New Social Art School Projects - Get a Fucking Job - Aberdeen Press

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Aberdeen Press + Reaction

THE STORY about how Aberdeen's Press & Journal dealt with Get a fucking job:

A journalist working for the Press and Journal was keen to write an article, but was told not to cover the book. Two days later this article (by a different journalist) appeared:


by Laura Grant

Aberdeen street beggars are the subject of a new book funded by the Scottish Arts Council. The book, which includes interviews with several of the city's beggars, has been produced by the independent New Social Art School. It is intended to give the beggar's perspective on the issue.

In January, plans for Aberdeen to become the first place in Scotland to outlaw begging failed backing from the Scottish Executive. The city council believed the move would protect the public from aggressive begging but the executive's justice department ruled that the police had sufficient powers under common law and antisocial behaviour legislation to deal with the problem. Begging is illegal in England and Wales but the proposed bylaw would have been the first of its kind north of the border.

The plans first surfaced in September 2004 when the council's community services committee backed plans which would have brought in the bylaw and introduced new support services for beggars. These included help in finding accommodation from the council and charities for the homeless, help with benefits and "giving boxes" for public donations. Yesterday Martin Greig, Chairman of the Aberdeen Community Safety Partnership, said: "The truth about begging is that the vast majority of people do not want this activity happening. It is demeaning for those who do it and makes the majority of the public feel unsafe and intimidated. The presence of beggars contributes to a general sense of disorder and antisocial behaviour. This is why the city council is doing what it can to reduce or stop begging." There are between 20 and 30 beggars active in Aberdeen, each of whom either receive or qualify for state benefits.

Mr. Greig said for some, begging is a lifestyle choice which provides a "small but steady" extra income. "Even though the numbers are small, the impression is often that there are much more of them," he said. "This is partly due to the fact that they congregate on and around Union Street which is the most important and busiest street in the city. Their profile is perhaps a little higher than in other cities even though there is the same level of begging going. The only reason we have begging is because some people give them money. Until people can be discouraged from giving money to beggars they will always be around and the sense of public insecurity will continue. The solution to the situation is therefore in the hands of those who give money to beggars."

Letters commenting on article "Aberdeen street beggars give an insight into their world", from the P&J Internet site This Is North Scotland:

I was disappointed with your response on 13th April to the publication of this book of interviews with street beggars by the New Social Art School. Your article contains no comment on the contents of the book. Why not? Don't you think it's a newspaper's duty to be at least informed about more than one side of a debate? I would have expected you to quote some of it, giving your readers a chance to inform themselves about the lives of the beggars on their streets, let them understand why it is that a few people in our society feel they have no choice but to live in this way. An understanding of the causes is the only way to find a real solution, one which works in everyone's interest. And the only way to identify the causes is to talk to the beggars. New Social Art School has done this very valuable piece of work - a real contribution towards the resolution of an issue which is troubling people in Aberdeen, yet the information is being ignored. The local press has a responsibility to inform its readers - by not doing so you are actively and deliberately hindering the resolution of this issue.

Jenny Lodge, Huntly 

Yes, folk begging on the streets are in dire straits and giving money to them doesn't solve their long term problems but forcing them from the streets is no way to go. Perhaps Mr. Greig could focus on the underlying causes of drug addiction and social marginalisation rather than trying to outlaw the symptom. Where will this "small but steady" income come from if not from begging? Banning the activity would only push many of the street people into criminal activity, something none of us want. 'Get a F*cking Job' throws light on these people and they're problems. Surely this is what we DO want - to have greater understanding between the people of Aberdeen?

Duncan Hart, Aberdeen

The vogue for banning beggars from the streets is extremely one sided and selective. There are a whole range of beggars who might be regarded as a nuisance in public spaces. Big charities employ a great number of bucket rattlers who, along with the full time professionals in charity management take a considerable cut of the public generosity towards a number of causes. Teams of market researchers seek free consultancies and generally we know very little about how the information they gather is used. And then there are opinion pollsters - if their critics are to be believed, opinion surveys do not merely record public opinion but along with the media play an important in manufacturing consent. But we should not forget that fewer and fewer people vote for the political class of any shade in the United Kingdom. In our name politicians are assuming greater powers, and arguably it is thanks the explosion of the PR industry that they behave more arrogantly than ever before.

Owen Logan, History Department, University of Aberdeen

"The only reason we have beggars is because some people give them money..." In an ever more complex world, a one-dimensional (not to mention unsubstantiated) outlook of this sort is likely to produce limited, short-term solutions to an important social problematic. By collecting street people's voices in the publication 'Get a F*cking Job: The Truth About Begging', New Social Art School is attempting to renew the local community's engagement with this issue on a more complex, critical level while bringing the street people themselves into the debate.

