Homeless Film Festival director says controversial Manchester Met visit is about raising awareness not politics

Organisers of the Homeless Film Festival have passionately defended their decision to have events hosted by Manchester Metropolitan University.

Figures such as local Green candidate Deyika Nzeribe have recently called on the festival to do the ‘right thing’ and cancel events being hosted by the university this month over the controversy surrounding The Arc evictions.

However, the festival has hit back at ‘unfair’ criticism, insisting the aim of the festival is to raise awareness of homelessness rather get involved in political posturing.

Speaking to MM this week, festival co-director Dean Brocklehurst said: “We are not a political organisation.

“We are independent and have no affiliation to any university or venue where we screen content, our goal is to use venues as a tool to raise awareness and educate.”

The university has been heavily scrutinised over its treatment of homeless people who had set up a shelter underneath the Mancunian Way flyover earlier this year.

As a result of a high court order, the rough sleepers were subject to multiple police raids, with witnesses claiming possessions were thrown into bins and people aggressively dragged from the site.

Critics have accused organisers of the festival, which gives a global platform to homeless film projects, of being complicit with this action taken against the shelter.

Speaking about the criticism, Dean said: “We totally understand that some people could see it that way and internally we discussed this at length.”

He added: “However, we all decided that we are committed to students and our goal is to engage them at this critical point in their lives, to inspire them to use the tools they have (e.g. camera equipment on the film course) to help inspire change.

“We have events going on at universities up and down the country and felt it unfair to take the opportunity away from students at Manchester Metropolitan University.

In recent weeks, students, charities and other groups have joined in protest against the eviction of The Arc shelter, and the Dean says this alone is in fact a reason for the events to go ahead.

“People affected by homeless issues have complicated lives, they may have drug or alcohol addiction, suffer from mental health issues or simply don’t have a financial safety net like you and I.

“In order to tackle this huge problem we need to engage with many organisations from the council, homeless charities as well as universities and indeed individuals.

“Because of this we feel the attack on Homeless Film Festival is unfair and we genuinely believe pulling out of the screenings will be depriving the students at MMU a chance to engage further in the debate around homelessness within an academic setting.”

The events, hosted by Manchester Metropolitan University, are now underway, with screenings taking place across the city until November 14.  

Dean is hoping the added media coverage of the festival will give the issue of homelessness the exposure it deserves.

“I do hope that all this publicity means that students will be inspired to find out more about Homeless Film Festival.

“To learn more about us, and possibly to come and volunteer with us to do workshops with homeless people, to teach them skills in scriptwriting, editing and camera work and help empower those most vulnerable.”

Picture courtesy of Rosa Methol, with thanks.

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