Greater Manchester Housing Action is a coalition of housing and homelessness activist groups fighting for
housing justice in Greater Manchester. We were formed in response to the fact that the arrival of devolution
to many English regions wasn’t coming with any focus on citizen participation, renewed democracy and certainly no mind to address
the housing and homelessness crisis that has exploded since the introduction of austerity. We were very successful in the 2017 mayoral campaign in Greater Manchester to shift the terms of the debate towards addressing this issue. The money that we received from the Edge Fund was absolutely key to building on this success and running a series of campaigns to raise housing and homelessness on the political agenda and hold politicians to account.
The funding helped support the launch of the Greater Manchester Renters’ Forum, formed by renters for renters, to build a voice for change in the private rented sector in Greater Manchester. We had over 100 renters in attendance who were able to raise concerns with Mayor Andy Burnham and key councillors on issues from the lack of awareness of renter rights to poor conditions and lack of affordability. The money from Edge Fund helped support the transport costs of the facilitators of the session and to reach out to and mobilise groups who would not normally come along to events like this.
The Edge Fund also gave us the ability to work with the academic Jon Silver on a project which focused on the financialisation of property developments in Manchester City Centre. This caused a stir in Manchester City Council and promoted a broader discussion in the region about who really had the rights to the city. The fund also went towards general operation costs like room booking, transport and in October 2018, helped us run a strategy day to set out our plans and priorities for 2019.
There are so few sources of funding for grassroots groups like GMHA and we are absolutely indebted to their support. But more than just the money, the Edge Fund gave us an amazing opportunity to meet and make contact with loads of other activist groups, some working on similar issues to us but also others working on totally different things we can take insight and inspiration from. The funding day we went to in February was a real source of solidarity and inspiration - thank you Edge Fund! Please give them your support!
Ross - GMHA
The Outside Project are LGBTIQ+ colleagues, friends & activists who work in the Homeless sector & have lived experience of homelessness & the unique, complex issues our community face. We volunteered to launch the UK’s first LGBTIQ+ Crisis/Homeless Shelter & Community Centre. We launched publicly at London Pride 2017, campaigning alongside the passionate & talented LGBTIQ+ community of activists & artists.
We provide safe, inclusive spaces for marginalised groups at community events, our own community hub & 10 bed crisis shelter.
The Edge Fund supports our client welfare fund, enabling us to offer those ‘extra’ memorable things that mean so much to our clients, for example: we took a group of our clients to trans pride. It was the first time one of our young trans clients had been around other trans people & we were also able to buy her her first swimming costume.
When resettling a client we were able to provide bedding that they actually chose themselves & their first shop from Sainsbury’s. The Edge Fund will also be used to buy each of our shelter guests a small Christmas gift this year.
Over the last year, thanks to Edge Fund, as well as members’ dues and other sources of funding, Living Rent has been able to support tenants have a voice in the housing system and challenge some of its unfair and exploitative practices.
We have supported over 50 tenants with individual housing issues (repairs, stolen deposits, illegal fees, incredible mould and damp, asbestos) through collective action and support. This has developed the skills of a team of 10 volunteers to act as ‘member defense volunteers’ who are now able to signpost, support and plan actions to help tenants resolve their issues. We have taken direct action against several letting agencies, with quite a few wins for tenants, saving thousand pounds worth in repairs, deposit claims and illegal fees.
We have campaigned for a winterbreak to protect everyone’s right to a home in the worst times of the year and embedded housing as a human right in the legislation. We have further increased awareness around the problems of the proposed rent pressure zones (RPZ) and members have written a report outlining the limits and shortcomings of the existing legislation around RPZ to campaign for better regulation and rent controls which actually make housing affordable in Edinburgh and across Scotland in general.
We have supported the emergence of a neighbourhood group of tenants in Muirhouse. These group has research the extent of their housing issues – which effect most tenants in 6 tower blocks, representing 358 apartments – and campaign to pressure the council for greater and faster repairs given the urgency of the situation. Tenants are currently living with so-said ‘stable’ asbestos – no asbestos is ever stable – and many of them cannot afford to heat their homes or have had incredible issues with mould and damp. This group has secured regular meetings with the council, as well as more oversight and say over the 12million pounds worth of improvement of the buildings.
As a group, we have grown by 100 members last year, reaching 150 members in Edinburgh, with four active teams, and monthly branch meeting with regular attendance of over twenty people. We have regular door knocking, member defense activities and petition stalls, as well as weekly support for tenants with their housing issues. Increasingly just mentioning our name helps tenants sort their situation in two phone calls! We have worked with migrant groups, such as Spanish groups across the city and Polish communities in Muirhouse specifically.
