Barnardo's appointed to investigate “gay conversion therapy” church
Plus, a new book about Northerners
Good afternoon readers — and welcome to our Monday briefing.
Today we return to the shocking story of Matthew Drapper who says he was subjected to a “gay exorcism” at Sheffield’s St Thomas Philadelphia Church in 2014. We bring you all the latest as major national charity Barnardo’s is appointed to investigate his case.
We also feature some great reads from elsewhere including no less than three glowing food reviews of amazing restaurants to try in Sheffield, and recommend a city centre arts and crafts venue that promises to “improve your wellbeing through creative activities”.
Catch up and coming up
The local elections are now just a month away so we got our elections expert Jason Leman to read Sheffield’s political runes for us. Find out what he said in our weekend piece here.
Last week we sent out two great newsletters to our 636 paying members. The first was a fantastic piece by Dani Cole about her visit to a Sheffield auction house on specialist collectible toys day and the second was a story by me about the tragic case of Jack Ritchie and the damage done by gambling deregulation. An extract from that first piece is below.
Two haunted-looking dolls, including one with a porcelain head, go to bidder 818. “Ward off spirits with this one,” the auctioneer says, trying to make the stuffed doll without a face — Lot 394 — more appealing. Surprisingly it sells for £30. Then the next one — a bisque-headed doll — goes too. “It won't be in the office anymore!” he jokes. “Gavel’s raised! £100!”
This week we’ll send out two more members-only newsletters including one about a recent stand-up paddleboarding excursion I took along the beautiful Sheffield and Tinsley Canal. To get both this week’s stories and help fund a new way of doing high-quality journalism in Sheffield, please consider subscribing below. It costs £1.34 a week if you pay for the year.
This week’s weather
Our weather forecast comes from dedicated Sheffield weather service Steel City Skies, who say this week we say goodbye to the chilly winds but hello to low pressure, which brings us some April showers.
Monday ⛅️ Dry for much of the day, though cloud amounts are likely to be quite high. Highs of 16C though, which ain’t bad.
Tuesday ☂️ Generally cloudy and unsettled with rain petering out to showers. Less windy, and still mild with highs of 15C.
Wednesday 🌦 Low and high pressure do battle bringing showers in between brighter spells. Highs of 16-17C.
Thursday ⛅️ A drier day on Thursday with isolated showers. Still, in any brighter skies it'll feel warm with highs of 15C.
Friday ☁️ Uncertain, with the odd light shower possible over the hills and brighter spells breaking through the cloud. Temps down a touch to 13-14C.
Outlook: High pressure wins for the Easter Bank Holiday weekend, with dry and fine weather favoured at this early stage.
The big story: Barnardo’s appointed to investigate “gay conversion therapy” church
Top line: Major national charity Barnardo’s has been commissioned by the Diocese of Sheffield to run an independent inquiry into a Sheffield church accused of so-called “gay conversion therapy”.
Background: In 2014, Matthew Drapper claims he was subjected to a “gay exorcism” at St Thomas Philadelphia Church on Gilpin Street in Sheffield.
He says he was told to renounce his sexual orientation as an “agreement with Satan” and that “demonic forces” would try to stop him.
When he complained the church said they could not substantiate his claims and described the exorcism as people “praying for him”.
Independent review: Matthew Drapper first went public with his complaint in 2020. Earlier this year the Diocese of Sheffield announced an outside organisation would undertake an independent review of his case. After meeting with Barnardo’s on March 28, Mr Drapper said he felt “exhausted and relieved” that someone was finally looking into his complaint.
Help the investigation: The review team has set up a secure and confidential Barnardo’s email address for anyone wishing to get in touch to share information and contribute to the investigation. The address to use is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Council inquiry: At the same time as the Barnardo’s investigation, Sheffield City Council has also begun an “adult safeguarding inquiry” into Matthew Drapper’s case.
In a letter seen by The Tribune, director of health and social care Alexis Chappell wrote to Bishop of Sheffield Pete Wilcox requesting that “all relevant information” from the Barnardos investigation is shared with the local authority.
It goes on to say that the council inquiry will seek to establish both whether the “culture and practices” described in the concerns raised have occurred at St Thomas Philadelphia in the past and whether they are still occurring today.
Will the ban still happen? After it was reported that the government was considering dropping its proposed conversion therapy ban, they clarified that the legislation would outlaw it for gay but not trans people. However, the u-turn led to the cancellation of a UK government LGBT+ conference that had been planned for June after more than 100 organisations boycotted it.
Other abusive practices: The Barnardo’s investigation was welcomed by Chrissy Meleady from Equalities and Human Rights UK, who is acting as Matthew Drapper’s advocate during his case. She told The Tribune:
The church concerned held and continues to hold a duty of wellbeing in regard to Matthew and other victims. I understand Sheffield City Council expects the investigation to be unfettered, unbiased, transparent and independent of the church. We also hope that the wider scrutiny will give consideration to other abusive practices that might still be taking place under the guise of “deliverance”, “pastoral care” or “intense prayer sessions”.
