Union StUnion St

By Matt

Banish Monotonous Movement

MoveFree is not your standard fitness class. It manages to pack yoga, pilates, biomechanics and movement neurology into one session. The mastermind behind this cross-practice class is Georgina Ramos, who decided to graduate from her straight-forward pilates training to utilise different movements to reach people’s specific issues.

And it seems to be a good idea, as Georgina explains: “The benefits are improved relaxation and overall wellbeing because the body wants to move. Complex and varied movement stimulates the brain, so we get improved memory and concentration as well as relief from aches and pains.”

A lot of these aches and pains come from the repetitive movement that is a habitual part of modern life and isn’t usually considered problematic. For example, it is not uncommon for us to spend eight hours a day sat at a desk, with breaks to scroll through Instagram and lounge on the sofa in front of the TV – especially during winter, Georgina notes: “Repetitive movement creates tightness and weaknesses that will cause bad alignment, which creates unnatural loads and forces on the body, eventually giving warning signals like pain if unaddressed.”

This sort of physical negligence is surprising when we consider how much time and money we often spend on other things: “If a car’s tracking was out of alignment we’d take it to the garage, but we think nothing of the fact that our bodies are less functional because they’re responding to what we do most of the time. There’s nothing wrong with any one position per say, but if we spend a whole day in one position, the body will respond by shortening muscles and tightening joints. We stop being able to touch our toes because our joints never go past 90 degrees, which eventually means you can’t put your shoes on without difficulty.”

Little daily niggles can often go unresolved, but Georgina hopes to combat complacency with exercises that make a long-term impact. “Attendees can expect to feel stretched, strengthened, challenged by surprisingly small movements, and hopefully feel they’ve had fun too.”

MoveFree begins at Union St, with free taster sessions on Sat 6 and 13 Jan, 12:00-1:00pm, and Mon 8 Jan, 5:30-6:30pm.

By Matt

5 Minutes with… Fran Humphries of Regather

Every Friday, Fran is at Union St dishing out fresh and organic veg boxes from Regather. She explains why locally-sourced veg is the best.

Q. Why get a veg box?
It’s actually much easier than supermarket shopping! You tell us what you don’t like and then we source the produce for your box, prioritising what’s available locally. The organic produce is fresh and can include unusual beauties like purple carrots, uchiki kuri squashes and heritage apple varieties,

Q. What can I expect to find in my veg box?
The fruit and veg is always organic and sourced as locally as possible. You can also add organic milk, eggs, fresh bread from Forge Bakehouse, craft beers from the Regather Brewery and seasonal extras like Heeley City Farm Honey, Twin Cafe Coffee, Birdhouse Tea or Tower of Bagel bagels.

Q. Where do you source veg from?
We prioritise local farmers and source most produce from Sheffield’s organic farmers at Wortley Hall Walled Garden, High Riggs in Stannington and Sheffield Organic Growers. Their produce is so fresh – it’s either picked the day before or on the day we deliver your box!

Q. Why is it important to source veg locally?
Buying local means supporting local farmers and producers. It means being able to visit the people and places that grow the food you eat. It means understanding the seasons and eating what is best throughout the year. We hope this helps you feel a greater connection with the food you’re eating and the people and places that grow it.

Q. What would you advise if someone wanted to start growing their own produce?
Grow the veg at home that perishes quickly and costs a lot from the shops. Right now, sow some tasty salads on the windowsill – I’d suggest red mizuna, rocket and giant red mustard. Jerusalem Artichokes will be available soon, buy some organic ones and dig them in to a bed. Next year they will grow profusely and flower with beautiful heads like small sunflowers very late in the season. They are so easy to grow. Dig them up in December and enjoy them roasted.

Q. Can I get Christmas veg?
Yes. This year our Christmas deliveries are Thursday 21 and Friday 22 December. We will include all the best Christmas fruit and veg like whole stems of sprouts, delicious Tunisian dates and sweet clementines. You can also add great locally made extras as Christmas treats.

Q. Why did you want to work with Union St?
We want people in the city centre to be able to buy produce that supports local farmers and producers, is fresh and healthy, isn’t over packaged and is really tasty.

To sign up, visit Fran at Union St, Fridays, 11:00am-3:00pm. Or book online at www.regather.net/box. Decide what produce you want, whether you want your box delivered to your home or if you can collect from Regather or Union St.

