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Hope from homelessness

18th October 2015

Photo: Streetwise Opera's 'The River Keeper'

Streetwise Opera is an award-winning charity that uses music to help people who have experienced homelessness make positive changes in their lives.  They run regular music programmes in homeless centres and arts venues across England and stage critically-acclaimed opera productions. 

Most members of NewcastleGateshead Cultural Venues have worked with the organisation over the last few years to help them achieve their goals, including BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Theatre Royal, Centre for Life, Live Theatre, Tyneside Cinema, Northern Stage, Sage Gateshead and Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums.   NGCV members are keen to support and promote the work of Streetwise Opera and encourage other organisations to get involved to form local partnerships and host work placements.

Their productions platform the skills of performers in a professional arena that is inclusive, but not tokenistic. Their 10th anniversary production, The Answer to Everything, involved 120 performers working with leading composers, directors and filmmakers to create a 40-minute film opera which premiered with a 70-minute integrated film and live performance at BFI Southbank. The Answer to Everything toured to festivals and cinemas including Tyneside Cinema (Newcastle), Broadway Cinema (Nottingham), Cornerhouse (Manchester) and Riverside Studios (London).

Streetwise Opera’s productions have all received four and five star reviews in the national press, and are designed to show our performers that whatever life throws at them, they can achieve great things.

Underpinning these productions, their two-stage music programme involves weekly and termly singing and drama workshops, a schedule of regular performances, theatre trips, as well as work experience and work placement opportunities in arts and cultural organisations.

Streetwise Opera is currently working in partnership with numerous arts and homeless organisations to deliver their music programmes and productions.  In the North East, work is underway with mima, Sage Gateshead,  Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums and the Recovery Centre.  There are plans for a major production in Newcastle in 2018.

Iain Watson, Director of Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums said, "Streetwise Opera are a great bunch of people to work with. We’ve hosted amazing musical events with them and are working on ideas for some fantastic community programmes. Volunteers from their projects have also made a great contribution across Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums. Plans are also in place for a big Streetwise presence in the 2016 Late Shows, Newcastle Gateshead’s Annual Culture crawl, co-ordinated by Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums."

Streetwise Opera is the winner of the some of the top awards in the arts and homeless sectors including The Times/Gramophone Music in Community Award, Andy Ludlow Homelessness Award and Royal Philharmonic Society Music Award.

Streetwise Opera demonstrates that when there is the dual support of arts and social care, homeless people move forward faster and better. We measure participants’ increases in confidence, social networks and skills.  This work results in transformational impacts including more independent living, reduction in substance abuse and self-harm, increased engagement in education and training, and the reunion of families. As one performer put it, “Streetwise has shown me that if I can achieve this, surely I can take on anything else”.

Streetwise Opera are now seeking further North East organisations for local partnerships and work placements. 

For more information, contact Fiona Fitzpatrick on ff@streetwiseopera.org or Tel: 07598 326573.

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