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Hannah Sloggett

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Hannah Sloggett is Co-Director of Nudge Community Builders alongside Wendy Hart. They founded Nudge having volunteered along Union Street for over 10 years.

For the past three years Nudge has been changing Union Street. Building by building, room by room, idea by idea, they are breathing life into a part of Plymouth too many people had sadly given up on.

Now, people talk of opportunity, of new beginnings, of having fun.

“People kept asking why no one was doing anything about the empty buildings and we thought ‘why don’t we do something about it,’ says co-founder Hannah.

“So we started Nudge in 2017 to do that.”

The Union Street Party. Pictures by Dom Moore

Undoing years of neglect is a huge challenge but buildings such as The Clipper – once a 24-hour drinkers’ paradise, now a hub of creativity – and The Plot now have been acquired by Nudge and transformed. A cultural vibrancy powered by artistic flair, true community engagement and excellent food from a whole spectrum of ethnicities now runs through them.

A street once synonymous with extracurricular after dark activity is now buzzing with artist talent, giving the area a much-needed new identity.

The Clipper was the only place to drink at 5am in Plymouth, it had been empty for 4 years before Nudge purchased it and turned it into a café/marketplace downstairs. Upstairs are two flats which are affordable housing. You can still see all the previous pub owners on the pole inside and a mural called ‘Friday night on Union Street‘. Painted in 1948 by Vincent Bennett, it is based on local characters that used to drink in the pub.

The Clipper has had over 30 markets and takeovers by different organisations such Theatre Royal, Plymouth Collage of Art, Food Plymouth, Plymouth Social Enterprise network and more. They have even had a marriage proposal and legislative makers from the government enjoy lunch. Food pop-ups range from Eritrean cuisine to plant based Mexican burritos from the amazing No Whey.

Over the Street is The Plot – an alternative shopping arcade that keeps growing. This building is bringing new activity and opportunities into our community and creating a link for local residents living behind on to Union Street. Inspired by allotments, Nudge is renting out the space patch by patch to local businesses and individuals who want to grow a great idea that benefits the community.

Right now, Nudge are busy filling their buildings with interesting stuff ready for reopening. Long-term major new projects such as the acquisition of the Millennium nightclub promise to be the catalyst for long-lasting change.

“We have lots of small organisations moving into The Plot and we are excited to see that come into life over the next few months,” says Hannah.

“We are also starting to work out how to move forward with Millennium building. We bought it last year and we are now planning what could happen there over the summer so people can come in and see what it is like and be part of the process.

“We aim to make Union Street a street the whole world loves. It’s been neglected for a long time and we aim to change that. Bringing buildings back into use is a key part but it will only be a success for us if it has direct benefit for local people in our community. So we work hard to spend 50% of our money within a mile, recruit from the local neighbourhood and support uses that meet a local need.

“We have gradually got more ambitious and angry in equal measure! The more we learn and experience the more we understand how the economy affects communities like ours. We are realising that by doing things a bit differently and with more care we could increase the local impact and create opportunities for others.”

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Nudge’s beginning were humble but always progressive. Over a decade ago Hannah and Wendy started the Union Street Party. It might not sound like much, but the bonds formed with the community hold firm today and built the trust necessary to begin a positive transformation. The Union Street Party is still going strong and Nudge managed a socially distanced special in the summer of 2020.

“I think our inspiration first came from local people we were talking to and organising the street party with. There is a really vibrant community in our neighbourhood and we wanted to find ways to celebrate that and support it grow and be more visible.

“We’ve always had a lot of fun and been quite experimental which keeps us going through the tough time. I think we are also inspired to do more when we see the impact that things make. The difference we make to an individual person or how a space looks and feels and then seeing a community of people growing around our activity and taking it in all different directions is really inspiring.

“I think most people in Plymouth would agree that Union Street needs some TLC. It’s a main route into our city centre for people to feel unsafe or see beautiful buildings neglected is not right. Recently more and more people have said to us that there is a visible change happening and thats really great to play a part in.

“I think Nudge is also showing different ways of tackling some really tricky and complex issues that hold places like Union Street back, we spend lots of time talking to other local groups and organisations sharing our learning and encouraging others to be brave and make change in their communities.”

Hannah started her career working in the Science Museum in London while at Uni and then went on to work in the Ragged School Museum in Tower Hamlets where her understanding of the power of community engagement started to grow.

She came back to Plymouth to work at the Museum and Art Gallery, working on a number of outreach projects but it was when she was collecting oral history about the demolition of Pottery Quay and the old Drake Circus that she “really got into the built environment and the impact it has on communities”.

This led her to work in the Planning Department at the City Council.

She said: “I learnt so much about how the city works and what the opportunities are. I was allowed to innovate and be creative in the Council and I loved the work I was involved in.”

At the same time Wendy and Hannah had been doing more and more on Union Street as volunteers and just couldn’t squeeze anymore in.

“Life is short,” she says. “I just thought I would regret it if I didn’t go with my heart and see if we could make a real difference on the street. 

“I think the most crucial thing for me was having a couple of managers that showed me that you can integrate your personal values into your job and supported me to take risks and innovate.”

Nudge is emerging from lockdown in decent health, if anything underlining the importance of community to its make-up.

“This time has just highlighted the importance of your local community and reinforced why our approach as Nudge is important and valuable. It has definitely increased and strengthened our connections with our community.

