On 15 March at Whitworth Art Gallery, With One Voice launched its International Arts and Homelessness Summit/Festival, which is due to take place between 15-18 November around Greater Manchester.

As his flagship project, Mayor Andy Burnham was naturally in attendance and led the speeches, stating that, “Now it’s the cultural sector’s time to show us what they can do”. Having described the three Rs – Respite, Recovery and Relaxation – former councillor Beth Knowles announced the four Ps that are central to the festival and its underlying campaign. Those are People, Performance, Policy and Practice. Attendees were invited to make pledges to each of the four Ps, and the organisers welcome any and all ideas within each sphere to shape the festival itself in November, as well as wider strategy to help restore dignity to people’s lives.

Knowles told us last year about the policy pledges emerging from the mayoral office, which ties neatly with her role at With One Voice to engage citizens with the solutions that we can all support in various ways.

Among the other practitioners involved already, there is Mustard Tree, whose work lies firmly in the practice column. The Ancoats-based charity continues to initiate vital community engagement in various forms, from strengthening social bonds and providing healthy meals at the Friday night Soup Run to introducing safe shelter and opportunities for stable work.

The event also saw people and performance in unity, with two renditions by the Streetwise Opera choir, which is made up of people who have experienced homelessness as well as volunteers and support workers. The introductory performance asked audience members to join in with backing harmonies, bringing to the fore a sense of collaborative and participatory goodwill indicative of the whole ethos of the event. A concluding English language version of ‘Nessun Dorma’ typified the rousing, call-to-action spirit at its core.

With the Homelessness Reduction Act enforced from 3 April, which obliges all local authorities in England to take “all reasonable action” to prevent and relieve homelessness, the onus has now been placed on councils to find solutions. Greater Manchester Homelessness Action Network’s proactivity appears to place them as pathfinders, but to achieve their plan to end rough sleeping by 2020 all four Ps will need to be effectively implemented. The 130 pledges and ideas received at the launch event, the International Arts and Homelessness Summit/Festival presents an opportunity to give such ambitions focus, belief and momentum.

The festival will take place from 15-18 November 2018. Proposals and pledges are encouraged via the With One Voice web page, below.


Ian Pennington