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Performance art for transformative housing

Housing and Homelessness Programme / Partner story

©Photo by Mal McCann, 2023

Located in Belfast, Northern Ireland, the human rights not-for-profit organisation Participation and the Practice of Rights (PPR) describes itself as “by the community, for the community.” And, in this community, housing is a key concern, with more than 40,000 families on the waiting list for social housing in Northern Ireland. PPR organises alongside people who are homeless or in housing stress to make real improvements in their lives.

In 2022, PPR launched an international urban design competition to plan 1,000 homes on Mackie’s, a 25 acre publicly-owned vacant lot in west Belfast. The empty land poses a huge opportunity given the high need for housing locally. The campaign, known as Take Back the City, aims to rezone the land for homes, support the development of the winning design, and create model options for community ownership. The winning design provides hundreds of sustainable homes and space for employment, as well as protecting urban biodiversity.

PPR has inspired Northern Ireland Opera to write an opera about the campaign, aimed especially at young people. The opera, ‘Nobody/Somebody’, premiered in March 2023 to a sell-out audience.

“Nobody/Somebody tells the stories of the homeless and people in housing distress with compassion and dignity. A must-see show,” says one community member.

Oak Foundation supports the work of PPR through our Housing and Homelessness Programme, which believes in a society where more people live in decent homes and fewer people experience homelessness and housing insecurity. You can learn more about our programme here. You can find out more about the work of PPR to build sustainable housing solutions here.

And, watch below a selection of clips and audience comments from NI Opera’s teen/young adult opera by composer Neil Martin and librettist Fionnuala Kennedy, which premiered at the Elmwood Hall, Belfast as part of the Young At Art Belfast Children’s Festival in 2022.