Are we ready for 'change in all areas of life in Sheffield'?

Plus, the rest of our Monday briefing

Good afternoon readers and welcome to this week’s briefing.

Today’s newsletter has a look at Sheffield Council’s aim to become a zero-carbon city by the end of the decade. It also has an update on the latest Covid-19 data, a mini-review of a new book about race and belonging in the English countryside and all our usual recommendations for things to read and do.

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If you missed our weekend newsletter about this Thursday’s elections in Sheffield and the World Snooker Championship, you can read it here. The piece includes expert analysis from election analyst Jason Leman as well as a first-person piece from Tribune reporter and snooker fan Andrew Dowdeswell about the return of fans to the Crucible. If there is anything you’d like us to cover please get in touch by replying to this briefing or emailing

‘Got an email from @sheffieldtrib with by far the best analysis of the upcoming elections I've read so far!’ (@alexswallow on Twitter)

The big story: No April rain, no flowers bloom 

The top line: Until it rained last Wednesday, April 2021 was due to be Sheffield's second driest month on record. As well as worrying the city’s many gardeners, the unusual lack of traditional April showers underscores why concerns about the climate have never been higher.

The background: Sheffield Council declared a ‘climate emergency’ in 2019, promising to become a zero-carbon city by the end of this decade. Just over two years later, in March this year, Sheffield’s first ‘climate summit’ took place, coinciding with the publication of the ‘Pathways to Zero’ report, which details what Sheffield needs to do to achieve its goal. 

  • When the report was first published, Councillor Mark Jones, the council’s cabinet member for the environment and climate change, acknowledged the ambitious target would be a challenge.

  • He added that while Sheffield Council and the government could ‘lead the way’, everyone in the city would have to ‘make big changes’ if the commitment was to be met.

What needs to change? Produced by sustainability consultants Arup, the report contains 10 ‘priority actions’ the city must implement if it is to reach its target. These include ‘revolutionising’ transport patterns by providing for more walking, cycling and public transport and massively increasing electric vehicle infrastructure. But just as important is getting people on board with the scale of the challenge.

The report says this will require:

An intense and continuous programme of communication and engagement to drive awareness and change in all areas of life in Sheffield.

The big question: But two years after the ‘emergency’ was declared, it’s not at all clear this has even started. A planned Sheffield Citizens’ Assembly on the climate crisis was postponed last year due to the pandemic. It will now be a major challenge for Sheffield Council to ratchet up this public engagement work in the kind of timescale needed to meet its own goal.

One possible solution is a more grassroots approach. Sheffield Hallam MP Olivia Blake recently set up a ‘Citizens’ Climate Manifesto’ project in her constituency, bringing together a range of voices to discuss how the zero-carbon commitment can be met. Launching the manifesto process in January, she wrote: 

If we’re going to stand a chance of acting with the urgency that is needed we need to start now. I want to bring the issues that will be discussed at [UN Climate Change Summit COP26] back to the people of Hallam, so we can build a vision of what a green recovery looks like in our community.

The big question: Can Sheffield Council pull together all the disparate work that is currently being done on climate change in the city into the mammoth collective effort that will be required to hit its ambitious target?

Get in touch: We will report more on this issue in the weeks and months ahead. If you know something useful or want to contribute to our reporting, please just reply to this email or get us at editor@sheffieldtribune.couk

Olivia Blake will host the next Hallam Citizens’ Climate Manifesto meeting - discussing ‘healthy neighbourhoods’ - on Tuesday 11th May, from 5:30-7pm. To find out more or RSVP, click here.

This week’s weather

Covid-19 update

  • Cases: Sheffield’s case rate (confirmed new cases per 100,000 people per week) is still falling but at a slower rate than it was. The current rate is 42.2, down just over 10% on last week’s 46.8. The England average is 23.4.

  • Hospitals: The number of patients being treated for Covid in Sheffield is now just 29, down from 36 last week. Of those, 5 patients are currently on ventilation, down one from last week.

  • Vaccines: As of April 25, 373,447 people have received Covid vaccines in Sheffield. This includes 271,969 first doses and 101,478 second doses. 73.5% of 45-49 year-olds have now been vaccinated.

Nature comes to the heart of the city

The unusual sight of a deer swimming in a Sheffield river was spotted by several people in the city this week. The deer was first videoed by Kyle Emmerson swimming up the Don near Kelham Island before being captured on film again later emerging from the water on to a weir. 

Book of the week

I belong here: A journey along the backbone of Britain by Anita Sethi

In the past few weeks we’ve flagged up pieces about the Peak District and how it came into being, but this book is a timely reminder that the battle to belong in the countryside is an ongoing fight. Anita Sethi decided to write I belong here after being racially abused on a train journey in northern England. As a way of regaining her confidence, the Mancunian writer decided to walk the Pennine Way.

