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SevenR: setting up of the twiki page and setting of the deadline could usefully coincide with an email to [imc-sheffield] list. smile

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Sheffield IMC Features

Deadline, Saturday 1st May 2004, afternoon?

Debt and Poverty


There was protest in Sheffield on Saturday 1st May outside Brighthouse, on The Moor, because it is a credit company that make huge profits by exploiting those people who don't have access to mainstream sources of debt finance. Brighthouse sell goods on credit at extortionate rates, and people who often have no other financial options end up paying double or more of the cost of the original product they buy. Brighthouse are not alone in this game, there are many more predatory lenders who profit from exploiting people who can not borrow money from banks, building societies and credit cards, and locking them further into debt. For example Provident Financial are a company who offer doorstep loans, where a typical loan could be \xA3100 repaid at \xA35 a week over 30 weeks and the APR can be up to 170%!

The Sheffield Social Forum gave out a leaflet at the protest and music was provided by the Sheffield Samba Band.

Read more

Borrowing from these sources can severely worsen the circumstances of people who are already coping with the burden of poverty level incomes. But this borrowing for many in unavoidable. Research has shown (what is blatantly obvious to most of us) that credit use among people on low incomes can be a key strategy in making ends meet and is largely used to meet essential household expenses, such as utility bills, and to cope with problems related to on-going income inadequacy.

The lenders that cater for the needs of people who are excluded from mainstream credit provision fall into two broad categories: non-status lenders - such as finance houses, that cater specifically to the needs of people with a low credit rating; 'alternative' lenders - such as weekly collected credit companies and pawnbrokers, who serve people on very low or unstable incomes. Some people may not even be able to gain access to these sources of credit and have no choice but to turn to unlicensed, illegal moneylenders to meet their credit needs. These forms of non-stream lenders tend to be associated with exploitative behaviour such as hugely higher interest rates, poor conditions and unscrupulous sales practices.

Research done in the most deprived areas of Greater Gwent in Wales showed that more than one in ten people who had used credit had not been given copies of the paperwork relating to their loan, had felt they had insufficient information about the agreement, and even more worryingly had been threatened in some way, where as one in twenty five credit users who had experienced problems - almost certainly users of unlicensed moneylenders - had their benefit book kept by the lender as 'security' for their loan.

The campaigning group Impact, who work with communities to address the issues facing them, have revealed a catalogue of horror stories about debt in Sheffield. Increasing numbers of people are turning to loan sharks because they don't have enough money to feed their families. Little shops have opened in some areas offering cash loans to people and charging huge rates of interest, and people are handing over family allowance books as collateral. One shop in Gleadless apparently had a pile of family allowance books under their counter. Driven by a lack of a credit rating people are turning to predatory lenders to fund essentials like new shoes for their children or washing machines. Families in just three streets in the Manor were found to have collected debts amounting to \xA370,000, where as another woman had pawned her bracelet for \xA3350 and was having to pay over \xA31000 to get it back.

The ramifications of the need to get into debt are high. Debt has a corrosive effect on communities. High-cost loans are stripping out money from poor neighbourhoods. People are paying off interest rather than using their limited income for their own good, and in local shops. The impact of unmanageable debt on an individual\x92s life can be overwhelming. The Citizen Advice Bureau report that by the time people sought advice from the CAB nearly two fifths of clients said that they felt they could not cope and were feeling in crisis. Around one in eight CAB debt advice clients have started treatment for stress, depression or anxiety since their debt problems started. In many cases clients reported that the impact of debt on their lives had been devastating. Relationship breakdown, feelings of isolation and the stress of living on a tight budget had affected them deeply.

The problems with debt are widespread and affects a huge proportion of the population. The Financial Services Authority report that 6.1 million families report some difficulties meeting their debt repayments. Personal debt averages \xA34,426 per adult in Britain. As you would expect, those people on the lowest incomes are the most effected. Over half of households with serious debts have incomes of less than \xA37,500. Around 15 per cent of social housing tenants are behind with their rent at any one time \x96 over half a million people. In 2001/02 housing association tenants owed \xA3231 million and local authority tenants owed \xA3403 million in rent arrears. In 2002/03 mortgage and rent arrears were the major causes of homelessness for over 5,000 households in England and Wales.

