The capital’s second annual Festival of Homeless Arts opens today (7 July 2005) in Bethnal Green, east London, where it runs until 31 July 2005. Ten Feet Away, which is launched by Big Issue founder John Bird, comprises a varied programme of live performances as well as open workshops, film screenings and a visual art exhibition.

Following today’s unveiling of the visual art exhibition at the Oh!Art Gallery, Oxford House, live performances will take place at People Show in Pollards Row from 19 to 24 July 2005. The performance programme - a collaboration of musicians, poets, puppeteers, writers, actors, comics, film makers and circus performers - will be opened by John Hegley, dubbed the “poet laureate of comedy”, and John Bird, on 18 July before opening to the public on 19 July.

Theatre highlights include King, a new production by homeless people’s theatre company Cardboard Citizens, on 20 July. The play is adapted from a novel by John Berger and tells the story of a group of homeless people living outside a city in France, seen through the eyes of a dog.

Streetwise Opera and People Show present All Stars Cabaret on 21 July and, on 23 July, young homeless actors in Streets Alive Theatre Company present The Return and Fist Full of Tears, in partnership with the Children’s Society. On 24 July, there will be a marathon open mic session with a Fire Show Finale provided by Crisis Skylight Circus with illusions, dance and music.

The Ten Feet Away festival is funded by Arts Council England and ALG as part of Index Arts, and supported by the Big Issue, Impact Distribution and Food For All, which will be serving free suppers each evening. All events are also free of charge.

- by Caroline Ansdell