LUNG are Associate Artists at The Lowry and make theatre with communities, by communities and for communities. Helen (Co-writer) and Matt (Director and Co-Writer) have been working with the Focus E15 Campaign for 2 years. Here’s what they had to say about the show:
As young people, we are angry. We are isolated from the political system, our welfare state is collapsing, unemployment’s at a record low and we are the first generation in British history who are going to be poorer than our parents. We tried to get organised in Sheffield, but there was an ever growing sense that nothing could be done.
We first met the Focus E15 mums when we went to campaign with them at their weekly street stall on Stratford Broadway in Newham, London. Immediately, we were overwhelmed. As well as a campaign with humour, joy and love at its core these women had huge grit, fire and a hell of a lot of resilience. Here were people who had found their voice and were ready to fight.
It has now been over two years since we first met the mums. Together we’ve campaigned, leafleted and demonstrated while they resisted eviction. We have worked closely with them, as well as other housing campaigners, journalists and politicians to create artistic work that would make their story heard. From the beginning, something that shines through are the characters of the mums, particularly Jasmin Stone and Sam Middleton who have passion, strength and a true love that is so clearly driven by being a mum.
The people we have met throughout this campaign are extraordinary. The Focus E15 Campaign is full of the most ambitious, resilient and selfless people we have ever met in our lives. But their story is not an extraordinary one. It is now worryingly familiar. In 2016, 64,000 families were moved out of London*. Homelessness has increased 30%** in the last year. The 29 eviction notices the mums received were proof of the rule, rather than the exception to it.
The last five years have been a time rife with austerity and hardship, and it is only set to get worse for the most vulnerable in our society. The conditions so many people are forced to live in are heart breaking and lives are being lost due to lack of care from the British political establishment. But the story of the Focus E15 mums has a silver lining. They are the evidence of the power of people. They are the living proof that by coming together and organising, even under the most difficult circumstances, people can stand up against what is wrong, and win.
This is a message that needs sharing far and wide. We want this play to reach people like us, before we met the mums – people who feel hopeless and think that nothing can be done. Everyday across the country, young people and their families are being made homeless because they can’t afford somewhere to live in an increasingly unforgiving climate. They need to know they are not alone. We hope showing the story of the E15 campaign across the country will mobilize audiences against the conservative government and their relentless austerity measures. From Hull to Lincoln, Bridport, Folkestone and Battersea, this story needs to be heard so we can all put the mum’s mantra into practice: educate, agitate, organise.
Helen and Matt