By Matt

Top Tools for Work Life Balance

Freelancing certainly has its benefits; you can work from home when a new washing machine is being delivered, start work late when you’ve had a late night and decide exactly when you’re going to do that task you’ve been putting off for ages. The downside is you are your own boss, and sometimes you make for the harshest boss of all, forcing yourself to work late into the night instead of taking a well-deserved break.

When all the hours in the day could be working hours, achieving good work life balance becomes harder than ever. This is something founder of Organise Chaos, Rachel Ferla, is familiar with: “As a freelancer or entrepreneur, managing our time well makes all the difference in work life balance. Unfortunately, the phrase ‘time management’ is misleading as it leads us to look at how long we spend sitting at the desk and makes us think we need to work nine hour days, rather than looking at the importance of the tasks we do and making sure we do the right ones.”

Rachel has selected the top three tools that help her day-to-day.

Lots of us keep a to-do list and I’m a big fan of Todoist for keeping mine handy at all times. Have you ever thought about keeping a 10 year goals list in there and referring back to it when you are feeling extra busy? When you need to pare back a bit on your commitments having that list as a north star will guide you forward.

Google Chrome
I use Google Chrome every day. This might seem like a surprising top choice but having your browser set up properly is often taken for granted and overlooked. I use groups of bookmarks and a few choice extensions (such as Todoist, Pocket and Lastpass), and I sign into the browser itself so everything syncs and I am instantly set up to do whatever task is on the agenda.

Wave offers award winning small business finance software completely free. It is a fantastic way of producing professional looking invoices and keeping track of the pennies, so we can stay on course financially.

Rachel Ferla’s workshops begin Tuesday 9 January with Get Your Shit Together in 2018, 10:30am-12:30pm at Union St.

By Matt

Swapping not Shopping

Shopping for clothes can be a bit of a nightmare. The thought of claustrophobic changing rooms, judgemental staff and flash sales can send a shiver down the spine. The scary thing is, we see the best side of the fashion industry, on the other side there are horrific sweatshops, toxic cotton farms and environmental destruction.

Common Thread has decided to subvert both the terror induced by shopping and the devastation created by the wider fashion industry with a simple solution: swap your unwanted clothes for nearly new clothes with the rest of Sheffield in a welcoming environment.

The organisation’s aim is to do slow fashion in style. “Slow fashion is the antithesis of fast fashion” founder Jess Dawson explains. “The fast fashion industry churns out 52 fictional ‘micro-seasons’ of poor quality garments that copy designs to fit the body shape of a minority of the population who will only wear them for a few minutes on the catwalk. At Common Thread we learn to revamp and repurpose the items we love. We capass on the items we don’t wear to someone who will. We can tell them the story of where they came from and hope that person will love them too.”

The thought of buying second hand clothes can turn some people off, but Common Thread only accepts good quality garments and even has a fixing station for those that need a bit of TLC. Jess notes: “The ethos of repairing has always been at the heart of Common Thread; we aim to reduce, reuse, repair, repurpose and recycle. Having a repair station is an opportunity for folk to learn skills they can take away and apply at home.”

When it comes down to it, Jess loves fashion as much as the next person, she just believes the clothes can be procured in a more ethical way. “Our clothes should keep us warm, protect our bodies and reflect our personalities. They should be well made, durable and repairable. They should fit right and we should feel comfortable and confident wearing them.”

Common Thread Winter Clothing Exchange is Saturday 9 December, 12:00-4:00pm at Union St. Bring a bag of clean clothes to swap or loved clothes that need repairing. £3 entry. From January, clothing exchanges will run once a month.

By Matt

Tackling the Tampon Tax: Football for #FreePeriods

Tackling the Tampon Tax: Football for #FreePeriods


Tea break with Jane Watkinson, Co-Founder of AFC Unity


Years of campaigning for #FreePeriods culminated on Period Pride Day 2016, a national day of action in February when many organisations around the UK simultaneously lobbied the government to remove the so-called “tampon tax”. In reply to this mass activism, the government agreed to scrap the luxury tax on menstrual care products. However, the tax still stands.


