Streetwise Opera have been running weekly singing workshops at the Huggard Centre in partnership with Welsh National Opera since September 2012. Since then they have engaged with 86 homeless people and the group of current attendees will perform in their local community for the first time at the December screening of Streetwise Opera’s latest film opera, The Answer to Everything.
Streetwise Opera is a leading exponent of integrated film and live performance projects. The film presented at Chapter stars Streetwise Opera’s performers from the charity’s 11 groups around the UK (based in London, Nottingham, Manchester, Newcastle, Gateshead and Middlesbrough) and a professional cast including Streetwise’s patron soprano Elizabeth Watts who appears on film as a cleaning lady and receptionist.
The film, directed by Rupert Jones with Streetwise Associate Director Emma Bernard and produced by Jess Gormley, features a set of conferences organised by a fictional housing corporation that has developed an indestructible brick that aims to be the answer to the housing crisis. As music gradually overtakes the business speak, cracks begin to appear and the delegates are able to find their own ‘answer to everything’. The film was premiered in London at the BFI in April featuring additional live performance sections sung by the cast and including the then newly-formed Cardiff group.
The Streetwise Opera workshop group is rehearsing sections of Bizet’s Carmen each week at the Huggard Centre in preparation for the performance following the film which is their first chance to invite friends, family and key workers to see them on stage. For many people this can be a chance to invite significant people in their lives to see them doing something really positive; previous Streetwise Performers have used these performances as a way of re-establishing contact with estranged family members. The artistic partnership with Welsh National Opera has enabled participants to connect with the opera repertoire and see opera performances onstage.
Matt Peacock MBE, Founder and CEO of Streetwise Opera said: “We’re really looking forward to our Cardiff group’s first performance at the end of the screening of our latest film opera The Answer to Everything. This marks a brilliant first year of the group and a testament to their hard work and that of the Huggard Centre and Welsh National Opera.”
Rhian Hutchings WNO’s Director of Youth and Community said:
“It has been a privilege to be able to bring Streetwise Opera to Wales. Their work is extremely powerful and is a wonderful example of how opera can transform lives.”
Richard Edwards, Chief Executive of Huggard said:
“This project has achieved so many positive outcomes for Huggard clients. It has provided a stage on which new and positive social relationships have been built. Streetwise Opera has achieved fantastic results, rebuilding self-esteem and helping people to find confidence within themselves to overcome many barriers in their lives.”
The programme is supported by Colwinston Charitable Trust.
The workshops at Huggard Centre have already been having a positive impact on participants with 78% of people surveyed reporting an increase in well-being since starting Streetwise Opera sessions. One Performer at Huggard was able to use the sessions tackle his alcohol dependency and is now getting the support he needs in a rehabilitation programme.
Performance of a section from Carmen to follow screening of Streetwise Opera’s latest opera film, The Answer to Everything 6.30pm, Thursday 12 December, Chapter Arts Centre. Tickets £7.90/£5.80 box office open now
Brian* had successfully completed a Detox followed by a seven month dry period from alcohol in a dry hostel. Brian was being transferred to the Huggard Centre as he had started to consume alcohol again and was unable to be supported by the dry hostel where he was staying. Brian viewed this as a failure and as a result he suffered low confidence and self-esteem. Brian had a high level dependent drink pattern which was affecting his health.
His key worker wanted to identify development projects that would help Brian reduce his alcohol consumption level and reduce the risk to his health. Brian expressed an interest in Streetwise Opera and he attended a workshop accompanied by his key worker. Brian really enjoyed this session and become a core member of this group very quickly. Over time his confidence started to grow and other harm prevention activities were introduced.
Although Brian was not always able to attend Streetwise Opera dry from alcohol, he really looked forward to the workshops. After one workshop on Madama Butterfly Brian came to see his key worker in floods of tears. Brian said that the workshop had reminded him of his wife and daughter who lived in Japan and who he had to leave behind due to his alcohol addiction. At that moment Brian’s trigger for his dependency was identified, something that had not been identified before. Brian’s key worker says that as well as enabling Brian to identify the reason for his dependency, the continued support of the group helped him feel ready to start dealing with the past. Brian and his key worker began to talk, and to work together to build a support package that would address the issues and the dependency.
Streetwise Opera trips and activities such as the London Premiere at the BFI, gave Brian key goals to work towards. Together with other development activities and medical interventions, and after a period of nine months support, Brian felt ready to go into Detox and Rehabilitation again. Brian was admitted into Detox and on his first attempt managed five days. Two weeks later he was admitted again and this second admission was a success. Brian has now been alcohol free for three months and is still in rehabilitation getting the support he requires.
* Name changed for confidentiality