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Film, Theatre & TV Seminar

Art, Performance and the Housing Crisis

Professor Jen Harvie (QMUL)

The conditions of the United Kingdom’s housing crisis are becoming painfully familiar. From 1980 until 2000, two million state-owned homes were sold off. Between 1997 and 2010, the number of households in England waiting for social housing rose by 81 per cent. Since 2001, the proportion of housing that is privately rented has skyrocketed by 69 per cent, while over a third of privately rented homes fail to meet the decent homes standard. In 2013/14, more than 81,000 households were homeless. The housing crisis destabilises households, schooling, work, and most dangerously networks of friends, kin and care. The housing crisis is a crisis in democracy because it is both a symptom and a cause of ever-growing social inequality.

In this presentation I examine art and performance that responds to the UK housing crisis. First, I survey a range of city-sited art works that articulate, in particular, housing precarity and the feelings it provokes. I then focus analysis on two performances: GETINTHEBACKOFTHEVAN’S 2013 Number 1, the Plaza; and Sh!t Theatre’s Letters to Windsor House which premiered at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2016. Both shows explore the lives of pairs of female flatmates in Generation Rent. Both shows are funny, but also painfully revealing about how the headline-grabbing ‘housing crisis’ manifests in acute, traumatizing, and tragic personal pressures on friendship.


Jen Harvie is Professor of Contemporary Theatre and Performance at Queen Mary University of London. Her research focuses on cultural politics, with emphases on neoliberalism and feminism. Her monographs include Fair Play – Art, Performance and Neoliberalism (2013) and Theatre & the City (2009). She recently co-edited The Only Way Home Is Through the Show: Performance Work of Lois Weaver (2015). She is currently co-editing a special issue of Contemporary Theatre Review on feminism and Palgrave Macmillan’s series Theatre &. In her podcast, Stage Left, she interviews performance makers about their practices and shows.


4 May 2017
4:00 pm - 6:00 pm
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Minghella Studios
Minghella Building
Whiteknights Campus, RG6 6UR United Kingdom
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