Until the fundamental causes of the need for debt are changed, people are always going to find themselves in situations where they need access to credit. People in Sheffield are both challenging predatory lenders in our communities and building alternatives. Credit Unions are being set up in communities to assist people with a savings facility and with low cost loans. Credit Unions are run co-operatively and are set up, owned and run by its members, and work by members saving together to create a pool of money from which low cost loans are made. A list of credit unions in Sheffield can be found on the Sheffield Credit Union Development Agency web site but it hasn't been updated in a while, there is a more upto date list on the Association of British Credit Unions Ltd site or you can find out about your nearest Credit Union by calling 281 2105.

Another organisation in Sheffield that can help and advise people traped in debt is Sheffield Debtline contact them on 255 5455.

Sheffield Social Forum Launch and Sharrow Lantern parade

article now published on site (#288310)

notes and stuff

Proposer: Dan Olner
Deadline: 5 pm, Wednesday 31st March

Notes: can someone help me with good links here? How can these be transferred easily to the feature?

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top section

The weekend of March 27th - 28th saw the launch of the Sheffield Social Forum on Saturday while the Sharrow Lantern Festival made its fantastic debut on Sunday.

Sheffield Social Forum Launch

Sheffield Social Forum Launch

1 On SSF Launch
2 On article "Struggle NOT submission"

Sheffield Social Forum Launch 1 | 2 | 3
Comment: Some more snaps 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 |

Sharrow Lantern Carnival

The Lantern Carnival: was it political?

Moment for Peace at Lantern Festival 1

Sharrow Lantern Procession Photos 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20

Pics from the Sharrow Lantern Carnival 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18
Comment: Some of my pics 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7

video from sharrow lantern carnival | more video from the lantern carnival

read more... section

The Sheffield Social Forum opened to the global resistance sounds of Manu Chao. Sheffield Indymedia had a number of computers set up on the main stage complete with a wireless Internet node and help on hand for anyone who needed it - yet the basic human skill of putting pen to to paper was also encouraged by the copious amounts of sheets around the hall where you could write a poem, highlight a campaign, or just doodle! Several reminders of the avenues of protest and organising welcome to us were happening before our eyes as we were encouraged to brainstorm creative direct action, upload our own reports to indymedia, or even something as simple as putting graffiti on the rolls of paper on the walls.

The room was arranged not in the usual rows of regimented lines, but in clusters of chairs so as to facilate the smooth running of the workshops.

About one hundred people attended throughout the day, including many school students, some cool folk from WDM in London, SF folk from Manchester and Nottingham, Leeds ARC and others who had come to politics and social change through the AntiWarMovement. Others turned up from long ago struggles and campaigns but who had stopped for various reasons being 'active' as it were...

The day was definitely more than the sum of its parts: occasionally chaotic, sometimes amazing and sometimes completely stupid - something good happened. Whether good things continue to happen depends on us...

It was clear this was a different event to the traditional lefty ‘teach ins’.

Togetherness -- AmparoPerez - 31 Mar 2004 [The idea was to create subheaders if necessary using the words (3 words) people was asked to write down on form , 3 words defining the SSF... any other two words???]

A few spontaneously written lines with red marker pens on the hall sheets proclaimed:

"We want Human Rights for our children"
"We want a future Sheffield where our children have human rights"

What did these words say? Was there some real fear in the air, some real concern? A reflection of a genuine cry from thousands, millions of women and men who may see themselves gradually deprived of the very rights which are Britain's symbols -- and were also the US's, before September Eleventh? In the film room, this sense of living in 'interesting times' was heightened: talking heads spoke of the US constitution being torn up. Another voice told us that, had the Patriot Act been in force at the time of Martin Luther King, he would have been a domestic terrorist - and thereby had zero rights.

... but already there are many plans afoot. New ideas and new ways of working together are emerging, slowly. The workshops and networking spilled over into the pub as the sun set on the last dark evening of winter. This was just the beginning...

The Carnival

The first morning of British Summer Time dawned bright and clear, which made a change from the high winds and intermittent rain that postponed the lantern parade. It was originally meant to take place on the 21st of March. The Creative Action Network (CAN) had originally devised this parade to celebrate the vernal equinox, mothers (and mother earth) day, and to acknowledge the first anniversary of the start of the war in Iraq. Although the significant date had passed, the morning sun reminded us to "Wake up, Rise up, Stand up" as the posters proclaimed. Weeks of workshops with artists, students, schoolchildren, families and anyone else who showed an interest could be seen on the graffiti-adorned basketball court at Mount Pleasant Park. Lanterns stretched across the tarmac and were picked up, put on, and lit by participants and stewards.

