Union StUnion St

By Matt

5 Minutes with… Aimee Browes of the Happiness Bootcamp

Aimee Browes takes pilates up a notch with her new class that tackles anxiety with exercise, dance and pop music.

Q. What is POP Pilates?
POP Pilates is an equipment-free, total body workout that sculpts a rock solid core and a strong body like nothing else can. It uses movements that flow to the music to create a dance workout that will challenge you in every way!

Q. How can POP Pilates banish anxiety?
POP Pilates was the first type of exercise I ever got into during the worst stages of my anxiety. Through challenging movements, positive encouragement and a welcoming, confidence-boosting environment, POP Pilates gave me something to focus on. The class aims to create a space where everyone can smile and feel confident. It also releases an incredible wave of endorphins (the happy hormone!) that helps to tackle those anxious feelings.

Q. POP Pilates infuses exercise with music – what are your top three pop songs to work out to and why?
This is a hard one! At the moment it has to be: Invincible by Kelly Clarkson; it’s such a powerful song and makes you see you can do anything. Thunder by Imagine Dragon is so motivating, I love it! Crazy for Love by Mondays ft Lucy is the cardio track for POP10 and I just want to scream and run around when it comes on!

Q. You are the founder of The Happiness Bootcamp – how do you spread positivity through your events?
At my events I teach about ways to love and empower yourself and how to understand exactly why you are feeling the way you do. By teaching and educating people on why they feel a certain way it helps them feel more positive and see that they are normal and able to overcome thoughts and feelings.

Q. Apart from participating in POP Pilates do you have any other advice in combating anxiety?
Yes! I have five tips for dealing with anxiety. 1. Always remind yourself of your worth. Use mantras and tackle insecurities by choosing specific flaws and telling yourself they are beautiful every morning and night until you believe it. 2. Take time to journal. Write down your thoughts or worries and burn them, get your thoughts onto paper. 3. Try something new! Try a new sport, go walking, try a new class, just get active. 4. Forgive yourself, forgive your past, forgive what you ate and start anew. NEVER beat yourself up about what you’ve done or who you are. Learn from mistakes. 5. Be patient and focus on the positive, remember to be loving to yourself. Give yourself the time you need to heal!

POP Pilates starts in the One Space at Union St Monday 12 February, 6:45-7:45pm, £7. If you want to launch a new exercise class in the city centre, contact matt@union-st.org. More details at https://www.facebook.com/TheHappinessBootcamp/

By Matt

Breakfasting the Vegan Way

Once a month, if you climb to the second floor at Union St, you’ll find platters of rye bread, toast, buns, bagels, turmeric tofu scramble, homemade baked beans, veggie rice and fried courgette, aubergine, roasted sweet potato, tomatoes, peppers, pineapple, melon, mango, apples, pears, plums, grapes, berries, beetroot, chickpea and kidney bean hummus, salads and pancakes. Hungry yet? Good. Because these are the delights prepared by Turning Earth at The Vegan Breakfast Club.

Founder Laura Von Nordheim outlines the passion behind the plates: “We aim to create a friendly, welcoming atmosphere where everyone can feel included and share delicious, healthy, plant-based food. People can see, taste and smell how enjoyable vegan foods are and that you really don’t have to give up on anything at all. Rather, your diet becomes more diverse, colourful and balanced as you start to explore the huge variety of vegetables, fruits, grains, seeds and nuts that are available to you.”

And it’s not just about filling up on delicious food, but getting healthy, making friends, protecting the planet and being kind to the creatures we share the Earth with. “First of all, it is important to understand that everyone has to make their own choices,” notes Laura. “If you’re passionate about healthy eating, animal rights and planetary wellbeing, you probably want to make an impact powerful enough to change people’s attitudes and behaviour to switch to a cruelty-free way of life. Lecturing your audience with a raised finger about veganism and making them feel inadequate and guilty probably won’t work, certainly not in the long run. What we try at Turning Earth is simply to lead by example, and there is always room for improvement and more than can be done.”

Wonderfully, Laura’s way of leading involves scrumptious food in a variety of formats. Turning Earth also hosts vegan supper clubs and cooking classes, but always in a way that brings people together. “People come to our events with all sorts of intentions, needs and contributions, and by bringing lots of people together, we can all learn and grow together. We don’t host events to merely feed bellies, we also want to provide opportunities for happiness, for community, and we want to inspire and empower.”

