Play gives honest insight into lives of children in temporary accommodation

The stage ready for the Milestones performance
The stage ready for the Milestones performance

A team of researchers from the UCL-led CHAMPIONS project teamed up with De Montfort University and Response Ability Theatre to transform interviews from their study into a topical theatre performance.

CHAMPIONS launched in 2020 and is a national project, funded by the ESRC, that looks at the impact of COVID-19 and living through lockdown on children under five who are in temporary accommodation due to experiencing homelessness.

The Milestones play was performed on Monday (26 September) and gave the audience an honest insight into the lives of these families, by allowing parents to anonymously voice their experiences.

The project is led by Professor Monica Lakhanpaul (UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health) and Co-Investigator, Associate Professor Nadia Svirydzenka (De Montfort University). The characters in the performance were fictionalised but much of the text used in the performance was verbatim from interviews with families.

Professor Lakhanpaul said: "Under the cover of anonymity, these mums and dads speak without fear about the barriers being put in their way as they try to give their kids the best possible start in life.

"When no one’s around to delay their housing application, when no one who’s listening can take their kids away from them, how do they really think the little ones are coping? And what can we all do about it?"

As well as presenting the scope of the realities faced by these families, the play feeds into the policy recommendations the team have made in collaboration with The Childhood Trust and UCL Public Policy for improving public service support for children affected by homelessness in the health, social care and education sectors, and which have informed discussions in the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Households in Temporary Accommodation.

The performance was written and performed by Nell Hardy, who established Response Ability Theatre in 2021 when presenting her solo show, NoMad, based on her own experiences of homelessness and mental health hospitalisation. She is also an object storyteller for the Museum of Homelessness and is part of this year’s cohort of associate leaders for Arts and Homelessness International.

The play was open to the public and, following the performance, guests were invited to a panel discussion and Q&A with the project leaders alongside BBC social affairs correspondent, Michael Buchanan; freelance TV director, Sam Pratt; Labour MP, Siobhain McDonagh; and Kadie, who has lived experience of living in temporary accommodation.

The performance was funded by UCL and De Montfort University.

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