Paying for menstrual care products, especially with an added luxury tax, contributes to gendered financial inequality. Furthermore, the “tampon tax” is also an intersectional issue because additional difficulties arise if, for example, you are in prison, disabled, a person of colour, trans* and/or homeless. Menstrual care products are often withheld and rationed in prisons, leading to cruel stigmatisation and low self-esteem. Certain disabilities can make menstruating extremely painful and negatively affect people’s mental health. Black Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) women earn less than white women, meaning that extra financial inequality hits them harder. Menstruation is consistently discussed in cisnormative terms, actively excluding some people who have periods such as trans men and people with other gender identities. These are just a few matters to consider when contextualising the effects of paying for menstrual care products on the whole population.


Another important consideration is that, while being on your period can be uncomfortable for anyone, being on your period while homeless can be a nightmare. Homeless shelters frequently complain that they are in short supply of menstrual care products and the reasons for this are probably threefold. Firstly, people don’t consider the implications of homeless periods. Secondly, people are (perhaps unconsciously) embarrassed to donate menstrual care products due to the stigma which tells us periods are taboo, private and dirty. And finally, they are expensive!!!


This is why AFC Unity, a radically alternative women’s football club in Sheffield, are launching their campaign initiative Football for #FreePeriods.


AFC Unity were founded in 2014 as an independent women’s football team with feminist politics and a grassroots approach. They are focused on returning the game to its cohesive community origins, empowering women who were historically excluded from the sport. The club run non-competitive “Solidarity Soccer” skills training sessions twice-weekly using Fairtrade balls and ethical kit as well as competing in the Sheffield & Hallamshire Women’s County Football League. Co-Founder Jane Watkinson said: “It’s important to offer an alternative to women’s teams which are dependent upon and overshadowed by their corresponding men’s team. Women’s teams are too often seen as ‘add-ons’ to men’s clubs, sometimes used as cash cows to bring funding into the club rather than being driven by a value system shaped by the interests of women and by a real desire to develop the women’s game in a positive way.”


There are other teams around the country embracing a similar ethos such as Easton Cowgirls in Bristol and Republica Internationale in Leeds. Jane said: “It is important for women’s teams to have a feminist identity so that we challenge concepts of what a ‘woman’ is and does and also foster an environment of empowerment and positivity through skill sharing, collectivity and helping create positive role models that will hopefully help influence girls wanting to get involved in the sport. Football can affect wider things than what happens on a pitch for 90 minutes.”


AFC Unity run community projects to promote their values of empowering women, tackling gender misconceptions, promoting social justice and opposing oppression. Jane said: “We started our weekly Football for Food campaign in 2015 encouraging players, fans and spectators to make donations for food banks before our home games. It was after our first season and we wanted to do something that put our ethics into practice. The increasing scale and extent of food poverty and the use of food banks drove our desire to help make a difference to our local community, making real tangible links between football and the ability to achieve social change. Not only have we collected over 800kg of food since running the campaign, but we have also raised awareness of the reasons for using food banks, challenging myths and stereotypes.”


In response to the “tampon tax”, AFC Unity are now developing Football for Food to incorporate the #FreePeriods movement, encouraging donations of tampons and pads for homeless shelters. They aim to fight period stigma, make a stand against the continuing tax and help people in need. Jane said: “The initiative ties in Football for Food with our unique feminist vision. It helps highlight awareness of period shame and so helps tackle this while also highlighting the expense of such necessary products.”


Allowing the topic of periods to be taboo leads to body shame as well as silence on the issue of the tax. Jane said: “#FreePeriods is about us being confident and happy with our bodies, embracing it, and being confident enough to talk about periods and issues associated with it – especially when historically women have faced abuse and oppression for things such as periods. For example, the stigma surrounding periods relates to the idea that women are ‘weak’ and ‘hysterical’ which is a stereotype we are dedicated to eradicating.”


Jane explained why people should get involved in AFC Unity, saying: “We offer something for everyone. Whether you have never kicked a ball and are wanting to give it a go, are returning from an injury or have played 11-a-side football and want to be part of a club that has an alternative, positive and inclusive coaching style and philosophy. You don’t get shouted at for making mistakes and you can be creative and enjoy your football. Also, even if you don’t like to play football, we have a range of volunteering opportunities such as with Football for #FreePeriods, sports journalism, sports psychology, sports physiotherapy and more.”


