Introducing GM Legislative Theatre – meet the team

Creative policy change on homelessness with GMHAN and GMCA.

Greater Manchester Homelessness Action Network (GMHAN) is thrilled to announce that the upcoming GM Homelessness Prevention Strategy will be co-produced in 2020 and beyond, using a creative and participatory policy-making strategy called Legislative Theatre. This community-led process is the result of a collaborative effort by the GMHAN, and funded and co-designed by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority’s homelessness team. The Prevention Strategy will encompass the coming 5 years, as well as more immediate policy actions post-covid. 

The process will be designed and led by a cohort of facilitators-in-training, who bring wide-ranging experience with the arts, organising and leadership, and who have been directly impacted by homelessness and housing insecurity. Read on to meet the facilitators!

GM Legislative theatre crew

Beginning in July 2020, residents from all 10 boroughs who have experienced homelessness, as well as council staff and service providers, will come together to create 3 original plays based on their experiences. These 3 plays will focus on multiple disadvantage and multiple complex needs; funding and commissioning; and housing infrastructure: issue areas currently identified as priorities within the GMHAN.

**If you are interested in being an actor in the first project on multiple disadvantage, please email or call 07926 358983. All participants in this project are paid hourly, with travel and expenses also covered.** 

In Autumn 2020, public legislative theatre events will be open to everyone. Audiences – made up of people with experience of homelessness, frontline support staff, GMCA officers and elected officials, advocates and neighbours – will be invited to improvise alternative responses to these systemic problems onstage. During the events, these ideas will be collaboratively developed into specific and feasible policy proposals. Following debate and amendments, the proposals will be ready for a community vote. Finally, the GMCA will carry these proposals forward into the GM Homelessness Prevention Strategy and Covid step-down planning.

The cohort of 5 facilitators was recruited through an open process this spring, and has been meeting weekly over Zoom since the end of April, learning the theory and history that underpins the legislative theatre practices, and leading each other through games, exercises, scene development and critical analysis. The cohort will lead the 3 public processes, with support from lead facilitator Katy Rubin, and ongoing planning, feedback and training sessions will continue throughout the year. One member of the cohort is also working to support the policy advocacy and research arm of the project. This training and mentorship model will ensure that these tools are owned by the community members at the end of the process; the facilitation training can be applied to leading any type of gathering, around any issue, contributing to the GMHAN’s goals of fair pay, economic equality, and innovation.

Meet the Legislative Theatre Facilitators! 

John Organ

JohnWinning Hearts & Minds Project, MHP board – Creative Advocacy Helper

There’s loads of ideas in this that I think are really valuable: having a diverse cast of players sharing the same stage – where the roles are fluid and the rules meant to be changed – this is exactly what we need to collectively work our way out of our ongoing housing crisis.

There are two things I’m looking to bring into the process from my background. Coming from the Winning Hearts and Minds project is the really useful understanding that housing and health are fundamentally part of the same infrastructure, and the wellbeing of the person in the place [community] is the goal it all hangs on. From the Manchester Homeless Partnership Board, I want to bring the willingness to work together, even if it’s complicated, compromising, scary and different.

To take it back to the start, if through the creative advocacy work I’m hoping to contribute, we can get a diverse cast from health and housing, policy and planning, those we house and those we do not, in an arena to shape words and ideas together – amazing. More so if we sustain the relationships into levering practical structural change, so our Manchester is no longer recognizable in the public art on our city.

Nadia Purcell

Hi, my name is Nadia. I am currently a homeless families advocate and educator working for an amazing organisation called Shared Health Foundation. My role there is to help bring change to homeless families placed in temporary accommodation and dispersed housing. Having experienced homelessness with my 3 children in Manchester means I am passionate, eager and coming from a place of a raw reality.

Legislative theatre is a powerful outlet to allow for real-life systems, oppression and struggles to be exhibited, and for change to be the only response.

 I am extremely excited for this project and for others to be introduced to this form of theatre.

Training to become a facilitator of legislative theatre has really opened my eyes to the many ways in which we – as individuals – have been victims of oppression, but also how all of us can bring change. It is not impossible. We all have a power within us and change is a force: whether comfortable or uncomfortable, it’s ours.

I hope legislative theatre in GM impacts systems, responses, policies and overall ideologies that are in place in many instances: for example homelessness, LGBT rights, social welfare, hierarchies, class… We can all talk about change, but legislative theatre is the walk of change.

Pat Clinton

Hiya, I’m Pat; an actor, writer, drag performer and disabled activist in Manchester. Coming from working class roots in Merseyside, I’ve worked on both sides of the stage since childhood. This includes studying theatre in university, working with From The Crowd, Trans Creative and QueerRiot. I’ve performed in many prides nationally, including Manchester’s first trans stage.

Having been homeless previously, it’s thrilling to see these issues highlighted in legislative theatre, as it’s a fantastic opportunity to help create real change in our community. Theatre can and should be for all, and this is exactly how it’s done.

Stan Benes

StanMy name is Stan, and I’m a doctoral researcher at the University of Manchester. I am involved in the legislative theatre project because it tests the openness and resilience of our governance structures by having people from disparate levels of the system share a stage, learn from each other, and work together towards a common goal. I had also spent a large part of my school years in and around theatre, so it is exciting to see the form being used in this way.

I don’t have personal experience of homelessness, but became involved with the project via the GMHAN, and will be providing support to the project and the Network.

Katy Rubin, lead facilitator

Katy RubinI am a recent transplant to Manchester, arriving here in 2019 from Brooklyn, NY! I’m the founder and former executive director of Theatre of the Oppressed NYC, a nonprofit organization that partners with communities facing discrimination to spark transformative action through theatre. TONYC has developed and popularized the practice of Legislative Theatre in the United States since 2013, bringing together communities, elected officials, advocates, and service providers, and impacting legislation and institutional policy throughout NYC. I’m currently collaborating with local governments and grassroots groups to implement Legislative Theatre practices throughout the UK and the US. 

I’m so excited about this project, for a few reasons. First, I am thrilled that the GMCA is committing to participation, inclusivity and co-production in writing policies that affect all GM residents. Second, I believe that in order to create a more equitable city, we need to change who is in power and who leads the conversations; that has been part of my practice, as a person who has not experienced housing insecurity or racial injustice, I work in solidarity with communities facing oppression but also seek opportunities to share leadership. The facilitation training cohort will be prepared and supported to lead in these spaces, going forward. Finally, the difficult lockdown period has reinforced the need to approach problems creatively, and innovate in the face of challenges. If we can prioritize joyfulness and fun in the process, all the better! 

GM Legislative theatre team 2

Poem by Nadia

I come from a place where change isn’t always allowed

Where you try your hardest to keep your feet on the ground

But we all have a voice that must be heard

You don’t have to scream for change to be stirred

Find your inner activist within

And surely put your best foot forward to win

Together, with the rest of my peers we can collaborate

To bring real stories to the front gate

We all come from different walks of life

But together we know oppression is rife

Creativity, enthusiasm and passion is what I own

Oppression, struggle and ‘no change allowed’ is their tone

If you can be the change in the world then be it

For change is a candle eternally lit.