The Vegan Breakfast Club returns to Union St Saturday 24 February, 10:00am-2:00pm, £10 suggested donation. Book at https://www.facebook.com/TurningEarth/

By Matt

Speed Dating for Friends

“In society, there is a lot of emphasis placed on romantic relationships,” notes Megan Griffith, founder of Speed Mate-ing and co-founder of Girl Gang Sheffield. “There’s a structure for forming a romantic relationship – whether that be dating apps or just asking someone on a date if you like them. Whereas with friendships, once we leave the structure of school or university, there isn’t really a blueprint of how to make a friend.”

This is something Megan is attempting to tackle with her Speed Mate-ing events that are based on the typical Speed Dating format but with games and suggested conversation starters inspired by magazine quizzes, bad business meetings and hen parties.

It has already taken off in Manchester and on its move to Sheffield in January, it sold out in three days. “Through running Girl Gang, I spend a lot of time online posting stuff and I was continually seeing people asking ‘how do you make friends in your 20s and 30s?’ So, I realised there was a need for it and something I am really proud of with Girl Gang is the fact that our events really foreground the importance of friendship and how powerful that can be in terms of our identity and self-confidence.”

And Speed Mate-ing seems to work. In Manchester, there are several success stories already. “There’s a group of women that came to our second event and by the time they came back for the fourth time they said ‘we’re like best friends now’. They’ve been to the cinema, they’ve been to each other’s houses – they hang out pretty much every weekend and they’re planning a girls holiday.”

This is all well and good, but what if you are too nervous to attend? To calm nerves, Megan notes: “The event is really structured and you’re guided through it. Try and push through the nerves, because it will be worth it. They’re really lovely events, and even if attendees don’t feel like they’ve made any new friends at the end, they are really proud that they’ve gone and they’ve really achieved something. I think it makes the world seem smaller and less overwhelming.”

Girl Gang Sheffield’s next Speed Mate-ing event is Friday 2 March 6:30-9:00pm at Union St. £5. Book tickets at https://www.facebook.com/girlgangsheffield/

By Matt

5 Minutes with… Chigung Teacher Phil Cole

Chigung is one of the newest wellbeing classes to join the Union St programme. Workshop leader Phil Cole explains what it is and the benefits of practising.

Q. For those not in the know, what is the translation of Chigung?
Chi translates as “bodily and mental energy”. It is quite hard to define, but we all know when we haven’t got enough of it! Gung is the cultivation of this energy by doing things like physical and mental exercise or as the Chinese express it “playing” Chigung. So, there is emphasis on light heartedness in my classes, although writing about it can make it seem deadly serious! Light but focussed are the key words.

Q. How do you practise Chigung?
Chigung is an ancient form of Chinese exercise designed to promote health, wellbeing and resilience in the body and mind. It shares history and philosophy with Daoism, and to some extent Buddhism. T’ai Chi is the martial form of Chigung. In everyday terms, Chigung is a collection of exercises that anyone can get benefit from as they are accessible at any level of health or fitness. This is largely because it unites the mind and body, which tend to be seen as separate in our society. This means that if the body is ill, injured or weak the mind can start to energise it and if the mind is depressed or agitated, the body can bring calm and an appreciation of reality to it through movement and breathing. So, in the classes people can join in while seated for some of the time if they need to, and at the same time there will be very fit people gaining the benefits of grace, fluidity and consistency of focus.

Q. What happens in a typical Chigung class?
The lesson always begins with a warm up to start to loosen the body and turn the attention away from the cares of the day. This slowly moves on to a series of gentle movements and static exercises designed to increase the energy and fluidity of the body. Everybody works at their own pace as the progress is internal as well as physical. One of the great lessons is to enjoy the exploration, there is no end point so it is always possible to go further and deeper but this has to be done with a lightness of mind and focus, an approach that is too serious ends up being a bit dull.

Q. How have you benefited from practising Chigung?
I got into it 20 years ago as part of my Shiatsu training and very soon realised the considerable physical and mental health benefits to be had for myself and my clients. It was also a lot of fun. The clients who did the chigungs I taught them got better a lot quicker than the others. Since then, I have studied with some very good practitioners and learned a lot.

Phil’s Chigung class takes place every Wednesday at the One Space, Union St, 6:30-8:00pm, £7. Email info@shiatsusheffield.co.uk for more info.