Jane made a final appeal that is relevant to us all. She said: “When donating to homeless shelters and food banks this winter, please remember a box of menstrual care products alongside your warm clothes and blankets. It might be just the gift someone needs this holiday season.”


AFC Unity founders co-work at Union St as they are hoping to expand their network to involve more women from across the city. Follow them on Twitter and Facebook.

By Matt

Keeping Up the Momentum

Keeping Up the Momentum

Tea Break with Liam J Liburd, Founder of Momentum Sheffield

In the wake of Donald Trump’s presidential victory, left-wingers on both sides of The Pond are despairing at the violent swing to the right we’ve seen sweeping the Western world this year. Americans voted Trump while Brits chose Brexit. And as their Trump cosies up with our Nigel Farage, people ask in dismay: What went so wrong?


The answer for some Democrats is that Hillary Clinton wasn’t enough to inspire and unite the masses of disillusioned Americans. They say that posing a more genuinely radical left-wing option, in the form of Bernie Sanders perhaps, would have won them the vote. In the slow lead up to our next election, can the UK learn from America’s mistakes? If Farage is our Trump, is Jeremy Corbyn our Bernie Sanders? If the left unite to back Corbyn, do we have the opportunity to pose a credible alternative candidate to rising austerity, injustice and inequality?


Liam J Liburd, one of the founders of Momentum Sheffield, believes that the movement building behind Jeremy Corbyn gives us a reason to be hopeful. Momentum was set up as a Labour-left faction group in the wake of Corbyn’s election as Labour leader last year. Liam said: “Momentum’s aim is to ensure the ideas expressed on Corbyn’s platform, in his election last year and again this year, become Labour Party policy. More widely, Momentum exists to democratise the Labour Party.”


While Labour has seen an unprecedented rise in membership since Corbyn became leader, Liam joined a year before Corbyn’s emergence. He said:  “I joined because I thought Ed Miliband ought to win the General Election. I live in the Hallam constituency and we campaigned to try and beat Nick Clegg. Although we were unfortunately unsuccessful, it was a great local campaign. However, what I saw from Labour on a national level did not meet my local experience. I remember remarks such as that from Rachel Reeves, who was the Shadow Secretary for Work and Pensions, saying that ‘the Labour Party is a party for working people’, actively excluding anyone who is not actually currently in work. Similarly, there were the ‘controls on immigration’ mugs. There were various things during the election campaign that made me think, ‘Who is making these decisions?’”


After the General Election, Liam helped set up a meeting of left-wing members of the Labour Party in Sheffield. By the time they met, Ed Miliband had resigned and the leadership contest had begun. Liam said: “When Jeremy Corbyn came onto the scene, quickly getting enough nominations to appear on the ballot paper, our meeting turned into a ‘How do we start a Corbyn campaign group?’ meeting. We organised Corbyn’s first rally in Sheffield in Tudor Square with an indoor event in the Crucible theatre in August 2015 which was attended by over 1,500 people. On that day I was told that an initiative was beginning to build to mobilise the passion of this movement – and that was Momentum.”


This summer Momentum Sheffield held a highly successful rally with Corbyn at Barker’s Pool with an estimated turnout of 3,000 people. Liam said: “I walked to the steps of the City Hall to meet other Momentum stewards and I looked out – not at Corbyn or any of the people on the stage – but at all the people. You couldn’t see a piece of ground. That crowd, awash with working-class people, middle-class people, elderly people, children, disabled people, university and sixth-form students and everyone inbetween, made me realise we could win. Rallies aren’t everything but it helps people to stop thinking of politics as something you do on the internet, alone. Our campaigning needs to reflect this excitement.”


Liam described his experience of Corbyn’s personality at the rally, saying: “Another highlight was trying to get Corbyn from the steps of the City Hall to his taxi. It took us 15 minutes to get him from the top to the bottom of the steps! I’ve never known a politician in recent British history who stopped and had proper conversations with everyone who wanted to talk to him. He is a genuinely good person. I feel like people usually say that as a prelude to ‘but he’s not a very good leader!’ But why have we normalised the idea that our politicians should be borderline psychopaths? If being egotistical, vicious and media savvy makes a good leader then… well there you have Donald Trump.”


