Tower Hamlets homeless man tours Europe

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The group have toured all over Europe Photo: Cardboard Citizens

A Tower Hamlets man who spent a year on the streets often sleeping rough is returning to the homeless shelters of London – but this time as an actor with a theatre company.

Ian Kalman has just returned from touring Austria with Cardboard Citizens, a Tower Hamlets based professional theatre company, which works with people who are homeless or who have direct experience of homelessness.

In Austria, they were performing Led Easy, three plays about three characters all connected with homelessness. After performing in Linz, Salzberg, Innsbruck, Vienna and Graz  the company is returning to the capital for a tour of homeless shelters.

Born and bred in Tower Hamlets before becoming homeless, Mr Kalman said he ‘loved’ the experience of touring.

He encountered Cardboard Citizens one year ago where they performed at the hostel he was staying at on the  Harrow Road in north-west London. He had acted ‘years ago’ and said the experience ‘rejuvenated my interest in it’. He began to volunteer for the company, until he was asked to perform in Led Easy.

Forced to live on the streets, Mr Kalman had begun to loose his self-confidence: ‘you begin to ask yourself ‘are you valued?’’ He now believes everyone should participate in acting workshops: ‘It does help to value yourself’.

Whitechapel is Mr Kalman’s current home, having managed to secure a two-year lease on a flat. He believes he has been ‘extremely lucky’ in his life as he could still be in a hostel.

Since returning from Austria Mr Kalman has reassessed his aspirations and now wants to concentrate his future on the medium of ‘legislative theatre’. The genre aims to make people look afresh at justice and the law.

A manager at Providence Row, a homeless shelter in Tower Hamlets said of the upcoming tour: ‘Cardboard Citizens is always good at engaging clients…[having them here] gives more opportunities for us to get to know clients and for them to get involved in activities’.

Led Easy was in Austria to perform in the World Forum Festival, which is attended by socially and politically orientated theatre companies and theatre practitioners  from all over the world . Forum theatre actively encourages audience members make decisions that affect the outcome of the plot and was founded by Augusto Boal, who died earlier this year. His aim was to encourage change in social and political spheres.

The performances of Led Easy will be performed on the 16th and 17th of November at Toynbee Studios, in Spitalfields at 3pm and 7.30pm. Tickets are £5 or £1 for those with experience of homelessness. Contact for more information.

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