A social issue noticeable to all who roam Manchester’s streets and one that sits at the forefront of Andy Burnham’s leadership campaign is homelessness. In response, the city now has a plethora of morally conscious projects vying to remedy this social ill. Established in 2017 by Lily Fothergill and Jonah Ogbuneke before welcoming Jack Houghton on board, Love For The Streets is a group that seeks to use live music and other cultural event as platforms for social change. So far, they have managed to raise over £4,000 for the Big Change Fund and other charities, as well as engaging 145 young people with volunteering to enable positive social action.

They are one element of the Manchester branch of Gen DIY, which is seeing young social entrepreneurs collaborating in five major UK cities to raise the profile of their various aims and multiply their overall impact. Their fellow are BLOOM (Beautiful Ladies Organising Orgasmic Music), BOYGIRL, David Burch (Ad Hoc Records) and Funraising.

Love For The Streets’ co-founder Jonah Ogbuneke explained more about the group’s concept, aims and past and future events.

Love For The Streets 2018_ Now Then

How have your experiences and expertise fed into Love For The Streets, whether individually or as a collective?

Within Love For The Streets, we’re very fortunate to have a core team with a diverse set of skills and experiences.

Lily’s experience running her own club night, Jazzhop, was invaluable in helping us shape our own nights. Ella’s background in graphic design and as a teacher at Manchester School of Art was essential to us delivering our art workshops and our Homelessness Art Exhibition at the Whitworth Art Gallery. And the social media marketing skills of Jack and myself made it possible to rapidly grow our following and get our message out to the student community.

However, I think the greatest strength of Love For The Streets has been its ability to allow students to use their interests and the skills they’ve gained during their degree to support their community in a way that is engaging to them. And the ‘collaboration culture’ we managed to foster at Love For The Streets only propelled this further – from working with students from across Manchester’s universities – UoM, MMU, BIMM and Salford – to collaborating with the likes of Rich Reason and the guys from Levelz.

What support has there been from Greater Manchester’s existing homelessness support networks and charities, and how can you add to those?

We’ve been very fortunate to receive huge amounts of support for our project from the organisations working to tackle homelessness in Greater Manchester. Whether it’s the individuals from various charities agreeing to take the time to speak at our conferences and events, to helping us organise workshops for their beneficiaries, to contributing artwork for our events and even helping us better understand the issue ourselves so we can ensure we’re informing others as accurately as possible.

Our role as an organisation is to find ways to get more students involved in helping to tackle homelessness in Manchester. Whether that’s through volunteering with homeless charities, inspiring more individuals to organise their own fundraising activities for them or educating people on the realities behind what causes homelessness and what they can do to help when they see someone rough sleeping.

What events have you run so far and what can we expect to see from LFTS?

Since our launch in October we’ve run a series of 13 diverse events with around 6,000 total attendees. We’ve done club night fundraisers for the Big Change Fund; conferences on LGBTQ+ and women’s issues within the homelessness sector; homelessness art exhibitions; intimate Q&A discussions with individuals who experienced homelessness; volunteer recruitment events; and a small festival in collaboration with Rich Reason.

Our standout events this year were the Homelessness Art Exhibition we put on at Whitworth Art Gallery and the Food For Thought Festival we organised in collaboration with Rich Reason.

At the Homelessness Art Exhibition, we used the artwork that was created during the workshops we ran at Greater Together Manchester and Cornerstone, and featured artwork from the Booth Centre, Mustard Tree and the artist David Tovey. The event brought in 1,425 people to the gallery and gave the beneficiaries from the homeless charities the opportunity to see the public engage with their artwork – with the aim that this would lead to a greater empowerment for those individuals.

At the Food For Thought Festival, we gave students – and the community in general – the opportunity to see some of their favourite artists and experience a remarkable event by just bringing along some tins of food to donate to Manchester Central Foodbank. The idea – originating from Rich – gave students an easy and accessible way to support their community while doing something they love. Through this event, we were able to collect 875kg of food for the foodbank (enough for 2,100 meals) and raised about £1,000 for the foodbank.

Ultimately, you can expect to see more of the same from Love For The Streets.

Our next event is planned for September, and it’s shaping up to be one not to miss. We have more collaborations lined up and opportunities to be involved in some major art festivals – but nothing I can go into detail about just yet.

How did the Gen DIY group come together initially?

The core team came together very organically. I put on a conference for the Big Change Society at UoM called Honest Discussions on Homelessness, where I met Lily. Together, we then organised a fundraiser for the Big Change Fund in collaboration with her Jazzhop night, which raised over £1,000. It really showed us the potential for music, art and culture to be bring people together on social issues. Wanting to do more, we came up with an idea to have a festival – which ultimately turned into the Love For The Streets campaign – and met Jack at a Manchester Students Ending Homelessness meeting, where he immediately joined the team. And shortly after launching the campaign we got Ella involved who already had an ambition to run art workshops at homeless shelters – and so we were able incorporate her work into the campaign.

How has the Big Change fund and organisation played a role?

The Big Change Campaign is a regional campaign in Manchester which aims to change the way we tackle homelessness as a city. It encourages people to focus on supporting long-term structured solutions to homelessness (e.g. through the Big Change Fund) instead of giving sporadically to people they see rough sleeping.

The Big Change Fund is a pot of money that is used exclusively to support individuals who’re rough sleeping with tangible items that will help them get off the streets. Whether that’s deposit for housing, rent, a uniform for a new job, essential furniture for a new flat, therapy, rehab, etc.

The Big Change Campaign helped shape our understanding of the issue of homelessness and gave us clear guidance about the practical things individuals could do to help tackle homelessness. Throughout our work, we try to direct people to support the Big Change Fund, because we believe this is one of best and simplest ways people can help to end homelessness in Manchester.

Through giving out surveys, we found that 70.51% of people learnt about the Big Change for the first time through one of our events. This is something we’re extremely proud of and plan to continue to promote going forward.

What do you feel are the possibilities for positive social impact through city music scenes?

I think the possibilities for positive social impact through a city’s music scene are boundless.

Charity fundraisers are already becoming a regular aspect of the student music scene in Manchester – a trend that only seems to be gaining in popularity. Alongside this, there are so many events that provide a safe space for typically marginalised groups, raise awareness for different causes and give opportunities to a diverse range of artists.

How can other people get involved?

There are lots of ways people can get involved with Love For The Streets, and we’re most easily contacted through social media – in particular Facebook or Instagram. And whether they’re interested in coming to our events, getting involved in volunteering or are interested in joining the team, we’d love to hear from them.

facebook.com/loveforthestreetsmcr

instagram.com/loveforthestreets

eventbrite.co.uk/blog/academy/generation-diy/#Manchester

Background art: Urban Garden by Kate Morgan

Ian Pennington