After another Corbyn leadership victory with an increased mandate in September this year, the movement behind it all now faces various challenges. Liam said: “A challenge going forward for both Momentum and the wider Labour Party is, ‘How do we reach out and engage with our members to mobilise them?’ The banning of Labour Party meetings during this year’s leadership election has brewed a nasty atmosphere. All the debates that could have been had face-to-face have been had online which is just not a good place to have those debates. Bad attitudes between pro-Corbyners and Corbyn-sceptics haven’t been resolved. We need to work out how we’re going to sit in the same room again.”


But Liam thinks that unity is an issue which increasingly lies less with members and more with the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP). He said: “An attitude we really need to reject is the whole ‘Corbyn can’t be Prime Minister because his MPs won’t work for him’ rhetoric. That’s blackmail, isn’t it? It dismays me that MPs were able to sit through all the Tony Blair years but they can’t stick a socialist. Even those who may have protested Blair did not do so to the same degree or with the same level of vitriolic outrage that they are doing with Corbyn. Surely the only issue that separates most of the PLP from Corbyn is their foreign policy issues; the rest I would hope they’d be in accord with! The shock at the number of socialists in the Labour Party has been odd… It is the British democratic socialist party after all.”


Corbyn’s following has been described as an idealistic cult which makes the Labour Party unelectable. Liam responded: “There are people who won’t hear a word said against Corbyn, I won’t deny it. But they are a minority. Accusations that a mass movement is a ‘cult’ is a very elitist, liberal critique. It’s a right-wing notion to look at lots of people supporting something and see an unthinking mob. That’s the same thing people said about the Chartists, the Suffragettes, and every mass movement for democracy ever. I wonder whether people inside the Labour Party using that criticism understand the significance of what they are saying?”


Liam declared an urgent call to action. He said: “We’ve got to be the flip of UKIP now. They’ve gone into forgotten communities and got them politically interested, as a result moving the Conservative Party to the right. We need to put a progressive, socialist alternative forward, rather than a reactionary, libertarian, violently capitalist one. We need people to be excited about politics again. You can be part of it. If you want a society where services work, where your train fare is logically priced, where you can get a decent secure job and education at a low cost, if you want positive communities where people are free and equal, you should get involved.”


Momentum Sheffield meet regularly at Union St. Like their Facebook page, join the group and follow them on Twitter for more information.

By Matt

Politics for Everybody?

Politics for Everybody?


Tea Break with Charlotte Mead, Women’s Equality Party Sheffield Branch Leader


In our postmillennial world of Twitter trends and trolls, issues of women’s equality are firmly back at the top of political agendas, making media headlines and sparking explosive campaigns.


Women’s equality is no longer shied away from as a retro issue from the ‘70s. The insistent cries that we live in a “post-feminist” world have lost their edge, as current stats show that approximately 85,000 women are raped in the UK every year and domestic abuse will affect at least 1 in 4 women in their lifetime. Instead we are seeing campaigners tackling these issues head on, fighting for LGBT+ inclusive healthy sex and relationships education in schools.


The topic of women’s equality is more mainstream and popular than ever before. From Beyoncé reclaiming “the F-Word” in her 2014 VMA performance, to outcry this summer over the Islamophobic and sexist burkini ban. From the rise of direct action group Sisters Uncut supporting domestic violence survivors, to US artistic gymnast Simone Biles declaring: “I’m not the next Usain Bolt, I’m the first Simone Biles”.


And the political landscape is no exception. We’ve seen rows over women’s equality on both sides of mainstream party politics, with the Conservatives electing a woman Prime Minister who “allowed state-sanctioned abuse of women” at Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre and media stereotyping of Diane Abbott as the “Angry Black Woman” over her in-fighting with fellow Labour MP Jess Phillips.


But perhaps there is another option for those of us seeking a political party that will put issues of women’s equality at the centre of all that they do. The Women’s Equality Party (WEP) was launched last year after the General Election as a reaction against a politics that offered little hope to a growing group of people yearning for social change, inclusion and collective decision-making.


Charlotte Mead, Sheffield WEP Branch Leader, had never been a member of a political party before joining WEP last year. After being involved in student politics as Women’s Officer and then President of Sheffield Hallam University over 20 years ago, Charlotte felt disillusioned by party politics until what she saw as a viable alternative emerged. She said: “We’re trying to do things differently so that politics works better for everybody, not just a small group of people.”


