At the end of 2018, the city [Coventry] had the second highest rate of homelessness in the region. Tackling homelessness is far more complex than simply providing accommodation.Arts and Homelessness in Coventry report
Since 2012, Arts and Homelessness International (AHI) has advocated for the role that arts and creativity can play in helping to build resilience, agency, wellbeing, skills and social connections for those who are or have been homeless.
AHI also promotes the benefits of co-production methodologies across all its work, arguing that those who have experienced homelessness should be central to decision making processes and delivery.
Arts and Homelessness in Coventry report
The report, published in August 2022, examines initiatives pioneered by AHI, supported by Coventry UK City of Culture 2021 (UK CoC 2021), to re-think and re-position how arts and creativity can change perceptions, policy and outcomes for those who are or have been homeless in Coventry. It centres attention on two initiatives specifically:
This report is based on a three-year study and draws on a mixed method approach to data gathering and analysis including participant observation; semi-structured interviews; vox pops; photo elicitation and creative methods of documenting events including diary entries and photography.
It examines key findings resulting from the two initiatives, the co-production methodologies they employed, and explores how multiple stakeholders narrate and understand their participation.
The HOME festival and Legislative Theatre project:
- enshrined the values and technologies of co-production, which promoted a non-hierarchical structure and enabled inclusive, dialogic and open decision-making
- demonstrated how the arts can surface and unsettle the ‘stigma optics’ that lead to negative perceptions of homelessness and a degraded sense of self for those who have experienced homelessness
- opened up opportunities for people who have experienced homelessness to design, lead, participate in and access diverse creative processes and projects
- revealed the importance of developing skills and convivial relationships in safe spaces over a long period of time, which were transferable to less safe public-facing spaces that amplified activity and enhanced feelings of affirmation
- nurtured an ethics and aesthetics of care that utilised and enhanced pre-existing mutually supportive infrastructures and newly forged relationships in the city to encourage a wide spectrum of engagement
- set in motion the mechanisms, culture and skills to enable people who are or have been homeless to participate in citizen democracy
- facilitated opportunities for people who have experienced homelessness to be seen and their voices amplified via co-production, access to venues with cultural capital and global networking leading to enhanced empowerment
- showed how a diverse set of creative forms can foster positive experiences of self-discovery, affirmation and enhanced wellbeing.
This research was undertaken by Professor Nadine Holdsworth and Dr Jennifer Verson, based at the University of Warwick: Theatre and Performance Studies, part of the School of Creative Arts Performance and Visual Culture (SCAPVC).
The report was funded by a grant from the University of Warwick’s Research Development Fund.
A report by MB Associates will provide Social Value Assessment case studies of four UK CoC 2021 activities: one of these studies examines the HOME: art and homelessness festival.
Reference is made to this research study within the Evaluation of the Caring City Programme report.
Nadine Holdsworth discussed the Homeless Monopoly project at the Cultural Policy and Evaluation Summit, on 24 June 2021, in the early stages of the UK CoC 2021 year. (Starts at 7:05:50).
She also presented her findings from the Arts and Homelessness in Coventry report at the Connecting Place, Culture, Research and Impact: Stories from Coventry event.