Storytelling festival sheds light on the 'unheard experiences' of female homelessness

In an “honest, sometimes sad, sometimes lighted-hearted” film, Scottish women impacted by homelessness tell their “unheard” stories as part of a festival celebrating lived experiences.

Scottish women impacted by homelessness tell their “unheard” stories as part of the Village Storytelling Festival in Glasgow (Photo: Phil Wilkinson).
Scottish women impacted by homelessness tell their “unheard” stories as part of the Village Storytelling Festival in Glasgow (Photo: Phil Wilkinson).

After a five-year hiatus, the Village Storytelling Festival is returning to discuss re-connecting and transforming in a number of performances beginning on Tuesday.

Run by the Village Storytelling Centre, the festival will focus on the world being in a state of flux and the importance of coming together through the medium of stories.

The Village Storytelling Centre, based in Glasgow, frequently works with charities to encourage expression, comfort, healing and the ability to tell lived experiences.

Lauren Bianchi, the film's lead creative input.

A project doing just that at the festival is “(Because) we are all worth it too”, an original performance film which shines a light on female homelessness in Scotland.

The film, set mainly in Glasgow, focuses on four fictional characters created by a group of around six homeless women who contributed parts of their own stories and those of other women.

The women star in the film – presented in a documentary-style – with the women introducing who they are and who their characters are.

Jodie, a woman who has been impacted by homelessness since aged 22 and one of the stars, thought of the idea for the film.

“It started off with a conversation, much like we are having just now,” said Jodie, now 27, speaking to me from a Simon Community women’s service in Glasgow. “Some of my character’s life I have lived: I am an addict, I am homeless and I’ve been through the criminal justice system so there is a lot in the film I relate to.”

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Jodie said the whole process was emotional as she traced back “very personal memories”, from cooking with loved ones to domestic abuse.

Speaking about the film, Jodie said: “It’s touched everyone involved and you’ve got your ups and downs but that’s what life is and that real life is what we depicted in the film."

The film hopes to stamp out prejudices attached to being a woman and being homeless.

“Women have been depicted as ‘junkies’, I hate that word," said Jodie. "But this is what we are called in the real life world. We want to end all that and break the bias attached to a woman being homeless who has her own voice and experience. What this film puts out there and shows is we are all human and we all matter.

“This has given women a voice and a platform to get heard. As a homeless woman it genuinely does take its toll as women are normally depicted in traditional roles, so when we go outside of that it makes us feel like outsiders.

“I have been judged on my looks since I’ve been very young and I was bullied a lot through my school life and as an adult for my looks and my disability as I am autistic.”

The women impacted by homelessness were keen to make their stories heard in a society which can often make them feel “invisible”.

The reason for the title is based on the L’Oreal ‘Because You’re Worth It’ ad campaign with the addition of "too” to demonstrate homeless women should not be excluded.

"It's negative and self-negative talk that dehumanises us,” said Jodie. “We are not a statistic. We have got feelings, drive, inspiration and goals, but not everyone fulfils that all at the one time because we are all unique and being unique drives us forward."

Since October, Lauren Bianchi, the film's lead creative input, has worked with the homeless charity The Simon Community and their four women’s services in Glasgow to focus on the “unheard stories” of female homelessness.

The women wanted to focus on society’s "obsession” with looks as women are treated “entirely differently” depending on how they look, according to Lauren.

"The film is very honest and speaks of the women’s experience in a sometimes light-hearted and sometimes sad tone,” Lauren said. “There’s a lot of prejudice around homelessness and all we see is the person in the street but people don’t stop to think of the stories behind that."

The characters talk about how they have come into homelessness as well as their dreams and aspirations for the future.

Jodie, who has aspirations of becoming a support worker, said if she was able to change some people's minds then she will be happy.

"As my mantra goes, I'm moving small hills to make mountains because when U reach the top of my mountain, I want to help others move their small hills to make their mountains," she said.

Lauren added: “I think in society we don’t really think about women’s experiences of homelessness. When we think about someone who is homeless, we often think about a man begging on a street corner and the women’s experience is entirely different.

"Women are still out on the streets and sleeping rough as well, but how they got there is often really different and what they need from the service is really different and can often be overlooked.”

Speaking about the film, Emma Collins, creative producer of the Village Storytelling festival said: "The village wants to highlight these stories in order for positive change to happen in society.

"If we don’t understand the female perspective of homelessness then we can’t try to improve or provide services women really need and the stigma remains.”

Jodie thinks the film will “open a lot of eyes” on women who have faced a lifetime of abuse and are people who deserve respect.

“We have had all of this to overcome but we are the strongest people in the whole entire planet," said Jodie. “It’s hard to see it for myself but I see it in other people in the same position as me.

"We are worth it too."

The film will be shown at the Centre for Contemporary Arts cinema in Glasgow on Friday at 6pm.

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