Interview, Manchester

Fabric of Society: How students are fighting to end discrimination faced by homeless people

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By Frankie Richardson


A pair of Manchester Interactive Arts students are on a mission. These two bright young things are the driving force behind new activist group Fabric of Society, and are determined to use the creative skills being nurtured by their university studies in a way which benefits the wider community.

One says she’s inspired by the concept of inclusion: “Despite our differences, we all make up the Fabric of Society”, while the other tells of being struck when she moved to Manchester by the huge scale of our homelessness problem. She’s not wrong. Here, as with all over the country, homelessness figures are skyrocketing, having increased by a huge 16% in the last year alone. According to leading homelessness charity Shelter, a typical night in 2016 saw 4,134 people sleeping on the streets in the UK. And with the government’s plans to cut housing benefits for some 18 – 21-year-olds, there’s no reason to hope for any sudden improvements in these shocking figures.

So what does the Fabric of Society project hope to achieve? Well, first and foremost it’s all about humanisation and community: “The main aim is to end the prejudice and discrimination faced by homeless people. The project aims to point out that, regardless of whether or not you have a home you’re still a Mancunian.”

They also recognize the need to move beyond preaching to the choir: “Most people who go to events, protests or fundraisers already know the problem and are engaged with it, so we wanted to come up with a way we could reach all the people who aren’t aware, or aren’t engaged, and to get people thinking.”

How is it possible to achieve these aims in a social media-driven world where we only really see stories we already agree with? Take it to the streets. Or the pavements, to be exact: “We didn’t want to be too in your face or over the top about it, so we started using temporary spray paint to paint yellow circles on the pavement, with the words ‘If you stand here you stand with the homeless’ to point out to people who might see or stand on one that these are our streets, and they belong to all of us. No matter who we are, we all walk on the same pavement.”

Fabric of Society are also keen to talk about their next project. In the run up to the Wonder Woman Festival and International Women’s Day, Fabric of Society will be collaborating with charity The Monthly Gift Manchester, who provide sanitary products to homeless women. “It’s bad enough when you have a toilet and money to buy the things you need, I can’t even imagine what it must feel like to have to manage without!”

This is a tough topic to tackle for a street art project, with menstruation still being a perceived taboo and many people being unwilling to even talk about it, despite sanitary items being fundamental for hygiene and the prevention of infections and Toxic Shock Syndrome, as well as simple human dignity. “To create Art and raise awareness without making anyone feel uncomfortable is going to be a real challenge. We don’t want it to feel intrusive in public space, so it’s going to have to be a very clever, thoughtful campaign.”

With every base covered and every action carefully considered, Fabric of Society certainly looks to be a project worth keeping an eye on in the coming months. Watch this space. Or this pavement, as the case may be.

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2 Comments

  1. Sarah McGladrigan 11th February 2017 at 1:47 pm -  Reply

    Who are these brilliant students? You haven’t named them!

  2. Sarah Baker 13th February 2017 at 8:24 pm -  Reply

    How is this raising awareness? You don’t need to put something on the street to draw people’s attention to homelessness: there are ACTUAL homeless people ON the street already!

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