E15 is an incredibly moving theatre production that follows the experiences of a group of mums from Newham, East London, who came together to fight eviction from their homes to housing outside of London. They were residents at the mother and baby unit at the E15 Hostel, which housed young people who were experiencing homelessness.

The housing crisis is a term with which we are all familiar as a political issue of broad and current interest and as it regularly appears in the media. E15 helps us to look beyond the figures to see the human face of the crisis to remember the individuals experiencing deepening insecurity and marginalisation. They, like many others, are being excluded from communities and the sense of belonging that previous generations have taken for granted.

The Focus E15 Campaign began when 29 mothers, and mothers-to-be, housed in E15 were served eviction notices. They were warned that due to the shortage of affordable homes they may have to move to temporary accommodation as far away as Manchester and Birmingham. At the same time as they were served eviction notices, their support services including their counselling services were cut, leaving the mothers incredibly vulnerable. The mothers, who had not spoken to each other before, began to work together to look for a solution, becoming friends in the process. Against the odds they took a stand and began garnering support through a weekly stall on Stratford High Street. The campaign reached its zenith in September 2015 when the women, along with supporters, occupied four flats in an estate that the council had been trying to empty of people for eight years. For the two weeks of the occupation, the flats were used as a base for the campaign, with the women and their supporters running workshops and meetings throughout as they called for the flats to be repopulated. After the occupation, Newham Council agreed to house 40 people, or families, on the Carpenter Estate and to date they have housed just 28.

The struggle of the E15 mothers is sadly not exceptional. They are just some of the thousands of people struggling to afford to stay in the cities and communities in which they live, have their support networks and in which their children go to school. Rising private rental prices, the bedroom tax and a decrease in the number of social houses available is forcing people to move out of their communities to cheaper areas, away from their communities.

At CUF, we see diverse communities as an essential part of healthy society

At CUF, we see diverse communities as an essential part of healthy society, giving people opportunities to connect with those who are different to themselves. People with different experiences and beliefs coming together can lead to incredibly dynamic communities and relationships developing together. As those with fewer financial resources and those who are more vulnerable are pushed out of their communities this diversity is left depleted. CUF’s Near Neighbours and Common Good Fund grants support communities to celebrate difference and the things they have in common, as people work together for the common good. The Focus E15 campaign shows the strength of communities that draw together, and the influence that they can wield to see positive change for individuals and society as a whole.

E15 told an amazing story of how people who did not know one another came together behind a common cause and relationships flourished in the face of adversity. Focus 15 is an important example of community strength and resilience for us to look to in the context of the marginalisation and social exclusion that we currently see in the United Kingdom.