Cardboard Citizens Artistic Director Adrian Jackson has been awarded an MBE in the Queen’s New Year Honours List

Adrian Jackson

Adrian Jackson

Adrian Jackson has today been awarded an MBE for his work in the theatre industry. Jackson, an artistic pioneer and activist for social change, founded Cardboard Citizens over twenty-five years ago. Since then the award-winning company has become renowned for their work with homelessness, their community activism and their groundbreaking use of Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed. The company’s approach has influenced a generation theatre makers with its style of practice and affected thousands of lives around the UK with its commitment to social justice.

For a quarter of a century Cardboard Citizens has striven to create work in which theatre illuminates homelessness and the lives of homeless people, offering a space for debate, a theatre in which there is a home for all. Founded by Jackson, the company originated in the Cardboard City that occupied the Bullring in Waterloo in the early 90s (now the site of the IMAX cinema). Cardboard Citizens makes theatre that effects personal, social and political change in the lives of homeless people and in society’s perceptions of them. The company has toured hostels, day centres and prisons, as well as traditional theatre buildings across the UK, bringing theatre to the most marginalized. Through storytelling, the company breaks down conventional divisions between audience and performer, telling untold stories and opening the company’s unique insight into experiences of homelessness to general audiences, as well as presenting plays performed by, with and for homeless people. Cardboard Citizens also runs workshops and training alongside productions.

Adrian Jackson, Cardboard Citizens Founder, Director and Chief Executive said: “I am very chuffed to have been given this honour, which I regard as an award for Cardboard Citizens and all the amazing staff and members we have had over the last 25 years. It is and always has been a team effort, and I am so proud of all we have achieved. When we started out, the idea that theatre could be anything more than a therapeutic distraction for homeless people was regarded as fanciful – maybe more than anything our achievement has been to demonstrate that the arts can be so much more. Cardboard Citizens is a place where homeless people can find their feet again, a space where they won’t be judged and a platform from which they can share untold stories that need telling. It’s living proof that theatre can be a genuine catalyst for change. I celebrate the company’s recognition, but mourn the fact that homelessness is once again so common in our rich nation. 

We will continue to play our part, as long as it is needed, and sadly now, as homeless numbers rise inexorably and unnecessarily, we seem to be needed more than ever. We will announce our plans for 2018 shortly.”

Kate Winslet CBE, Cardboard Citizens Ambassador said: I have the highest regard for Adrian both as a man of the theatre and as a social campaigner and I felt honoured to have been invited by him to be an Ambassador of Cardboard Citizens some nine years ago. His company, Cardboard Citizens, was the forerunner in Britain of companies who grasp the potential of excellent art to address the problems of today through a powerful mixture of telling the stories of the homeless through theatre, as well as working with the homeless to improve their self-respect and self-standing. He has done – and is doing – a remarkable job.

 He has dedicated himself selflessly to the company and its growth and reach over the last 25 years, and I can think of few people working in the arts today who more deserve a national honour.”

Prue Skene CBE, Chair of the Cardboard Citizens Board of Trustees said: “I am more than pleased that Adrian has been given this honour. Not only has he led Cardboard Citizens for 25 remarkable years but he has also been an international spokesman for Theatre of the Oppressed since Augusto Boal’s death. He is both a true man of the theatre and an activist for social change – a rare combination. His MBE is long overdue and on behalf of everyone connected with Cardboard Citizens I would like to say how proud we are of our association with him and to congratulate him warmly.”