“Served” is our feature where we speak to artists, who’s main source of income is not from that art alone. This time we speak with Nat Schorer, a photographer, music industry expert and hostel worker.
Nat is a creative, multi-talented, local young person. Her photography work will be displayed throughout this article.
Nat’s life has followed an interesting trajectory. Having grown up in Kendal, Cumbria, she moved down to London to study and work in the music industry. After dabbling in artist relations and promotions, she started working for the Weird and the Wonderful: the indie label behind He/She/They, an inclusive LGBT+ focused dance night.
After working there for five years, Nat decided to move back Northwards. Her original plan however was not to live in Kendal, but rather to move to Canada. This was a decision stopped in its tracks by the pandemic, and Nat found herself back in Kendal. It was, in the end, a happy accident as Nat found herself reconnecting with the parts of Cumbria she hadn’t appreciated as a teenager.
“When I was 18, I couldn’t wait to get out of Kendal. All those times, when I’d be coming back home, I’d be struck by how peaceful it was, and I came to appreciate it in a different way. When I returned at the age of 24, being there felt better.”
Nat believes that Kendal as a place has improved its offering for young people in the years since she’s been away. “There’s more to do,” she says, “Better bars. And I’m even meeting other young people who have chosen to live there!”
Nat also made the decision to change her career. “I was finished working in music. Dance music, as a career, is very “work hard play hard”. I mean, I was having fun, but I was totally exhausted.” Across the music industry, Nat had unfortunately witnessed the widespread mental health problems affecting those employed in it. It was actually seeing that suffering that prompted her to pursue a career in support work.
“I thought I might go into charities specifically for musicians with mental health. That sort of thing doesn’t really exist in Kendal, but that’s why I started looking into general mental health support roles.”
Nat now works at a hostel in Kendal for homeless people. “It isn’t directly related to mental health, but it’s something we deal with a lot.”
Although we may not see many people rough sleeping in South Lakes, this is only one form of homelessness. You are considered homeless if living in an unstable home, or have no permanent residence. The homeless population of Cumbria are more likely to couch surf, or live in overcrowded conditions, than they are to sleep rough.
“In South Lakeland,” says Nat, “There is a massive housing shortage. [In the hostel] we get people in, who are pregnant, really need a house, but can’t get one. We even have people who work but cannot afford the rent in Kendal.”
At £600 a month on average for a one bed flat, and a high incidence of people being paid minimum wage only, this is no surprise. At the same time, there is not enough social housing in Kendal. “Last year,” says Nat, “4000 people applied, and the smallest fraction were actually housed.” This means that the rest of them, thousands of people, were left unable to afford stable housing.
What really annoys Nat is the term “affordable housing”.
“It has really been used as an interchangeable term for social housing, when this could not be further from the truth.” Affordable housing is rented or sold at 80% of the market rate. This means if your house is worth £1000 a month, you can rent it out at the still pretty expensive £800 a month, and call it affordable housing.
“It annoys me that they use the word ‘affordable’, because affordable for whom?!” Asks Nat.
Meanwhile Social Housing is owned by a Housing Association. They are subsidised to the price of housing benefits or lower, making them genuinely affordable to those in need.
With a lot of recent housing developments happening in Kendal, it is really important we scrutinise the language used by developers and hold them accountable. If all of these new homes end up as expensive town houses or holiday homes, they will do nothing to ease the homelessness crisis.
After talking with Nat, I felt incensed and inspired by what she had to say. She is already shaking up the world as we know it, and will only continue as she develops her career towards a more policy level.
Homelessness in Cumbria affects young people disproportionately. This link here has advice for those at risk of homelessness.
If you click here, you will find a charity dedicated to suicide prevention.