The campaign group Highlands Against Nuclear Transport appreciates the Edge Fund grant received in March 2018 as it has enabled the group to run a variety of awareness events and demonstrations.
It’s also meant we have kept member / supporters informed and made it possible for HANT to be represented at seminars and conferences to publicise the campaign, including meetings of the Dounreay Stakeholder Group and it is also planned to buy large vinyl banners to use at demonstrations
Since the HANT AGM 1 February 2018 HANT has been involved with a joint event “Pop Up Demo” at Inverness Station with the Cromarty Peace Group in September 2018 to highlight the risks of the nuclear trains which pass through Inverness – this demo gained a lot of media coverage and petition post cards were signed by members of the public. We've lobbied Highland Council to become a Nuclear Free Local Authority and to host an event run by NFLA : Nuclear Free Local Authorities. We've held stalls at Green Party and CND conferences and university open days. We've maintained links with other groups, and have publicised reports in local news about the risks posed by nuclear transport.
HANT's activities have been made possible by a grant from the Edge Fund and HANT would like to acknowledge its thanks for this support, without which HANT wouldn't be able to fund its activities
All Committee members are volunteers but are reimbursed for any travel involved in attending meetings, conferences and planned events
Also the grant will be used to purchase a large vinyl banner which can be used at HANT events and demonstrations.
HANT (Highlands Against Nuclear Transport ) campaigns across the Highlands but because we're a long way from the venues where funding days are held we're unable to attend in person but we fully support the co-operative and community benefit principles implemented by the Edge Fund and the method used to distribute funds.
"People should support the Edge Fund because it is one of the few funders that will fund groups campaigning on controversial issues such as those opposition to nuclear power and weapons."
We believe that our campaign work relates to injustice as the nuclear industry is extremely secretive and denies the public opportunities to challenge such controversial and very risky activities such as transporting nuclear waste from the north of Scotland to Barrow and on to Sellafield.
HANT believes that nuclear power damages the planet and poses unacceptable risks to the environment, the economy, local populations and local economic activity and there is no solution to the long term storage of the increasing amounts of nuclear waste being produced
HANT can't achieve its aims without working with other groups and networking with similar campaign groups and political parties (such as the Scottish Greens & SNP) which support our campaign.
"The Edge Fund grant helps us to make this possible and our thanks are due to the Fund and those who contribute to it."
Brixton based arts activists, Tony Cealy and Chloe Osborne, with support from Ubele Initiative and Edge Fund are catalysing a cultural programme called 81 Acts of Exuberant Defiance - a community led programme of activity that will draw on the 40 year anniversary of the Brixton uprisings (2021) to:
provide a lens on our contemporary experience of equity in the area
catalyse collaboration between disparate, diverse grass roots organisations
engage the changing demographic of the area’s rich activist heritage
explore, discover and champion new modes of shared creative advocacy, enabling hidden voices to be heard and championed within the collective experience
create 81 radical acts of exuberant defiance and incite future radical responses*
*reclaiming the word by referring directly to the etymology of the word - meaning “root,” as in, “going to the root of the problem’ and embracing the idea of radicalisation as choosing to take it upon yourself to work towards a stronger, shared future world.
We started our project in the 1 year by holding "Ideas Feasts" with the aim of testing out the concept with local residents, artists, activists and community leaders. We worked together to think about potential impact, processes and programming ideas that would enable people to connect across difference.
Moving beyond the usual suspects and including a broad range of lived experiences within the local area; we began to build a community-led steering group to inform the process and help the programme move forwards.
Together we identified core themes of;
Resist - exploring strategies of resistance
Insight / Incite - Gaining Insight into the events of 81 and exploring the action that the this incites
Respect - A tribute to fallen and future activists
Reform - Calls to Action
Regroup & Renew - Exploring collective agency and the subversive act of togetherness
We then spent 6 months using these concepts to talk to people and organisations, including tenant’s association, schools, community groups and representatives from particular estates and local areas. We were concerned with how we build a sense of identity for project, and employed black led design company to help us build a visual identity that would help people to grapple with the ideas in a more tangible way. This created the 81 Acts logo and a holding page - https://81actsofexuberantdefiance.com
This also helped us to broker new conversations with local authority about permissions for dynamic interruptions in the public realm.