Starting very small, the party grew by setting up branches around the country to devise and work towards six objectives: equal representation, equal pay and opportunity, equal parenting and caregiving, equal education, equal media treatment and an end to violence against women. They will discuss adding a seventh objective relating to health at their first party conference on the 25-27th November in Manchester, which will be attended by a good contingent from Sheffield. Charlotte said: “Everything I’d previously seen about political parties is that they told you what to say, how to vote, what to do and what you weren’t allowed to do – and actually they were quite restrictive. But WEP isn’t like that. Everybody involved gets their say and it’s more collective than hierarchical.”


During the formative stages of the party there was a lot of discussion about the name. Charlotte explained: “The philosophy of the party is that having gender equality is beneficial to all genders. But we’re specifically focused on the fact that women lose out most because of gender inequality. There have been a lot of negative connotations around the term ‘feminist’. If anyone asked me if I’m a feminist I’d say, ‘Yes of course I am’. But some people who you might think are feminists don’t like the term. People get distracted from the issue of equality and while we’re arguing about whether or not feminists shave their armpits, we’re not challenging the status quo. For some people the term ‘feminist’ doesn’t just mean, ‘I believe in gender equality’. While there will always be a group of people who would like it to be called the ‘Feminist Party’, there are an equal amount of people who would be put off by that and we want to appeal to everybody who has the same ideals as us.”


Paul Blomfield, the MP for Sheffield Central, held his annual Big Conversation for Women event a few weeks ago where Kate Green MP said “the party for women’s equality is the Labour Party”. But Charlotte responded: “The Labour Party have had a lot of time to sort out equality and they haven’t. The Labour Party does have a women problem and for them to deny that is only a continuation of the problem. That said, we’re completely up for working with any party with the same aims as us. We want to get things done through collaboration. We’re not all separate groups of people – the wider community and political parties can all work on things together, even when we disagree about some things. While political parties are bickering in Parliament, two women a week are still getting killed by their partners and ex-partners and there are women’s services shutting down everywhere. It’s not good enough.”


Charlotte talked about issues facing women in Sheffield, such as street harassment. She said: “We’re currently launching a campaign working with the police to get misogyny recognised as a hate crime in Sheffield. It happens so much that it’s been normalised, but it’s not okay for this to be part of women’s normal experience. People always talk about ‘angry young people’, but actually I find that I’m far angrier about things now, in my early 40s, because things still haven’t changed.”


WEP has come under criticism for focusing only on issues affecting white middle-class women. Charlotte emphasised WEP’s short history, saying: “We don’t have everything right at the moment, we’re just starting out.  But I would say that issues like violence against women, equal pay, and equal representation know no class, race or economic boundaries. Equality is about treating people fairly and respectfully, while valuing diversity. We’re learning as we go along. As a party we need to ensure we encompass the voices of all women and we have a strong plan for that. I can definitely see WEP running campaigns in the future targeted at supporting specific groups, for example BME and LGBT+ women. At Sheffield we have ‘How can we be more diverse and inclusive?’ on the agenda of every single meeting. That’s one of the reasons we alternate between meeting at Union St and different places around the city like the Broomhall Community Centre and Sharrow Old School, as these areas are diverse and we can engage more with other marginalised groups.”


Charlotte explained why the people of Sheffield should join WEP, saying: “We’ve been waiting a very long time for someone to give us equality and it’s not happened. We all have the power to change the system, but you have to take that power, a proactive step and a leap of faith – you have to be one of the people that creates change. The WEP is unlike any other party. You will not meet a more welcoming, warm, enthusiastic and supportive bunch of people. Everybody is very welcome.”


WEP Sheffield’s next meeting is on November 1st at Union St. Like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter for more information.

By Matt

Sunday Times feature on co-working at Union St

Sharing offices offers a cheap and nurturing environment for fledgling bosses, writes Emma Broomfield of the Sunday Times.

Sian Thomas relishes the chance to start the day with a communal cuppa. After leaving a full-time job to set up her own business, she expected to miss having colleagues to bounce ideas off – and to share the coffee run with – but she need not have worried.