“This time has affected people in lots of different ways, but creativity is so important in uncertain times. A major event like this changes a lot, despite all the tough stuff it can create space for people to step into, new opportunities and different perspectives that were not around before.”

Hannah is optimistic about the future of Union Street. She clearly believes in Plymouth and it’s hard not to believe Union Street won’t continue to open doors for people.

“I hope that we continue to breathe life into Union Street and it continues to bring joy and create opportunities for others in our community. We are also exploring how to remove some of the barriers that we have struggled with so that others can do the same or more. 

“Plymouth is always changing and that’s really exciting. There’s so much good stuff happening in the city at the moment. It’s brilliant already and needs to just be itself and shout about it. I think all the work around the waterfront and Marine Park is just what we need – it’s amazing to the number of people using the water since lockdown.

“We can get better at reducing inequality and valuing local talent and – I think we need to explore more how investment in our city really works for local people and what has a direct impact on improving the lives of people who are really struggling now and in the future.”

What is it about living and working in Plymouth that attracts/keeps you here?

This is where my parents grew up and where my children are growing up now. I think Plymouth is a great place to live, there’s so much happening and lots of opportunities to contribute – being able to swim in the sea in your lunch break is also a winner!!

What’s the one thing you would recommend to an outsider visiting Plymouth?

Apart from checking out what’s happening in our spaces on Union Street obviously!!!….I would recommend walking along Mount Wise, going for a swim in the pool, sitting up by the Scott Memorial and then popping in to Bogey Knights for a random shopping trip.

Nudge’s beginning were humble but always progressive. Over a decade ago Hannah and Wendy started the Union Street Party. It might not sound like much, but the bonds formed with the community hold firm today and built the trust necessary to begin a positive transformation. The Union Street Party is still going strong and Nudge managed a socially distanced special in the summer of 2020.

“I think our inspiration first came from local people we were talking to and organising the street party with. There is a really vibrant community in our neighbourhood and we wanted to find ways to celebrate that and support it grow and be more visible.

“We’ve always had a lot of fun and been quite experimental which keeps us going through the tough time. I think we are also inspired to do more when we see the impact that things make. The difference we make to an individual person or how a space looks and feels and then seeing a community of people growing around our activity and taking it in all different directions is really inspiring.

“I think most people in Plymouth would agree that Union Street needs some TLC. It’s a main route into our city centre for people to feel unsafe or see beautiful buildings neglected is not right. Recently more and more people have said to us that there is a visible change happening and thats really great to play a part in.

“I think Nudge is also showing different ways of tackling some really tricky and complex issues that hold places like Union Street back, we spend lots of time talking to other local groups and organisations sharing our learning and encouraging others to be brave and make change in their communities.”

Hannah started her career working in the Science Museum in London while at Uni and then went on to work in the Ragged School Museum in Tower Hamlets where her understanding of the power of community engagement started to grow.

She came back to Plymouth to work at the Museum and Art Gallery, working on a number of outreach projects but it was when she was collecting oral history about the demolition of Pottery Quay and the old Drake Circus that she “really got into the built environment and the impact it has on communities”.

This led her to work in the Planning Department at the City Council.

She said: “I learnt so much about how the city works and what the opportunities are. I was allowed to innovate and be creative in the Council and I loved the work I was involved in.”

At the same time Wendy and Hannah had been doing more and more on Union Street as volunteers and just couldn’t squeeze anymore in.

“Life is short,” she says. “I just thought I would regret it if I didn’t go with my heart and see if we could make a real difference on the street. 

“I think the most crucial thing for me was having a couple of managers that showed me that you can integrate your personal values into your job and supported me to take risks and innovate.”

Nudge is emerging from lockdown in decent health, if anything underlining the importance of community to its make-up.

“This time has just highlighted the importance of your local community and reinforced why our approach as Nudge is important and valuable. It has definitely increased and strengthened our connections with our community.

“This time has affected people in lots of different ways, but creativity is so important in uncertain times. A major event like this changes a lot, despite all the tough stuff it can create space for people to step into, new opportunities and different perspectives that were not around before.”

Hannah is optimistic about the future of Union Street. She clearly believes in Plymouth and it’s hard not to believe Union Street won’t continue to open doors for people.

“I hope that we continue to breathe life into Union Street and it continues to bring joy and create opportunities for others in our community. We are also exploring how to remove some of the barriers that we have struggled with so that others can do the same or more. 

“Plymouth is always changing and that’s really exciting. There’s so much good stuff happening in the city at the moment. It’s brilliant already and needs to just be itself and shout about it. I think all the work around the waterfront and Marine Park is just what we need – it’s amazing to the number of people using the water since lockdown.

“We can get better at reducing inequality and valuing local talent and – I think we need to explore more how investment in our city really works for local people and what has a direct impact on improving the lives of people who are really struggling now and in the future.”

What is it about living and working in Plymouth that attracts/keeps you here?

This is where my parents grew up and where my children are growing up now. I think Plymouth is a great place to live, there’s so much happening and lots of opportunities to contribute – being able to swim in the sea in your lunch break is also a winner!!

What’s the one thing you would recommend to an outsider visiting Plymouth?

Apart from checking out what’s happening in our spaces on Union Street obviously!!!….I would recommend walking along Mount Wise, going for a swim in the pool, sitting up by the Scott Memorial and then popping in to Bogey Knights for a random shopping trip.

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