Starting fittingly in the Derbyshire village of Hope, Sethi walks north to Kinder Scout where a previous battle of belonging was fought the best part of a century beforehand. The book looks at the relationship between people of colour and the English countryside from the perspective of a novice walker, asking searching questions about the nature of identity and acceptance in 21st century Britain.

You can buy I belong here online from an independent bookshop here. An article written about the book by the author in the i newspaper is here.

Five things to read

  1. A really innovative piece of local journalism from Danielle Andrews, a local democracy reporter covering Rotherham Borough Council. Along with several Rotherham councillors, Danielle agreed to live for a week on a food budget of £1.75 a day, with participants writing about their experiences afterwards. This piece and others she has written on food poverty show what can be done with the BBC-funded local democracy reporting service in terms of campaigning reporting.

  2. Now Then magazine has a fascinating piece, written by Sheffield-based academic and activist Minesh Parekh, which looks at the long history of democratic struggle in the city. The piece shows how Sheffield has long been a hotbed of radicalism, from the founding of the first women’s suffrage organisation in 1851 all the way up to this year’s ‘people’s referendum’ on city governance. A talk featuring Minesh and Ruth Hubbard from It’s Our City! is also available on Facebook.

  3. It’s well worth making time to read this stunning piece of journalism from the Guardian about the battle over burning on England’s moorland. While the article focuses exclusively on grouse farming in Yorkshire, the issue of peat burning is very much a live issue in the Derbyshire Peak District. The piece is admirably even-handed, which while it might not change many people’s minds about this most emotive of issues, explores the increasingly polarised row with empathy and understanding.

  4. Researchers at the University of Sheffield have been in the news a lot this week. Firstly, scientists from Sheffield and Boston have discovered a billion-year-old fossil in Scotland which could be the earliest multicellular life known to science. And researchers at the university’s Institute for Sustainable Food have developed a variety of soybean that needs less water and is more resistant to droughts. It is estimated that in Mexico alone it could save 4.5bn litres of water every year.

  5. The arrival of the latest Mission: Impossible film in the Peak District village of Stoney Middleton is one of the more unusual tales in this week’s newspapers. Excitement has been growing in the village after a track which will launch a stunt train into a local quarry was set up by producers. The Derbyshire Times had fun with the story, with one local chippy inviting Tom Cruise to their shop. The latest story - that BASE jumpers have been leaping from the stunt set - makes for an intriguing follow up. 

Picturing the past

This wonderful old photo shows Bolehills in Crookes in the early 1900s. While the area has changed massively over the last 100 years, people's enjoyment of one of Sheffield's most beautiful open spaces has not, with hundreds gathering to watch sunsets during the Covid lockdown earlier this year.

Five things to do

Nature: Sheffield’s beloved peregrine falcons, who have now been nesting at St George’s Church on Broad Lane for nine years, have had a pair of chicks. The birds have been incubating four eggs for just over a month, with two of them finally hatching last Tuesday. The University of Sheffield has a dedicated website where you can follow all the latest on a choice of two webcams. Alternatively, you can catch up with the highlights on their Twitter feed.

Heritage: Kelham Island has some of Sheffield’s most iconic industrial history, and for Kelham Heritage Month, the area’s Neighborhood Forum are asking residents to vote for their favourite. The suggestions will feed into the Kelham neighbourhood plan, but will also be shared on the forum’s social media channels. You can make a nomination at the KINNF Facebook page or pick up a form in person from Kelham Deli on Acorn Street.

TV: As we wait for lockdown to ease properly, we’re enjoying Shane Meadows’ This is England TV series, which revisits characters first seen in his acclaimed 2006 film in three installments during the late 1980s. Filmed in Sheffield at sites including the Gleadless Valley, Lowedges and Park Hill flats, This is England ‘86, 88 and 90 are available in full and for free on streaming service All 4.

Learn: Like all museums, the Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet - a former steel working site on the banks of the River Sheaf - has had to remain closed for much of the last year. However, a special virtual tour of the hamlet in the company of the last works owner Joshua Tyzack will take place this week to celebrate the 51st anniversary of the 19th century site opening as a museum. The tour will take place on the Sheffield Museums Facebook page on Tuesday, May 4 at 1pm.

Drink: Since pubs reopened for outside service on April 12, booking ahead or standing in line has become the norm. One place that is refreshingly free of all that is The Grapes on Trippet Lane, whose owner proudly holds the title of the longest-serving publican in the city. The old-fashioned Irish boozer - where the Arctic Monkeys played their first gig in 2003 - has a large outdoor seating area at the back, complete with live music at the weekend. As the website says: “The Grapes is a proper pub.”

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