News & Resources
GLI Imagined Community Concert: Streetwise Street Party at Streetwise Opera
Dave Wilson (author), Hanna Wiskari, Helen Ella, Ismar Porić, and María Arias Velasco, Global Leaders ‘23 cohort members
Editor’s Note: The Global Leaders Institute (GLI) develops music for social impact leadership through an intensive year of learning and small-group work. As part of GLI’s teaching artistry course, working groups are tasked with researching a youth arts program and then designing a hypothetical community event for that program. These hypothetical concerts have a simple objective: to deepen connections with each program’s surrounding community.
This is the third and final entry in a series of imagined concert proposals, shared with Ensemble readers to spark creativity in their own community work. Our thanks to the Global Leaders for sharing their visions of what’s possible.
Streetwise Opera is an opera company in the U.K. that works together with people who have experienced homelessness in workshops and in the co-creation of performances. Performers in their programs build identities, find inspiration, and experience empowerment as they develop creative skills and projects. During the first semester of the Global Leaders Institute (GLI) MBA in Arts Innovation, our group had the opportunity to learn about Streetwise Opera and its work. We were inspired by Streetwise’s multifaceted approach to the homelessness crisis, which is grounded in an understanding that their work is one small part of a greater effort to end homelessness.
During our several months working with Streetwise Opera, we learned that the organization has already initiated projects that take performances out of the concert hall and into the streets. Our concert proposal sought to continue those projects with a logical next step: “Streetwise Street Party: A Community Celebration.” An afternoon tea-themed street party for all ages, the community concert is designed to share Streetwise’s work on a city street temporarily closed to traffic in London, one of the cities Streetwise serves. In this public environment, performers could be celebrated by community members, rather than judged or shunned. We hoped to provide even broader opportunities for Streetwise performers to integrate their creative work into their communities.
The event would take place over the course of one afternoon and feature pop-up, flashmob-type performances and workshops led by Streetwise performers. These artistic moments would serve as entry points into both the event itself and the broader work of Streetwise Opera. Performances would be collaborative and interactive, including storytelling in various forms, collective music-making, and co-creation of short performances with audience members. These performances would be repeated periodically at various locations of the street party.
In one of our proposed collaborative activities, a poem is displayed in one of the performance areas. Each participant—including audience members—is asked to vocalize a sound that represents what the poem meant to them. The group is then guided by a teaching artist who uses hand gestures to perform different elements of a collective soundscape. Participants are then invited to repeat a part of the poem as a mantra with these sounds while Streetwise and other performers join in with rhythmic accompaniment. With this and other activities, our group wanted to model the day-to-day work of Streetwise Opera by co-creating performances that welcome everybody’s participation. The pop-up performances would occur throughout the day in designated performance areas, alongside spaces for food, co-creation, and reflection.
With their deep commitment to co-creating with performers in their programs, Streetwise Opera will undoubtedly continue to move forward in exciting ways as they discover new ways, through music-making, to empower people who have experienced homelessness.