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Photo: Isabella Harriss

How we are making a difference during the pandemic

At Streetwise Opera we are aware that the COVID-19 pandemic has been particularly challenging for those affected by homelessness. That’s why we’ve been working non-stop since the end of March to deliver online activities to participants in our singing and creative workshops across England.

Regularly, our sessions are delivered in homelessness centres and arts venues in London, Gateshead, Manchester, Nottingham and Teesside. But, until it is safe to return to in-person singing, we’ve been exploring how to keep participants inspired and energised via Zoom, Facebook Live and YouTube, over the phone and by post.

Here’s what we’ve been doing between 26 March and 31 July:

  • 64 online singing sessions attended by 87 regular workshop participants
  • 24 creative sessions attended by 25 Streetwise performers
  • 764 support phone calls to 129 individuals, lasting a total of 194 hours and 59 minutes
  • One creative project via post involving 62 people
  • One digital performance project that was premiered in the Ryedale Online Festival and has had over 7,000 views across the internet


Isabella Harriss
, Support Worker for Streetwise Opera in Nottingham, said:

“I feel that what the performers appreciate the most are the innovative lengths Streetwise Opera have gone to in order to keep the creativity alive in people’s lives during this difficult time. Our performers tell me that having online sessions and workshops to attend gives them something to look forward to every day and brings a consistent bit of joy to being stuck at home.

Performers have gone out of their way to support each other both inside and outside the sessions and there is a real sense of connection and belonging, even though we are apart, to what they call the Streetwise Opera Family. It’s the same with the phone calls and creative postal packs, people tell me it feels good that they’re being thought about and encouraged to stay creative.

As a support worker I’m really impressed that restrictions on group singing haven’t affected Streetwise Opera’s aim for creative excellence and for making sure everyone feels included, – it’s pretty special.”

Bridgette Foley, a participant in Streetwise Opera’s regular workshops at Sage Gateshead, said:

“I really enjoyed taking part in Streetwise Opera’s online sessions, in the unprecedented times we were all in lockdown, the sessions gave me a great lift in my mood and also gave me something to focus on doing the weekly projects, and it was brilliant being able to bond a lot more with performers from all around the UK and make friends.

I gained confidence in the use of audio recording apps and using zoom for online workshops and also gained a deep respect for the workshop leaders and staff, that put their time and effort into helping us get through this awful time.

I feel I achieved patience to take in my surroundings and appreciate life more, whilst doing the work on The Linden Tree it gave me a deeper appreciation of nature and people, and also life itself as you just seem too take things for granted a lot without realising it.”

Jacqueline Webb, a participant in Streetwise Opera’s workshops at Middlesbrough Town Hall, said:

I thoroughly, enjoyed taking part in the online sessions. So great to have such an amazing range of performers, music and ideas! It was a very uplifting experience, through extremely trying times. Each workshop leader was very positive, professional and they made the sessions fun!

Taking part in sessions was something to look forward to everyday and brought a sense of order to the chaos. It also helped to increase my confidence. I feel like I improved my vocal range to be part of the performance of The Linden Tree, which I thoroughly enjoyed taking part in. 

I had not been doing anything creative in a long time but last term I took up baking again and made some bread and took up knitting again and decided to learn a few new languages, namely Portuguese and Spanish, which has been a lot of fun! 

In the first week of September, Streetwise Opera will be announcing a new digital project for the next two months. Watch this space.

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