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Audience at a Concert


CHAMPIONS and Response Ability Theatre put on a sold-out performance of 'Milestones' theatre production


The CHAMPIONS team worked with actor and writer Nell Hardy and the Response Ability Theatre to put on a performance of 'Milestones' followed by a post-show discussion panel with homelessness experts at the Bloomsbury Theatre in London on 25th September 2023.


The monologue, based on CHAMPIONS family interviews and findings, gave audience members, including members of the public, policy-makers and those working in the health, housing, education and social care sectors, an honest insight into the lives of UK families and children living in temporary accommodation using innovative theatre techniques bridging the worlds of academic and the creative arts with the aim of having greater impact.

As well as presenting the scope of the realities faced by these families, the play fed 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 in the CHAMPIONS Policy Brief published in 2023, and which have informed discussions at the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Households in Temporary Accommodation

The characters in the performance were fictionalised but much of the text used in the performance was verbatim from interviews with families.

As explained by our Principal Investigator Professor Monica Lakhanpaul:

“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?”

We decided to commission this play to present the human faces of the families around whom their research revolves in order to engage members of the public and the stakeholders and policy-makers who can create crucial differences in their lives on an emotional level as well as a practical one.


Through 'Milestones', the CHAMPIONS research team aimed to do the following:


· Immerse members of the public and policy-makers in the emotional and human context of our research findings, inspire enthusiasm for our policy recommendations, and create a space in which policy-makers can ask us further questions about what we have presented.

· Give staff and students the opportunity to see in action how scientific research and theatrical presentation can complement each other to create change in the world around us, with the hope of inspiring future cross-sector collaborations of this nature.

· Engage other relevant activist groups and charities in their findings and recommendations through the offering of an enjoyable evening of theatre.

· Show the families experiencing homelessness who contributed to our research how their voices are being heard and the effect of this, so they understand in a very direct way the impact of their contribution.

Our panel for the discussion part of the evening, with speakers including MP Siobhain McDonagh, BBC News Social Affairs Correspondent Michael Buchanan, Sam Pratt from the Shared Health Foundation and Parent/Lived Experiences Expert Kadiewas chaired by our Co-Investigator Nadzeya (Nadia) Svirydzenka from De Montfort University. 

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 CHAMPIONS team would like to thank UCL and De Montfort University for funding this theatre initiative. 

You can read the University College London News coverage of the performance here.

Watch the BBC London Evening News interview about the performance with cast member Nell Hardy and CHAMPIONS lead Professor Monica Lakhanpaul here.

Watch the full performance and panel discussion here

By Marta Koch, CHAMPIONS Research Assistant

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