Alejandra Rodriguez-Remedi, Aberdeen

hello i'm an ex begger from the streets of aberdeen and would like to make a few comments.firstly no-one in aberdeen that begs has a car and drives home after making "a fortune" trust me i know!!! i know every begger on the street.with personlly knowing the people on the streets i know that if you ban beggers the crime rate will sore! would you rather have them on the streets or breaking into your house like some of them would do!!!! i personally AGREE with the point that beggers are unsightly on our streets but whats the answer???? not just kicking them off and forgetting they exsist! come on folks think a little!! and just so you know i used to work,had the house etc etc and i used to comment to beggers never ever thinking i would end up there myself!!!! you never know whats round the corner so just take the time to think why are they there!!! con-men???...i don't think so as we don't make the thousands like the papers state.come on people of aberdeen...wise up a little.

colin, aberdeen

Unbelievable that a local newspaper refuses to tell the rest of the world about the unique publication Eva Merz made about and WITH the street people of Aberdeen. It's not that often groundbreaking publications like hers occur in Aberdeen, is it? P&J, THIS IS NEWS! And as a city in the Northeast we should be proud of the fact this book, which shines a light on a problem relevant to any big city in the world, is produced here. For those of you who are curious and would like to create your own opinion about this matter: the book 'Get a f*cking job. The truth about begging' is for sale at Waterstone's, One Up Records, FOPP and Peacock visual arts.

Nina Eggens, Aberdeen

Beggars are intimidating people? Beggars contribute to a general sense of disorder and antisocial behavior? Councilor Martin Greig makes it sound very dramatic indeed. I have never seen or heard a beggar being abusive against any member of the public and I walk along Union Street every day and often at night. I know quite a few of the beggars because I speak to them, buy them a cup of coffee and sometimes give them money. I don't like to see them in the situation they are in, but I know that they have reasons to be begging and if they didn't beg they would have to commit crime. A lot of the beggars are only on the streets temporary. A lot of them want to get away from the situation they are in, but it takes time. It is very important that you allow people the time they need to change their lives. Councilor Martin Greig apparently has no clue about people and how to help them. The whole idea about banning begging was an ignorant approach to some of our social problems. You cannot ban problems - you can only hide them, sweep them under the carpet. This is the Council's approach to the big problems with homelessness and drug addiction. The politicians who wanted to ban begging should try to sit down and speak to the beggars and listen to what they have to say. And they should read the new book about begging. It all helps to understand what the beggars' problems are. And understanding is what we need, not prejudice. It's time that you understood that - also the P&J. Come on!

John Alexander, Hazzlehead Terrace, Aberdeen

The article "Aberdeen street beggars give an insight into their world", P&J 13 April, singularly failed to do any such thing. Rather it gave Cllr. Martin Greig yet another opportunity to disseminate Aberdeen City Council's anti-begging propaganda. "The presence of beggars contributes to a general sense of disorder and antisocial behaviour". "It ... makes the majority of the public feel unsafe and intimidated." Etc, etc. The piece refers to the book Get a Fucking Job by New Social Art School (£12.00 from Fopp records, Waterstone’s and Peacock visual arts) which contains interviews with people who know what they are talking about - the beggars themselves. It reveals an underworld of drug addiction, homelessness and human desperation and our society's ineffective attempts to deal with such issues. The subject merits serious and properly informed debate, not Cllr Greig's platitudes. The P&J would better fulfil its mission as "the voice of the North" by letting us hear from those who are not normally invited to speak instead of propagating views based on ignorance and prejudice.

Lindsay Gordon, Aberdeen

The title in this article refers to a new interview book, but the article only mentions it in two paragraphs. There are no further descriptions of the book or any comments from the authors. On the contrary, P&J uses the book as an opportunity to let Councilor Martin Greig comment with a solely negative view on beggars, using the same arguments as he has used since 2004, when the council proposed to ban begging. The article doesn't mention the Council's poor performance in dealing with homelessness or the city's lacking drugs treatment programmes. Nothing new, it is just a repetition of all the former articles, none of which ever included the people concerned. The book was inspired by this one-sided approach; it lets local beggars and street people come forward with their stories and opinions about issues like homelessness, addiction problems and poverty - truly this is a new perspective on some serious, local problems. And, interestingly, one of the P&J journalists was keen to write an article about it, but she was told that P&J did not wish to cover this book. Why will our local organ not engage with a certain group of people who belong to our community? A local newspaper should ideally be a forum for a healthy, public debate, which includes diverse perspectives and opinions. In this manner we could gain from each others' knowledge and experience and we could all contribute to make the city a good place to live in - not just a tidy place. But, sadly, the truth is that the P&J is excluding some people from having a say in this unfair debate. That is a great shame.

Eva Merz, New Social Art School, Aberdeen