Bottom line: The fact it has taken eight years to get to this stage speaks for itself, but it seems that Matthew Drapper is finally going to get a resolution to his complaint. The bigger question is whether it will lead to significant change at St Thomas Philadelphia and other churches in the city. The strong opposition from some in the evangelical community to the proposed ban on gay conversion therapy would indicate we still have a long way to go.
Home of the week
This characterful one-bedroom flat in the Grade II-listed Telegraph House on High Street offers city centre living and a host of stunning features. It is on the market for £130,000.
Our favourite reads
The Sheffield food scene is getting some glowing coverage in the national press of late. This weekend The Times visited Tonco in Sharrow Vale, describing it as “a gleaming example of local hospitality in the city of steel”, while The Telegraph said JÖRO in Shalesmoor “might be one of the great restaurants of the world”.
A comprehensive piece in The Star looks at the issue of the M1 “smart motorway”, which some believe has played a part in the deaths of three people. Claire Mercer has been campaigning for them to be banned ever since her husband Jason died in June 2019. An inquest into the death of Nargis Begum will take place in September 2022.
Another food review this time in Yorkshire Live visits Neepsend’s vegan eatery Church: Temple of Fun. Non-vegan Alex Grove enters with some trepidation having previously found plant-based food “overpriced and lacking in flavour”, but in the end is blown away by “quality nosh at reasonable prices in one of Sheffield’s coolest haunts”.
Sheffield music blogger Roger Quail’s quest to document every gig he’s ever been to this time focuses on the first international tour he went on with his band The Box in 1982. The tour only consisted of two nights in the Dutch cities of Eindhoven and Groningen, but setting sail with the newly-signed band still feels like a big moment.
The role of South Yorkshire Mayor is so new that it is still something of an unknown quantity. The new mayor we elect in May will be the first since the devolution deal came into effect and this piece in the Yorkshire Post by mayoral combined authority chief executive Dave Smith explains clearly the role’s political and financial powers.
UK swimming’s flagship event returns to Sheffield
The 2022 British Swimming Championships concluded yesterday after six days of competition at Ponds Forge. The meet is the sport’s flagship domestic event with 1,500 athletes taking part including triple Olympic champion Adam Peaty. Due to Covid, it was the first time the championships had been held since 2019. For more great photos by Alex Pantling for UK Sport, click here.
Things to do
Art: A special “meet the artist” session with Sheffield-based painter Mandy Payne will take place on Tuesday (April 12) at 1.00pm. Mandy will talk about her work, inspiration, and life as an artist before taking questions. Several of her paintings of Park Hill flats can currently be found in the Where We Live exhibition at the Millennium Gallery. Our piece about Mandy is here.
Books: Former Financial Times editor Brian Groom's new book Northerners: A History comes out on Thursday, April 14. The book celebrates the history of both the North of England and Northerners, and also explores the very real divisions between us such as the fierce rivalry between Lancashire and Yorkshire. The book is available to pre-order here.
Crafts: The Art House on Backfields in Sheffield city centre is a charity that seeks to help people “improve their wellbeing through creative activities”. Regular multi-week courses take place on pottery, spinning, bookbinding, basketry, natural dyes and printmaking, with prices ranging from £96 to £175. For details see the “art and pottery classes” page of their website.
Food and drink: The Tribune has previously expressed its feelings about the new Glory Holes “adults-only golf” venue on High Street, but that was more to do with its location. A similar idea in a better place in our view is the newly opened GolfFang in Highfield, which offers crazy golf, street food, cocktails and DJs. Yorkshire Live’s five-star review is here.
Easter: After two years away due to the pandemic, the Children’s Hospital Charity's motorbike Egg Run is back this Easter Sunday, led as usual by Doncaster-born superbike champion James Toseland. The riders will travel the normal route from Tinsley to Weston Park, with organisers hoping to beat the 663 riders who took part when it was last held in 2019.
Saturday saw the first-ever Quayside Market take place at Victoria Quays in Sheffield city centre. Hundreds of people attended throughout the day enjoying street food, craft beer, cocktails, music, art and family-friendly activities. The market is the brainchild of local businessman Bally Johal, who runs the nearby True Loves bar. He says he hopes the monthly event will help to put the beautiful but underused area in the spotlight.
“Only crazy people go campaigning in local elections. But those people are the bedrock of democracy”, ‘We have a fighting chance of reclaiming control’, Peter Moore
“Very moving story. We need more regulation and proper help for those who get caught in the trap”, How gambling claimed the lives of two young Sheffield men, PaulBP14
“Great piece. So enjoyed it and the auction house is on my doorstep”, The quiet drama of a Sheffield auction, Andy Kershaw
“Great writing — articles like this are what makes the Tribune so good”, April is the cruellest month for Sheffield’s poorest neighbourhoods, Richard Lindley