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During the afternoon sessions of the Backstage? Me? national event, attention was focussed on the variety of other arts-based approaches used when working with homeless individuals. Find out more about the practice of our Backstage? Me? partners below.

document The Dukes Theatre (Lancaster) and Lancaster and District Homeless Action Service
document Digital Sparks: Community Arts North West (CAN) and Petrus (Rochdale)
document Streetwise Opera
document Collective Encounters
document Homeless Link


Whilst developing the Backstage? Me? national event and online resource, it became apparent that there were two distinct communities whose voices were missing in the building blocks of the partnership and in the case studies from partner organisations: women who have experienced homelessness and young people who have experienced homelessness. We wondered why the Booth Centre drama group was largely male / aged over 35, and started to reflect on why there weren’t more women or young men participating.

The low numbers of women accessing the Booth Centre isn’t because women don’t experience homelessness. Instead, we believe it is more to do with the nature of the service and provision that is required (for example women who are homeless have often experienced domestic violence). 40 years on since the groundbreaking film Cathy Come Home, homeless women continue to endure traumatic homelessness situations and experiences. As Alexia Murphy, Director of New Business and lead on Women's Strategy at St Mungos, stated in The Guardian: "Homeless services are predominantly developed by and for men, because they make up the majority of clients. The women we work with often enter services at a much later stage than men, and when their problems have become more severe and enduring." For further information and examples of good practice in this field please refer to the Rebuilding Shattered Lives campaign (a national 18 month campaign to raise awareness of women’s homelessness).

One example of a Manchester-based organisation who provide services for women is The Pankhurst Centre - a women only space that provides a unique environment in which women can learn together, work on projects and socialise. The Royal Exchange have been working with The Pankhurst Centre since 2012 - read more about the partnership document here .

Young Men
Generally speaking men under 25 who are at risk of homelessness in Manchester don’t access the Booth Centre but instead engage with the Men’s Room (an arts and social care agency that works creatively with young men). This is partly due to the provision of the City Centre Project by the YPSF which works with young people experiencing homelessness, but is also linked to the circumstances of sex working and maintaining confidentially.

The Royal Exchange have been working with the Men's Room since 2011 - read more about the partnership  document here .

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"As we moved into the final year of the partnership with the Booth Centre, we were keen to consolidate the achievements of the previous two years by raising the stakes for the participants and ourselves. In the planning process we looked to shift the way we worked, largely for creative and artistic reasons.

There was a sense that the partnership had achieved one of its original objectives of successfully introducing drama and theatre as a valid platform of expression for the participants. The time felt right to raise our expectation of what the theatre outcome could be, with regard to content and quality, and how it may have a socio/political agenda that encourages the audience to look beyond the identity of the participants and absorb the message of the work in a satirical way.

We established some key changes for the project: the Producer would give dramaturgical support to the lead practitioner for the script; the script would aim to satirise both society’s views of the homeless and the inherently absurd notion of placing participants into the restrictive world of rehearsals, call times, and performances; and, to introduce a smaller performance group of more developed participants to compliment the ensemble.

As we moved closer to the outcome, we reinforced these raised expectations with a commitment to having a strict framework to operate in (including an enhanced role for the Stage Manager). The formal structure of technical and dress rehearsal schedules proved to be beneficial for the participants with the strict guidelines proving a positive contrast to their often chaotic lives."

Chris Wright, Producer (Creative Industry Experience)


"Without The Aid Of A Net [the final performance piece which was presented as part of the Backstage? Me? national event] was written with the actors from the Booth Centre in mind, and was very much created for that particular purpose, for those individuals and for a particular moment. Some of the performers had been involved in the partnership for 5 years, so were experienced members of the ensemble, and some had not been involved for so long. The script provided a structure for the players to work together - both in rehearsal and performance - and as a result it shouldn't be viewed as an abstract piece of writing, but as a piece of drama containing the personalities of those who performed it. It is included in the online resource with that in mind - as a reference point - rather than an off the shelf script."

Janine Waters (lead drama practitioner)


pdf Without The Aid Of A Net Script

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Next steps for the Booth Centre and Royal Exchange Theatre partnership.

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This online resource has been produced by the Royal Exchange Theatre and the Booth Centre, written by Ben Turner (Community Programme Leader) and Gerri Moriarty (project evaluator) with contributions from Janine Waters (lead drama practitioner).

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During year two of the Community Leader Programme (September 2012 - 2013) the Progression Group started focusing more and more on the use of games in drama practice and why we play them.

In year two this included working together with young people from the Theatre’s Young Company to deliver a workshop for an open day and in year three the Progression Group worked with students from Manchester Metropolitan Uuniversity and Salford University. In addition to each member of the group choosing a game that they could lead / deliver, time was spent looking at why we play games, how we play games and what games are best suited to which occasion.

“Games enable you to switch off from the outside world and focus on the moment”
Booth Centre participant


pdf Notes from the Progression Group sessions about games  (why we play games, how we play games and what games are suited for which purposes)

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