A day-glo pink marabou-lined pram carried a speaker to provide the beats at the back, and the Sheffield Samba Band struck up the march at the front. The middle of the beast that began to snake its way through Sharrow was made up of lanterns, poi, bicycles, tricycles, and people of all shapes and sizes. As it progressed, the parade had everyone out of their front doors, and leaning out of their tower block windows. It could have been any community or neighbourhood in any city in the world. Children called out from balconies and got smiles and waves in return. A little boy asked a poi-twirler how to spin, and learned how to make his own poi. Bus passengers got an eyeful and most returned the grins. The traffic stopped, and red-amber-green was ignored. The only lights that mattered were the ones belonging to mermaids and centaurs, horned gods, fish, dragonflies and other creatures. Beautiful lanterns weaved through Sharrow, reclaiming the roads for a brief moment with something that no body could ignore, and that nobody could fail to smile at.

The carnival was a magical event and a true symbol for peace. It made Gil Scott-Heron's lyrics real once again:

You will not be able to stay home, brother.
You will not be able to plug in, turn on and cop out.
You will not be able to lose yourself on skag and skip,
Skip out for beer during commercials,
Because the revolution will not be televised.


The revolution will not be televised, will not be televised,
will not be televised, will not be televised.
The revolution will be no re-run brothers;
The revolution will be live."

Well the lantern parade may not be a revolution but it certainly wasn't televised or covered by the mainstream media. This lack of coverage, of what was a fairly large and significant local event, made it even more of a community event. It belonged to us and was not to be reinterpreted by non particpants and sold as commodity in newspapers, radio or TV.

Gill Scott Heron's song is not only linked with the cover text of SSF launch leaflet - the leaflet’s text is a reworking of the song’s lyrics. One could not help referring to poetry when trying to describe the night.

The parade gathered participants until the very end. The finale was the moment of silence for peace followed by an amazing light show of fire breathers, fire jugglers, smoke and flares. After this show many congregated in the general cemetery helped themselves to soup and snacks which were on offer thanks to the crew from BramblesHousing co-op.

The parade could be seen as just the tip of an iceberg - what lay underneath were all the relationships and friends made, all the people who had been making lanterns together in front rooms and community centres and church halls around Sharrow for months. Webs of connections that didn't exist before emerged on this day in a beautiful and positive way. Time springs ahead. For a weekend that was one hour short, Sheffield managed to get in two amazingly powerful events. Let's hope the illuminating ideas of Saturday and the symbolic lights of Sunday combine with the lengthening days of spring and summer to spark off an exponential number of communities, ideas, and future action!

-- DanOlner - 30 Mar 2004
-- ChipScooter - 30 Mar 2004 minor edits
-- SteveAntiwar - 30 Mar 2004 minor edits
-- SevenR - 30 Mar 2004 2225 UCT+1 started discussion of process
-- AmparoPerez - 30 Mar 2004 various :-)
-- SevenR - 31 Mar 2004 0950 UCT +1 general tidying & links section added
-- SteveAntiwar 31 Mar 2004 10.55 text edit and html tags
-- SteveAntiwar 31 Mar 2004 15.49 text edit and more links
-- SevenR - 31 Mar 2004 1841 UCT+1 moving link & minor html
-- SteveAntiwar 31 Mar 2004 21.43 minor edits -- SevenR 01 Apr 2004 0940 UCT+1 added published notice

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Topic attachments
I Attachment Action Size DateSorted ascending Who Comment
images.jpegjpeg images.jpeg manage 12 K 30 Mar 2004 - 23:31 UnknownUser  
IfweremembertheGreekrootfor.docdoc IfweremembertheGreekrootfor.doc manage 20 K 31 Mar 2004 - 18:12 UnknownUser  
t16.7hekate.gifgif t16.7hekate.gif manage 41 K 31 Mar 2004 - 18:13 UnknownUser  
P14.3BAmphitrite.gifgif P14.3BAmphitrite.gif manage 42 K 31 Mar 2004 - 18:14 UnknownUser  
Nosharks.gifgif Nosharks.gif manage 10 K 30 Apr 2004 - 21:11 UnknownUser No loan sharks
Topic revision: r49 - 25 May 2011, ChrisC
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