21 August 2012 at 3.56pm | Comment on this article
When an MP in the 1990s described the homeless as “the people you step over coming out of the Opera House”, Matt Peacock was inspired to change that perception. He formed the charity Streetwise Opera and, earlier this summer, people who have experienced homelessness performed at the Royal Opera House. The festival, With One Voice, was sold out and streamed live online.
Part of the London 2012 Festival, the event was the first time that homeless people have been invited to take part in an Olympic celebration. "The Olympics is usually a time when the homeless are forgotten", Matt told us, “and, in the worst cases, are moved off the streets.”
The chance to perform had a positive effect on Streetwise Opera’s participants’ lives. For many of them, this was their first public performance. “Everyone was excited and so keen to show a different side of homelessness, one of achievement rather than need. The feedback we’ve had has been extraordinary, many saying that it was the best experience of their lives,” said Matt.
One participant, Patrick, began attending opera workshops in Nottingham in 2010. Reflecting on With One Voice, he said, “Everyone noticed the change in me since coming to Streetwise Opera – my partner, my kids, my friends. I was using heroin for 25 years and, for the first time, I can look my kids in the eye.”
Streetwise Opera is keen to make this year’s event an Olympic tradition: it is trying to persuade Rio to organize something similar for homeless or disadvantaged people during its Games in 2016. You can support Streetwise Opera's bid by signing a petition that will go to the IOC and the Rio 2016 committee.