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Library’s sold-out theatre performance engages residents on homelessness

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St Helens Central Library hosted a sell-out theatre production about one family’s decline into homelessness as part of the Cultural Hubs – Arts in Libraries programme.

The play, called Cathy, is inspired by the landmark television play Cathy Come Home written by Jeremy Sandford and directed by Ken Loach, first aired on BBC in 1966. The film broached issues that were not then widely discussed in the popular media, such as homelessness, unemployment and the rights of mothers to keep their children.

Cathy was brought to Central Library by inclusive theatre group Cardboard Citizens, which has been making life-changing theatre with and for homeless people for 25 years, often in unique venues like libraries, prisons and hostels.

The play was researched with the support of housing and homelessness charity Shelter and the performance ended with an interactive ‘forum theatre’ debate – an interactive style of theatre that empowers audience members to have their say and change the outcome of the story.

Audience members were encouraged to suggest how different courses of action might affect the outcome narrative and to suggest laws which might improve the situations the characters’ experiences. Councillor Richard McCauley, Cabinet Member for Change was among those who took part. He said:

“It was really interesting for the audience to be able to get involved in the performance and try to improve the outcome. The play highlighted how easy it is to find yourself homeless in today’s broken housing market, and the plight of those that do, with a story that is just as relevant and moving as it was in 1966.”

Event-goers also donated dozens of items to St Helens Foodbank, helping local people in crisis.

Cultural Hubs is supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England and allows St Helens Council to enliven the borough’s libraries with performances, plays, gigs, workshops, courses, events and exhibitions.

If you haven’t already, sign up to the monthly Cultural Hubs e-zine via www.sthelens.gov.uk/arts or follow the team on Twitter @sthelensarts to see all the latest news and events.

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