Union StUnion St

By Hannah Clugston

5 Minutes with… Maryam Wright of ACORN

Right now, there is a mini revolution going on in the renting sector, and landlords are finally being held to account. Meet the Union behind the action.

Q. Why did you join ACORN?
I joined because there is limited protection for tenants and I feel ACORN  provides me with the protection I have never been able to find in the past. I have rented all my life and due to the current housing crisis, I’m likely to remain a renter for the foreseeable further. I want to restore some balance to the imbalance of power between tenants and landlords, but it’s not something I can do alone. However, by uniting tenants together through ACORN, we can improve things for tenants through direct action and campaigning for real change.

Q. What rights do renters have that they might not be aware of?
There’s two that spring to mind. Firstly, if your landlord hasn’t protected your deposit, they usually can’t evict you and you can take them to court and get compensation. The second right, is the right to join ACORN!

Q. One of the issues you cite is the fact landlords are detached from their renters – how to bridge this gap?
The private renting sector has become all about making profit over providing homes. Rather than seeing the person who requires a home, renters are viewed as second class citizens and are reduced to a balance on a spreadsheet. Housing is a basic human need, it should never have been allowed to become a profit making scam where tenants are allowed to be exploited in order for landlords to make as much profit as possible. The private renting sector is badly in need of regulation, ACORN brings tenant voices together and gives us a platform to be heard so that we can work to win the rights we deserve.

Q. If I am a renter reading this and I am having issues, how can ACORN help me?
If you are having issues we have a Tenant Support Group on Facebook that you can join and ask for advice. If the issue you have requires action and you agree to it, we can mobilise to take direct action on your behalf and we can provide solidarity to support you. We know first-hand how these issues affect your wellbeing and there is power in a union.

Q. You recently appeared on the BBC – what sort of progress would you like to see come from the national media coverage?
I’d like more people to join ACORN so we can work together to bring renting in-line with the 21st century. This is a housing crisis for tenants, not landlords. We are often told “people should do more for themselves”, so let’s do more for ourselves by standing up for our basic right to an affordable, fit and proper home!

If you’d like to join ACORN, you can do so at acorntheunion.org.uk. Once a week, ACORN meet at Union St to plan campaigns. If you need a spot to meet to plan social action, contact matt@union-st.org

By Hannah Clugston

Banish Monotonous Movement

MoveFree is not your standard fitness class. It manages to pack yoga, pilates, biomechanics and movement neurology into one session. The mastermind behind this cross-practice class is Georgina Ramos, who decided to graduate from her straight-forward pilates training to utilise different movements to reach people’s specific issues.

And it seems to be a good idea, as Georgina explains: “The benefits are improved relaxation and overall wellbeing because the body wants to move. Complex and varied movement stimulates the brain, so we get improved memory and concentration as well as relief from aches and pains.”

A lot of these aches and pains come from the repetitive movement that is a habitual part of modern life and isn’t usually considered problematic. For example, it is not uncommon for us to spend eight hours a day sat at a desk, with breaks to scroll through Instagram and lounge on the sofa in front of the TV – especially during winter, Georgina notes: “Repetitive movement creates tightness and weaknesses that will cause bad alignment, which creates unnatural loads and forces on the body, eventually giving warning signals like pain if unaddressed.”

This sort of physical negligence is surprising when we consider how much time and money we often spend on other things: “If a car’s tracking was out of alignment we’d take it to the garage, but we think nothing of the fact that our bodies are less functional because they’re responding to what we do most of the time. There’s nothing wrong with any one position per say, but if we spend a whole day in one position, the body will respond by shortening muscles and tightening joints. We stop being able to touch our toes because our joints never go past 90 degrees, which eventually means you can’t put your shoes on without difficulty.”

Little daily niggles can often go unresolved, but Georgina hopes to combat complacency with exercises that make a long-term impact. “Attendees can expect to feel stretched, strengthened, challenged by surprisingly small movements, and hopefully feel they’ve had fun too.”

MoveFree begins at Union St, with free taster sessions on Sat 6 and 13 Jan, 12:00-1:00pm, and Mon 8 Jan, 5:30-6:30pm.

By Hannah Clugston

Endless Love Creative

Although Endless Love Creative is named after the 80s coming-of-age drama, founder Charlotte Righton hasn’t actually seen the film. Rather, Charlotte was inspired by the Lionel Richie and Diana Ross song written for the film, Charlotte explains: “Imagine that vibe with fairy lights and some red wine – and that’s Endless Love Creative. My intention was to create a night that was romantic, considered and visually beautiful.”

Sounds good. But what exactly happens at an Endless Love Creative? The first event is a life drawing class happening once a month at Union St’s One Space. Charlotte decided to establish the session after feeling frustrated by the lack of variety in life drawing offerings in Sheffield: “I follow a few life drawing artists on Instagram and they are based in places like London, Sweden and Australia. They were going to events that looked like glamorous parties, where you could listen to great music, meet new people and feel personally rewarded. I would attend classes in Sheffield and they were all quite similar and would run in the daytime, which meant no-one I knew could come due to work. And the classes were advertised in a way that made it feel like you had to be good at drawing or even be an artist, that’s not what I wanted it to be about.”

Endless Love Creative is almost the opposite of all the other life drawing classes in Sheffield: it’s in the evening, in a relaxed setting and you don’t need any previous experience. “If anything, I want to encourage those with no experience to try this” Charlotte comments. “The reason why I’ve made it so casual, and more like an event than a class is for that very reason. Art is meant to inspire, encourage and welcome all, but it can also be intimidating. Endless Love Creative is about saying art is for everyone.”

The entire event is about making people feel comfortable and safe – whether that is to test out their artistic skills or get nude in front of an audience. Charlotte’s models are often partially dressed or layered in interesting textiles, and she provides wine and guides rookie artists with suggested tasks.

Endless Love Creative’s next Life Drawing evening is 15 January. Tickets are £10, available at https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/endless-love-creative-life-drawing-night-fashion-and-the-female-form-tickets-41534884959

5 Minutes with… Maryam Wright of ACORN
Banish Monotonous Movement
Endless Love Creative