Adrian Jackson has today been awarded an MBE for his work in the theatre industry. Jackson, an artistic pioneer and activist for social change, founded Cardboard Citizens over twenty-five years ago. Since then the award-winning company has become renowned for their work with homelessness, their community activism and their groundbreaking use of Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed. The company’s approach has influenced a generation theatre makers with its style of practice and affected thousands of lives around the UK with its commitment to social justice.
For a quarter of a century Cardboard Citizens has striven to create work in which theatre illuminates homelessness and the lives of homeless people, offering a space for debate, a theatre in which there is a home for all. Founded by Jackson, the company originated in the Cardboard City that occupied the Bullring in Waterloo in the early 90s (now the site of the IMAX cinema).
Cardboard Citizens makes theatre that effects personal, social and political change in the lives of homeless people and in society’s perceptions of them. The company has toured hostels, day centres and prisons, as well as traditional theatre buildings across the UK, bringing theatre to the most marginalized. Through storytelling, the company breaks down conventional divisions between audience and performer, telling untold stories and opening the company’s unique insight into experiences of homelessness to general audiences, as well as presenting plays performed by, with and for homeless people. Cardboard Citizens also runs workshops and training alongside productions.
Adrian Jackson, Cardboard Citizens Founder, Director and Chief Executive said: “I am very chuffed to have been given this honour, which I regard as an award for Cardboard Citizens and all the amazing staff and members we have had over the last 25 years. It is and always has been a team effort, and I am so proud of all we have achieved. When we started out, the idea that theatre could be anything more than a therapeutic distraction for homeless people was regarded as fanciful – maybe more than anything our achievement has been to demonstrate that the arts can be so much more. Cardboard Citizens is a place where homeless people can find their feet again, a space where they won’t be judged and a platform from which they can share untold stories that need telling. It’s living proof that theatre can be a genuine catalyst for change. I celebrate the company’s recognition, but mourn the fact that homelessness is once again so common in our rich nation.”
Photograph courtesy cardboardcitizens.org.uk