We held our first steering group on the 1st November, with 62 people turning up, instead of the 20 we were expecting! We delved deeper into working together, reflected on personal resonances that had brought everyone into the space and began unpacking some of the logistics for how we would like to work together. This included a proposal for clarity of roles; including; steering group members (split into two sub groups; builders (logistics & operations) & dreamers (visioning the artistic programme), allies, advocates, advisors and Radical Act Makers.
This has enabled us to harness the energy and ideas given by so many people into what feels like a dynamic and realistic process for creating 81 Acts of Exuberant Defiance.
We are now moving towards the next phase of development - generating support for a pilot programme in 2019-20 (including the development of a ‘human library’ which will house multiple narratives about the lived experience of the 1981 Uprisings and provide new opportunities for people to; forge new, intergenerational connections within the community. The idea for this was that instead of taking a book out of a library, and only receiving information, an interested person could take someone with first hand experience out for lunch or a coffee, and have a two way discussion about the 81 Uprising, and it’s relevance today.
We are focused on building the scaffolding and structures to help us move forwards sustainably. Finding ways that we can hold a space for multiple perspectives without hierarchy and reaching out into new spaces to invite Brixton in all its eccentricity and diversity, to participate. We are really grateful for the resources Edge Fund provided to help us with this, without it we would not have been able to a) galvanise the support, b) develop and test the ideas, c) experiment with a new model of community-led programming and d) begin to find radical ideas to fuel future community actions.
Divest West Midlands is part of the growing international divestment mission coordinated by Fossil Free calling for organisations, institutions and individuals to demonstrate moral leadership and end their break their ties with the fossil fuel industry.
On 14th September, 2018, we used money provided by our Edge Fund grant to organise a day of action calling for Coventry Council to divest its pension fund from fossil fuels and fracking, and to invest in clean energy - this follows Birmingham City Council agreeing to do the same in 2017. This campaign kickstarted our Coventry group, getting more people engaged in our meetings.
The money we received has enabled us to book rooms, maintain our website, and to prepare for this event – as well as to plan for actions in the new year. A massive thanks to Edge Fund!
The Galway Feminist Collective is a grassroots intersectional feminist group that stages direct actions, educational workshops and uses different forms of art to give platform to marginalised voices and conversations related to the intersection of gender, race, sexuality and class. As well as the actions and events that we organise, we believe how we organise is fundamental to creating a radical alternative to the current culture of individualistic consumerism. Therefore, we challenge our own power and privilege, we organise anti-hierarchically and reflect on the collective level what is needed individually for trust and relationships to flourish and to manage burnout within the group.
In February, two of our members traveled to London to pitch GFC and to learn about other radical projects in the UK. This was a great experience to learn of a participatory and truly radical way of distributing funds while meeting fellow activists that are carrying out really inspiring work. We left this funding day feeling inspired, motivated and part of a larger network of radical activists. What we appreciated most was hearing about the diversity of projects and their roots in community-led struggles.
The funds that we received from Edge Fund went towards our third annual ‘The F Word Feminist Festival’ which took place in August and incorporated the three pillars of what we do and our anti-hierarchical, self-organising approach.
Over a period of a week we held eight actions and events, including a women and non-binary bike workshop, a feminist true storytelling night, a feminist community art exhibition and open mic, a zine-making workshop, a public talk collaborating with the Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland, a Take Back the Night march and demonstration, a full-day of collaborative and diverse workshops and finally, a feminist music night to close the festival. Our day of workshops was the highlight of the week, which provided a radical space to learn about the struggles of different grassroots groups and movements, including; sex workers, Trans and non-binary folk, an environmental direct action group and a tenants’ union.
The Edge Fund Funding Day
We recently took part in the funding day hosted by the Edge Fund in Manchester. What made the biggest impression on us was the way the decisions were made - the group voting system was very democratic and combined with the responsibility to spend the money according to the needs of your group, at odds with the hoops that can need to be jumped through for some other funding applications.
We also pointed out the need to understand the difference between Scottish law and English law and gave feedback on the fundraising toolkit Edge Fund are developing. It was good to get a bit of extra time for Ian to explain about our group, this is important to allow a more inclusive discussion.
More than anything else, the stories of other non-mainstream groups, working hard for equality, rights and progress, encouraged the feeling of like-minded souls, forging ahead often the face of overwhelming odds.
Groups not doing things for glory, just because they needed action, and carrying things out with the people involved, not “doing to”. The sad thing is that many of these causes are seen as fringe or extreme, when in fact equality respect and human rights are the very least we should expect in a modern compassionate world.