Read a high resolution copy of the article here, and follow Emma Broomfield at https://twitter.com/Broom_Cupboard

By Matt

Tea Break with: Leonie’s Yoga and Pilates

For many of us, yoga is a fearsome beast, clad in soft bendy fabrics and throwing weird shapes on the floor. What is crouching eagle? Why is it so bloody hard to get into? When does the zen epiphany kick in?

In a world of mung bean warriors and lotus vigilantes, Leonie’s Yoga offers a practice that is as inclusive as it is instructive. As a teacher, she is more interested in the individual finding their own pace rather than hoisting people into headstands straight away; and where many instructors can be rather po-faced about the whole affair, Leonie’s classes are infused with a sense of fun.

Sitting down after the Thursday morning class to some tea and toast courtesy of the Pie-Eyed pop-up cafe, she outlines her philosophy: ‘For me it’s a bit of a treat for the body: learning how to accept it, and also how to gently move towards changing it. It’s trusting that with practice you’ll eventually reach your goals, rather than trying to push it.’

As someone who was once jackknifed into a plough by an over-zealous instructor, I endorse this attitude.

The refurbished studio space on the first floor of Union St has recently become the new home of what is informally known as the Breakfast Club – the morning class after which people stop around to catch up. At this point I must declare my own interest: I’ve been a loyal member of the breakfast brigade since I first arrived in Sheffield 18 months ago. In a city where I knew nobody, twisting myself into peculiar animal positions and then laughing about it over a cuppa with fellow twistees turned out to be a surprisingly good way to meet people.

Keeping an element of humour is important to Leonie, who is not keen on the evangelical attitude some practitioners adopt.

‘I don’t like people who are overly strict,’ she says. ‘Someone said to me recently that what they liked about how I teach is that I’m funny – I approach it in a bit more of a light-hearted way.’

One of her favourite poses is Half-Moon (Ardha Chandrasana to you boffins) – a joyous splay-limbed side angle pose balanced on one leg. ‘It’s a very joyful pose – it makes you feel quite childlike. You can’t really not have a laugh in a fun pose like that.’

She did her training through the British Wheel of Yoga: ’Three years, lots of essays’. Courses on core poses and meditation were twinned with study of the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita, the central texts underpinning the yoga philosophy. One of her tutors was a bio-chemist, with a vast knowledge of anatomy. This has clearly informed Leonie’s own teaching style, which is physiologically informative without being overwhelming. (True story: in yet another escapade with other yoga teachers, I was once told to ‘relax my spleen’. I’m still trying.)

Yoga as a practical anodyne to modern life is a central feature of Leonie’s method, but it is also the reason she began doing it at all. While working as a copywriter in Manchester ten years ago she began to develop chronic pins and needles in her arms and hands. After many visits to a number of specialists, this would eventually be diagnosed as thoracic outlet syndrome, a condition where a bundle of nerves become trapped around the collarbone, causing severe pain and restricting movement. At one point she was unable to lift anything or even drive – typing for long periods became impossible. Her career as a writer was effectively at an end.

‘I had to completely rethink what I would do with my life,’ she says – ‘and one of the things the physiotherapist had advised was yoga – and it really was helping me enormously.’ Teaching it provided a double boon: ‘It would be doing me good, but I also knew how much it could be doing for other people as well.’

She moved to Sheffield about two years ago, and though setting up as an unknown in a new place has not been without its challenges, she credits the friendliness of the city and the existence of places like Union St as making all the difference. ‘Union St felt like a natural fit, doing yoga and also being freelance – being of a slightly independent frame of mind’.

The refurb of the studio space came at the perfect time – when co-ordinator Matt Hill was looking for a yoga teacher to hold classes there and the Breakfast Club was on the scout for a new home. Union St member Sian Thomas already attended an evening class of Leonie’s and put the two in touch.

It represents the kind of community vibe that makes Leonie’s ethos such a good match for the space – the idea that people will stay and talk to each other, not just come to conquer the poses and rush off. ‘It’s sort of living the idea of yoga: to pause a little in your life, not rush by every experience.’

A lot is said about ‘being in the moment’ these days, but it there is a real truth to it in Leonie’s teaching approach. Progress is something to be worked on bit by bit, not hurtled through. She recalls her own early attempts at Half-Moon, which she now enjoys so much. ‘I was in the garden, falling over a lot – it was ridiculous. And there’s this beautiful moment when suddenly you’re in it, and it’s effortless – but only because it was so much hard work the last thousand times you did it.’

