The Student House Stories
Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester.
In March 2019 we were commissioned by the Whitworth Young Contemporaries to respond to the exhibition 'Joy For Ever: How to use art to change the world and its price in the market' at Whitworth Art Gallery, inspired by acclaimed art critic John Ruskin's lesser known work as a social reformer and questioning how a gallery can be used as a classroom for creative social change.
Working with UK charity Shelter we developed 'The Student House Stories'; a three month creative project on student and youth housing issues in a bottom-up campaign style, designed to give young people a voice on the recognised stage that is The Whitworth.
The Student House Stories was an outcry against the constant exploitation of young people by rogue and disinterested landlords, resulting in unacceptable living conditions, unprotected deposits and sometimes lengthy court battles to resolve them. Too many students face not being able to afford their housing, which in cases results in hidden homelessness, mental health issues and we even encountered students not being able to eat because they simply can’t afford to.
Beginning with a campaign session with Shelter 'Take Action', we ran a series of creative summits working directly in student homes, questioning what utopia can mean to young people and posing solutions to the student housing crisis. Following the creative summits we took over The Whitworth Art Gallery in June with all our stories and student voices in a large-scale exhibition, followed by a panel discussion with some of Manchester's most influential housing figures.
At our exhibition at The Whitworth Art Gallery on June 1st 2019 we had an interaction exhibition and panel discussion. We invited Kat Wright from housing union ACORN, Bryn Phillips community organiser at Shelter, Ella Marshall from creative social enterprise Love For The Streets and Andy Harmon Student Wellbeing Officer from Manchester Metropolitan University to join us in a dynamic and spirited discussion.
Chaired by Get It Done's Georgina Fox, the conversation took place in the Joy For Ever gallery space at The Whitworth, an excellent and grand setting for ACORN's angry call to war against unfair and exploitative landlords. We had excellent questions from the audience (including a landlord who charges his students half rent) and a healthy turn out of engaged young people.