Raine Beckford chats to Matthew Freestone, founder of the Fallowfield Students Group, about Manchester, marketing and making connections
Missed out on tickets to Motherfunkers? Looking for Parklife set times? Found a decapitated pig’s head outside your window? Chances are you’ve used the Fallowfield Students Group. I sat down with the man behind it all to find out where it all started.
Matthew Freestone is friendly and confident. A History and Sociology graduate originally from Guildford, Surrey, he’s more than happy to talk to me about the group. From its inception to its current state of 19,000 members and growing.
On creating the group, he tells me: “Initially it was called Fallowfield buy/sell because at the start of my second year I thought there were a lot of communities based around halls but there wasn’t a group that was just for students in Fallowfield.” His main intentions were to create a community for students in Fallowfield and to make it easier for them to trade tickets.
As we chat the group hits 19,000 members and we consider the ways it has evolved. Freestone says, “I never expected it to grow as much as it has and I also didn’t expect it to diversify in terms of the content. It recently changed to Fallowfield Students Group because people are using it to ask questions, look for train tickets, and even advertise room vacancies. It’s become a platform for anything student related.”
Having recently graduated, the group has become his brainchild. He tells me “I’m still very involved in terms of moderating the group but I also have three students from Fallowfield who help me run things. They help me to control who can get into the group or who gets banned. This usually only happens if the content isn’t what I’m looking for or if it isn’t student related”.
The concept continues to grow. Freestone himself has had a hand in this, running frequent giveaways within the group. There are even now groups for Oxford Road and Salford and he hopes to unite the three soon. This way, he thinks, more students can come together to help each other solve problems and continue to trade tickets.
Whilst the group has become well-known around campus, it is still operated independently. When quizzed on input from the university Freestone stated “I don’t have much input from the university currently. I’m hoping to advise them on how they can improve their own outreach, particularly surrounding freshers week.
“After speaking to a lot of students I feel like there’s often a lot of confusion for students arriving at university, mostly in terms of event organisation like which events are official and which aren’t. I definitely think I can help with that.” He hopes this approach will develop into a collaborative effort with the students’ union.”
His personal aspirations, however, are decidedly less vague. He wants to work in marketing noting, “I’d like to work at a start-up because I feel like I have quite an entrepreneurial mind. Hopefully what I’m learning from the Manchester student community will be useful and will eventually help me develop something more profitable.” Currently, he makes no profit from the Fallowfield Students Group.
When asked for tips for other students hoping to launch their own projects or platforms, Freestone is shrewd and sure. He reflects, “starting something as a student with other students can create friction. There will always be people who don’t understand what you’re trying to do and who are going to try and put down your ideas. Ignore them.
“More often than not they’re not the people you should be asking. You should seek the advice of people who know what they’re talking about and don’t let negativity hold you back. If you put your mind to it and seek out the right people, you really can be successful.”
His advice for current third years however, is short and simple. Networking. He says, “when you’re in third year you really need to try and figure out early on what it is you want to do and what your interests are. Because in third year you’ve got to balance the stress of a dissertation or a final project with finding a job. My advice for people who already know what they want to do and what their passions are is to start networking and use university alumni to help you. Things like linkedin are invaluable because you can reach out to people who’ve been where you are. They can help you and they’re usually very happy to help. Something like 70 per cent of jobs are found through networking so it’s good to make contacts for the future”.
Back to the group, we trade laughs. His favourite posts range from the funny (the time someone had a fish posted through their letterbox) to the helpful (someone was once able to locate the people who had helped them escape a mugging in Fallowfield). My personal favourite remains the person who left Squirrels only to find that someone had chained a bike to theirs in Owens Park.
Readers looking to find Matt can follow him on instagram @fluff_freestone or, simply look up admin in the Fallowfield Students Group.