocker, chief executive of the theatre, Michael Newey, chief executive of Broadland Housing Group, chief inspector Sonia Humphreys, of Norfolk police, and Gail Harris, deputy leader of Norwich City Council. Photo: Lauren Cope

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The human stories of homelessness are set to be brought to the stage in a month-long focus led by the Norwich Theatre Royal.

The theatre kicked off its first Creative Matters season of 2019 on Friday, one of a series of programmes of performance, films and discussions focusing on one social issue.

On Friday, a seminar was held to launch the season, including a panel with six speakers who talked about issues that have exacerbated rough sleeping, and ways to address it.

During the debate, Rob Lancaster, advice services manager for the Mancroft Advice Project, said: “I have being doing this work for 20 years and it has always been possible to get people into private rented accommodation if they were on a low income, and that’s become increasingly unaffordable.

“That option is becoming more and more closed to people.”

Michael Newey, chief executive of Broadland Housing, said that making sure everyone could afford somewhere to live had not been a governmennt priority.

MORE: New season at Norwich venue puts gender and sexual identity issues centre stage

Dr Jan Sheldon, chief executive of St Martins Housing, Stephen Crocker, chief executive of the theatre, Gail Harris, deputy leader of Norwich City Council, and Sonia Humphreys, chief inspector in Norwich, also sat on the panel.

Chief insp Humphreys said it was vital that preventative work was undertaken to stop issues escalating.

The new season will feature a range of events, including the play Street Life, which explores the reality of life for rough sleepers in Norfolk.

Street Life will be brought to the stage on February 27 and 28 and will feature stories of those who have experienced homelessness.

It has been created by Norfolk playwright James McDermott, who said he could not understand why homelessness was still a problem in the UK.

“Whatever we’re told by politicians and media, the UK is a very rich country in which so much money is wasted on sports star salaries, bankers’ bonuses or opening more chain shops,” he said. “As this is the case, the fact we seemingly can’t afford to house everybody baffles me.”

He said he hoped the play would help people understand and reassess how they perceive homelessness.

The season, which is sponsored by Broadland Housing Group, will also include:

• On Friday, February 8, author Kerry Hudson will talk about her book Lowborn, which is due to be published in May and revisits her childhood in some of Britain’s most deprived towns.

• On Friday, February 15, play What Goes On In Front of Closed Doors, which enjoyed a critically-acclaimed run at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, will tell the story of Molly, who loses her home.

• On Tuesday, February 19 there will be a screening of the film A Street Cat Named Bob, which tells the story of young homeless busker James Bowen who strikes up a friendship with a stray ginger cat.

• There will also be an exhibition of paintings by Norwich University of the Arts graduate Devin Smith, who created portraits of homeless people around the city.

• Street Life will premier on February 27 and 28.

• For information on the season and to book, click here.

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