New play looks at failed plan to move hundreds of Londoners to Stoke-on-Trent
THE failed plan to move hundreds of deprived Londoners to Stoke-on-Trent to avoid the capital's sky-high rents is being made into a theatre production.
Newham Council sparked outrage last year when it offered to take over the leases of homes inthe city to house 500 of its most disadvantaged families.
The authority claimed it could no longer afford to house its benefit claimants in the capital's private accommodation.
But the offer was rejected as the row reached Parliament.
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Now the idea of Londoners being uprooted to live in Stoke-on-Trent is being made into a play.
Where's My House centres around three North Staffordshire teenagers and four from London and how they integrate with each other.
The project is being run by Root Theatre, in conjunction with Borderlines at the New Vic, which is based at the New Vic Theatre, in Basford, and Islington Community Theatre in London.
Playwright Frazer Flintham, aged 33, who is originally from Stone, came up with the idea.
The former Newcastle College student said: "I have wanted to do some work back in Staffordshire for a long time and I think these housing policies are going to have long-lasting effects on young people.
"We held auditions to bring this group of youngsters together and I will write a 30-minute play based on the characters.
"It is important for the cast to have this experience and focus on issues that they may have in common."
The group is running workshops in Stoke-on-Trent and London to give the young people the chance to experience a new city. Then after a week of rehearsals they will perform the piece at the New Vic on February 22.
Cast member Molly Sherratt, aged 14, of Buxton Avenue, Silverdale, said: "I auditioned with Borderlines and was jumping around when I found out I was in.
"It is a great opportunity to work with people from London and to visit their city which I had never been to before.
"I think it focuses on a real issue and it is a thought-provoking play."
The group has already raised more than £2,500 towards the cost of staging the show – but funds are still needed for lighting and costume.
London-based director Jane Fallowfield added: "This was a massive story in Stoke-on-Trent and at a national level.
"I think young people are aware of the changes in housing provision and benefits and are certainly conscious of the fact it could affect them. In workshops we have looked at the changes to the benefit system and the bedroom tax to see how it will affect young people.