Finishing her tea, she summarises: ‘It’s just having the courage to try in the first place – allowing yourself to fail joyfully. You have to be able to revel in the failure, until you get to the success.’ Breakfast Club is 9-10am on Thurdsays at Union St. To find out more about this or annoy of Leonie’s other classes across Sheffield, check out her website: leoniesyogapilates.co.uk or follow her on Facebook or Twitter @leoniesyoga.

By Matt

Coffee Break with Jack Norman of Pie Eyed

As the nights draw in, the wind picks up and the rain decides to have a party on all of us, there’s no better time to celebrate the humble pie. Saviour of tummies everywhere, pies have perhaps been underrepresented in the street food cuisine that has sprung up in recent years: but the hardworking folks at Pie-Eyed are set to change that.

‘At first we over-complicated it with the marketing,’ says Jack Norman, who set up the company in May this year. ‘Then we realised just the word PIE was enough, in big letters. And an arrow.’

Amen to the power of pastry. With a new pop-up cafe every Thursday at Union St, Pie-Eyed looks set to become a staple of the street food scene in Sheffield. It’s a testament to the city’s community vibe that this was the place Jack chose to set up shop. A graduate of Leeds University, he found the food market there more saturated and less open to newcomers. The other Sheffield traders, however, were willing to help out and give advice when he was starting up – a role he is now happy to reprise for the next wave of foodies coming up through the ranks.

‘I feel like we’re stronger together,’ he says, ‘if there’s an event with ten of us, we’re drawing bigger crowds, we’re doing something different every day.’

In many ways it’s a retaliation against the faceless cult of high street chains and burger vans. It was working at one such high street outlet during university that made Jack very clear about how he did not want to do things.

‘I thought, if I’m going to work this hard for no appreciation, I’m going to work for myself.’

He was drawn to the idea of doing one thing but doing it well. As a self-proclaimed pie fan, the hearty British grub appealed not just because it is still something of a rarity in a wheeled world of wood-fired pizzas and Mexican cantinas, but also because there was a personal note to it. He lost his dad during university, and the memory of going to see the football matches and have a pie with him make the business that bit closer to home.

Pie-Eyed seeks to put a spin on the tried and tested staples: a simple menu, but one with a twist. Steak and ale is fused with chorizo jam, and a dash of pistachio mixed in with traditional chicken and bacon. Instead of a traditional van, they zip round in a converted horse box.

‘That was a fun day, I can tell you,’ he adds ruminatively, ‘horse box cleaning. But once you’re in it, you’re in it.’

As the nights draw in, the wind picks up. The perk of being mobile, of course, is that you can set up shop – well, all over the shop, without the pressure of a long term lease. The pop-up cafe at Union St not only gives the good folk of Sheffield a designated spot to get their pie fix once a week, but also allows Jack and the team a chance to try out the eat-in model for size.

Again it comes back to the collaborative spirit of the city: when Pie-Eyed was first finding its wheels, Union St co-founder Felicity Hoy was one of those able to give the new enterprise a leg up. She first asked Jack to do the Renew launch at Moor Deli, and then, looking to start a new run of pop-up cafes at Union St, invited him to set up the Thursday sessions.

‘Sheffield just feels nicer,’ he says, reflecting on his decision to set up here. ‘There’s a lot more people like Felicity and Matt [Hill, another Union St founder] who are just – well, good eggs is what I call them.’

Less than a year into this new venture, the pastry future looks golden. On the horizon are winter weddings (‘very brave to have a wedding in December, but they’ll have pie and mash’) and more festivals. For Jack it all goes back to wanting to carve out his own way and have a crack at something unique. Losing his father crystallised the idea of not putting aside plans for a rainy day.

‘He worked for a company all his life, he always wanted to do something – then, boom. Something happens. So you think, well sod it. Why not now? Just give it a go.’

For full details of the menu, and how to book the pie box for your event, head to http://www.pieeyed.co.uk/category/sheffield The Pie-Eyed pop-up cafe is at Union St every Thursday, serving proper pies, peas and gravy from 12 – 4pm.

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