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Urban Lab Films: Cities of Sleep

25 May 18:20 - 20:35
Organized by: UCL Urban Laboratory
Bertha DocHouse
Curzon Bloomsbury
The Brunswick

Urban Lab Films hosts a special screening of the award-winning documentary Cities of Sleep (Shaunak Sen, 2016) - a film displaying the tremendous social and political pressure that sleep exerts on the homeless in Delhi, where securing a safe sleeping spot can often become a question of life or death. We will be joined by the director and an expert panel for a post-screening discussion.


Taking us into the heady world of insurgent sleeper communities in the Indian capital, the film trails the lives of two individuals. Shakeel, a young man who has spent seven years sleeping rough, is now having to deal with the “sleep mafia”—goons who capitalise on the scarcity of safe sleeping spaces in the absence of government safety nets. The film follows his attempts to secure a safe sleeping space as the infamous winter rains of Delhi are due. We also meet Ranjeet, who runs a ‘sleep-cinema’ community under a huge bridge that straddles the banks of the Yamuna River. The thin strip of land houses shanty cinemas where over 400 homeless come and sleep through the day for a nominal price. The flooding of the river poses a threat to the people sleeping there every monsoon.


Following the screening a panel will discuss sleep, health and homelessness in Delhi – which has over two million homeless – and London – where over 8,000 people slept rough at least once in 2015/16. How can cities with shared histories, yet divergent trajectories of urbanisation act as compelling entry points for comparison and intervention? And as the nightscapes of cities are increasingly vital to urban economies, what can be done to address the substantial homeless problems, and health consequences, in both cities?



Shaunak Sen (Director, Cities of Sleep)

Sushrut Jadhav (UCL Psychiatry and Camden NHS Homeless Outreach Services)

Deborah Garvie (Shelter)

David Eastwood (Greater London Authority)

Ruth Padel (poet and novelist)

Ben Campkin – chair (UCL Urban Laboratory)


Limited tickets are available for this special one-off screening, Q&A and post-event drinks reception, so book now to avoid disappointment.