Kate Winslet, CBE
I first met Cardboard Citizens in 2007. Since then I have gotten to know this exceptional charity very well having experienced a wide range of the company’s artistic work including an interactive production at Holloway prison and a large site-specific production in a warehouse in East London. Whether the audience are homeless or not, what has always struck me is the level of engagement or debate that Cardboard Citizens’ work stimulates as well as the profound impact it has on participants and spectators alike.
Now that all of the company’s work is under one roof, the Cardboard Citizens team have exciting future plans to engage hundreds more of London’s most marginalised people through the power of the performing arts. I visited a workshop with ACT NOW (youth theatre programme) where I was able to learn firsthand about how Cardboard Citizens plays a significant role in the lives of young people facing difficult times.
Bringing creativity or ‘beauty’ into unexpected environments is really what Cardboard Citizens does every day. Many of us perceive the theatre as grand space with velvet curtains, comfy chairs and projectors lighting up the stars. Cardboard Citizens’ stages are often homeless hostels, soup kitchens and prison libraries, sometimes the street. I’ve seen firsthand the incredible effect that this has on people, often those who think this kind of culture can’t reach them, and how it really brings out the best in them. I think the secret lies in the fact that the company train people with experience of homelessness to encourage others to come onboard, it’s that peer-to-peer ethos that really hooks people in, that and the company’s emphasis on setting high standards for people, encouraging them to be brave and to succeed.
We need your help to support Cardboard Citizens; offering people with experience of homelessness a community of support and creativity, a positive environment, skills development, qualifications, jobs, education opportunities and much, much more. You can do this through volunteering, being an audience member, or even helping us to raise vital funds. However you decide to take part, I hope you will get to learn a bit more about this very special organisation.
Kate Winslet, CBE
I am honoured to be an Ambassador for Cardboard Citizens, an unusual charity which uses theatre in multiple ways to help homeless and ex-homeless people move forwards with their lives.
The company has now celebrated its 25th birthday, by doing the same things it has done for the past 25 years: offering support to homeless people, using theatre to help people get stronger and more confident, training and employing people as actors, and mounting productions which encourage wider debate about homelessness, its causes and its cures.
I have always believed in the transformative power of the arts and to have seen first-hand how effectively Cardboard Citizens use theatre and creative participation to engage, educate and empower those affected by homelessness is truly humbling.
When talking about Cardboard Citizens, I don’t first talk about homelessness, I talk about performance. Performance, the arts and theatre – being able to stand up and have a voice and share your story with people, and the power of that.
Cardboard Citizens has been getting people to stand up for 25 years. In their Forum Theatre pieces people sitting down watching plays can get up; they start having ideas, they start putting those ideas into motion, they start debating and they take control of what they’re doing through performance. That’s a really important, cathartic experience.
Performance and the arts and self-expression is what we have done since time immemorial and we’ve got to keep doing it. Cardboard Citizens encourage people all over the world to do this. It gives people skills, empathic skills and confidence in themselves – just looking someone in the eye and being able to tell their story.
Cardboard Citizens have huge plans for the future and we need to help to ensure this work carries on. As Ambassador, I’d encourage you all to grab five, six, ten of your friends and tell them about Cardboard Citizens to help spread the word.