I’m a freelance journalist and published poet, based in Manchester.
Panto with a purpose
A Christmas light is being shone on issues surrounding homelessness by Chorlton's Edge Theatre. It's Behind You is a pantomime with all the traditional costumes and good-bad jokes. At the same time, it puts the issue of modern homelessness centre stage.
The show is being produced by The Edge Theatre in association with the Manchester-based The Booth Centre.
The panto performers are 15 individuals from varying backgrounds aged from 21 to 70s, who are all either currently homeless or at risk of homelessness. They embark on a ' journey to rescue Sleeping Beauty from Baron Von Greed's castle.'
It is directed by Janine Waters, co-founder and artistic director of The Edge.
She said: "People who may have slept rough the night before turn up ready to work, fully committed to each other, to the professional singers and creative team, and to achieving something that they can be proud of."
She added: "Of course housing, access to health care and employment are vital, but in order to address some of the issues that might have made people homeless in the first place, so too are the skills developed by being part of The Edge's theatre company."
This is the third year that The Edge is staging its annual pantomime. Danny Marlow (21), is one of the performers returning to the stage.
Danny said: "I found myself homeless two years ago while at university - I fell in with a bad crowd, and lost everything. I slept rough on doorsteps, in tents and under bridges. "
He added: " My confidence has really improved. I've got a bounce back in my step and a smile on my face."
In its State of the City Report 2018 Manchester City Council stated: "While rough sleepers may be the most visible impact of homelessness, the Council has seen a significant increase in the number of people presenting as homeless and owed a duty. "
It adds: "The number of people the city needs to work with will increase in 2018/19 with the introduction of the Homelessness Reduction Act and the continued delivery of Universal Credit."
In July this year Shelter reported that - based on freedom of information requests - 55% of homeless families trapped in temporary accommodation are actually working.
The housing charity said the trend in 'working homelessness' is being driven by a combination of expensive private rents, the ongoing freeze on housing benefit, and a chronic lack of social homes.
Shelter states: "You are homeless if you have nowhere to stay and are living on the streets, but you can be homeless even if you have a roof over your head. You count as homeless if you are: staying with friends or family. staying in a hostel, night shelter or B&B."
It's Behind You takes place on 13 – 15 December, 3pm and 7.30pm. Tickets are priced at £12, £6, with 'concessions on conscience'. The show is recommended or ages 16 and over .
The cast includes: Abdul Haidarah, Andre Street, Andrew Crossley, Chris Keane, Daniel James Marlow, Danny Collins, Georgina Michaels, Ian Campbell, Jake Robertson, Jean Harmon, Kerry Harding, Mark Ward, Matt Reid, Paul McKay, Stephen Lee.
The Edge Theatre is based in a 19th Century former Red Cross Hospital. It was co-founded in 2011 by Janine, Dom and Simon Waters. The theatre boasts actors Mark Rylance and Julie Hesmondhalgh as its patrons.
CEO of the Booth Centre, Amanda Croome MBE said: "Many members of the group have moved onto employment, to take up education and training courses, or have entered detox, as a direct result of the boost they have got from working with The Edge."
In 2016 Streetwise Opera - a performing arts charity for people who are or have been homeless - produced Bach's oratorio St Matthew Passion. One of the performances, at Manchester's Victorian Upper Campfield Market Hall, was recorded and broadcast by TV channel BBC4.