Medium and message

How a coalition of housing charities got actors to put on a play to raise awareness of homelessness

Voices From The Edge, a play that tells the stories of eight homeless people, was performed in 60 theatres during Poverty & Homelessness Action Week in early February as part of a campaign to bring the reality of homelessness and poverty to a wider audience. Housing Justice, Scottish Churches Housing Action and Church Action on Poverty worked with campaign group Actors for Human Rights to stage the play. Forty members of AHR took part, including former EastEnders actor Louise Jameson and Simon Callow, who starred in the film Shakespeare In Love.

The play was written by Christine Bacon, director of Actors for Human Rights, and was based on interviews with homeless people. Professional performances took place across the country and the script was made available to download from www.actionweek.org.uk so that volunteer groups could stage their own productions.The coalition has not confirmed whether any amateur productions have taken place, but the script has been downloaded more than 1,000 times.

"We wanted to bring the subject out of the shadows," says Alison Gelder, chief executive of Housing Justice. "Having your story performed by an actor is easier than telling it yourself."

Leaflets and posters advertising the performances were distributed in theatres across the country. Callow appeared in The Times talking about the play and members of Housing Justice were interviewed by BBC Radio 4.

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