We look forward to a day when more people don’t sneer but instead listen, understand and get involved in these valuable causes, let’s keep stoking the fire!
Ian and Alastair
The Learning Disability Group of Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire
Overview of our Round 9 Funding Day
Prepared by MORRIS SAMY OF –‘ SANDWELL YOUTH IN ACTION’
Sandwell Youth In Action (SYIA) gives the space for youth to share their stories, practice leadership, and create change in their communities and in their lives. At SYIA, we understand that those individuals most affected by a problem are in the best position to determine solutions.
SYIA has successfully secured funding from Edge Fund to run its campaign against increased adoption in the region to punish low-income women, who are increasingly losing their children due to poverty especially among women of colour and refugees, which the group calls “the unjust separation of children from their mothers”. Charges of neglect are used to punish, especially single-mother families, for their unbearably low incomes. Our campaign is to petition for the ‘adoption policy’ to be revisited to reduce the number of children in care.
On October 27th, 2018, I attended the ninth Edge Fund funding day, in Manchester, on behalf of Sandwell Youth in Action (SYIA). This day was honestly one of the most democratic and consistent modes of fund distributions I’ve ever experienced with activists and community organisers deciding where the money goes – pooling together our diverse expertise, experience and passion because every group is doing such incredible and inspiring work to share a little between a lot.
I was extremely thrilled to see SYIA being voted by the various groups as being one of the 5 groups who were to be awarded with the full amount of £3000.
I was particularly moved by meeting Virginie from Unity Sisters in Glasgow as our group has an interest in campaigning for amnesty for all and right bill for single mums and children. I came to know they were also interested in the type of activities we were campaigning for i.e. Children unnecessarily removed from parents (a drive to increase adoptions as a punitive for low-income families).
The voting system was inspiring and very well coordinated and organised. Every participating group was actively involved in the process and spent a good hour going around, asking questions. Each group had chickpeas to distribute amongst the organisations gathered – and I could put as many or as few in each “tub” as I wanted to. I put something into every tub and more into others and was relieved in the knowledge that we would all be going home with something – everyone would take home £1500.
We encourage new groups working on issues of social justice to come forward with their inspiring approaches of addressing social injustice to Edge Fund for support.
The £3000 we were awarded by Edge Fund creates an incredible opportunity for us to invest in young people and supports us to connect with other activists organising across UK to skill-share and network.
A big thank you to Edge Fund who not only gives funding to amazing people working on the ground, but set a precedent for how money can be distributed in activist communities, one that I hope will be taken up nation-wide.
A huge thank you also to all groups which were represented at the event. I learnt so much from you in such a short space of time and I am overwhelmingly grateful that you all exist.
Tower Blocks UK Report
On Saturday 27 November 2018 two of us who work as volunteers with Tower Blocks UK travelled to Manchester to present our case for funding from The Edge Fund.
As we walked along the canal to the venue we could see how Manchester has been developed and “gentrified’ in similar ways to London but we were struck by how much quieter than London it all seemed.
The Bridge 5 Mill community venue was very comfortable and well-appointed and the vegan lunch was delicious. We valued the chance to talk with representatives of the other fifteen groups who were applying, some other funded groups, members and staff who are part of the “Edge Fund community”.
The applicants encompassed some which were quite locally or specifically focussed and others which were tackling wider strategic or policy issues. For example; Rising Up who are seeking to overhaul consumerism, a group for parents of young men imprisoned because of Joint Enterprise Laws, groups seeking justice for asylum seekers and a food growers land use network - to name a few!
They were all so important and worthwhile it was a privilege to be amongst all the participants who were energetically committed to their causes. It was empowering to be amongst those challenging poverty, climate change and discrimination and fighting for better lives in the UK and Ireland.
Our organisation has been operating for about a year prompted by the Grenfell Tower fire. We aim to highlight the life and death risks in some Tower Blocks and provide advice and support to Tower Blocks tenants. In our two minutes presentation Liz Lowe outlined how Tower Blocks UK is building on previous campaigning from the 1980s and Danielle Gregory described how they had highlighted risks on her Peckham estate.
All the groups were guaranteed £1500 and had the opportunity to receive a further £1500 by participating in the voting system with 30 chickpeas each group to share amongst the organisations. We were very pleased and surprised that we were in the top five to receive the extra grant. We are also proud to receive money from such an innovative and creative fund which works so hard to support grass roots projects.
The £3,000 we were awarded will enable us to continue to run our website, produce and share accurate public information, offer advice, support and build the momentum to ensure that no-one continues to live at risk in a Tower Block.