By Matt

5 Minutes with… Maryam Wright of ACORN

Right now, there is a mini revolution going on in the renting sector, and landlords are finally being held to account. Meet the Union behind the action.

Q. Why did you join ACORN?
I joined because there is limited protection for tenants and I feel ACORN  provides me with the protection I have never been able to find in the past. I have rented all my life and due to the current housing crisis, I’m likely to remain a renter for the foreseeable further. I want to restore some balance to the imbalance of power between tenants and landlords, but it’s not something I can do alone. However, by uniting tenants together through ACORN, we can improve things for tenants through direct action and campaigning for real change.

Q. What rights do renters have that they might not be aware of?
There’s two that spring to mind. Firstly, if your landlord hasn’t protected your deposit, they usually can’t evict you and you can take them to court and get compensation. The second right, is the right to join ACORN!

Q. One of the issues you cite is the fact landlords are detached from their renters – how to bridge this gap?
The private renting sector has become all about making profit over providing homes. Rather than seeing the person who requires a home, renters are viewed as second class citizens and are reduced to a balance on a spreadsheet. Housing is a basic human need, it should never have been allowed to become a profit making scam where tenants are allowed to be exploited in order for landlords to make as much profit as possible. The private renting sector is badly in need of regulation, ACORN brings tenant voices together and gives us a platform to be heard so that we can work to win the rights we deserve.

Q. If I am a renter reading this and I am having issues, how can ACORN help me?
If you are having issues we have a Tenant Support Group on Facebook that you can join and ask for advice. If the issue you have requires action and you agree to it, we can mobilise to take direct action on your behalf and we can provide solidarity to support you. We know first-hand how these issues affect your wellbeing and there is power in a union.

Q. You recently appeared on the BBC – what sort of progress would you like to see come from the national media coverage?
I’d like more people to join ACORN so we can work together to bring renting in-line with the 21st century. This is a housing crisis for tenants, not landlords. We are often told “people should do more for themselves”, so let’s do more for ourselves by standing up for our basic right to an affordable, fit and proper home!

If you’d like to join ACORN, you can do so at acorntheunion.org.uk. Once a week, ACORN meet at Union St to plan campaigns. If you need a spot to meet to plan social action, contact matt@union-st.org

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

Endless Love Creative

Although Endless Love Creative is named after the 80s coming-of-age drama, founder Charlotte Righton hasn’t actually seen the film. Rather, Charlotte was inspired by the Lionel Richie and Diana Ross song written for the film, Charlotte explains: “Imagine that vibe with fairy lights and some red wine – and that’s Endless Love Creative. My intention was to create a night that was romantic, considered and visually beautiful.”

Sounds good. But what exactly happens at an Endless Love Creative? The first event is a life drawing class happening once a month at Union St’s One Space. Charlotte decided to establish the session after feeling frustrated by the lack of variety in life drawing offerings in Sheffield: “I follow a few life drawing artists on Instagram and they are based in places like London, Sweden and Australia. They were going to events that looked like glamorous parties, where you could listen to great music, meet new people and feel personally rewarded. I would attend classes in Sheffield and they were all quite similar and would run in the daytime, which meant no-one I knew could come due to work. And the classes were advertised in a way that made it feel like you had to be good at drawing or even be an artist, that’s not what I wanted it to be about.”

Endless Love Creative is almost the opposite of all the other life drawing classes in Sheffield: it’s in the evening, in a relaxed setting and you don’t need any previous experience. “If anything, I want to encourage those with no experience to try this” Charlotte comments. “The reason why I’ve made it so casual, and more like an event than a class is for that very reason. Art is meant to inspire, encourage and welcome all, but it can also be intimidating. Endless Love Creative is about saying art is for everyone.”

The entire event is about making people feel comfortable and safe – whether that is to test out their artistic skills or get nude in front of an audience. Charlotte’s models are often partially dressed or layered in interesting textiles, and she provides wine and guides rookie artists with suggested tasks.

Endless Love Creative’s next Life Drawing evening is 15 January. Tickets are £10, available at https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/endless-love-creative-life-drawing-night-fashion-and-the-female-form-tickets-41534884959

5 Minutes with… Aimee Browes of the Happiness Bootcamp
Breakfasting the Vegan Way
Speed Dating for Friends
5 Minutes with… Chigung Teacher Phil Cole
5 Minutes with… Maryam Wright of ACORN
Banish Monotonous Movement
Endless Love Creative