Can shipping containers save Fargate?
Plus, a celebration of Robin Hood’s Sheffield roots
Good afternoon readers — and welcome to our Monday briefing.
Sheffield city centre is a confusing place at the moment. In some parts like Heart of the City, the scale of new development is dizzying whereas in others a sense of decline is difficult to avoid. One of the worst affected places is Fargate, which due to Covid and the rise of online shopping has struggled badly in recent years. The council’s latest idea, which is now beginning to take shape at the top of the historic street, is a new shipping container development filled with food stalls, bars and independent shops. The big question is — will it work?
As well as that we have some interesting comments by a South Yorkshire Conservative about the region’s new Labour mayor, a great BBC piece about a historic Sheffield fell race and details of a new show at the Lyceum about the “real-life wonder women” of world history.
Catch up and coming up
Welcome to the members who joined after reading our weekend story about Cole Brothers’ importance to Sheffield’s history. You can still read that piece here.
Last week we sent two great newsletters out to our 676 paying members. The first by me was about the recent threat by management at the University of Sheffield to dock staff 100% of their pay if they take part in a marking and assessment boycott. And the second by Dani was a dive into the strange world of Salad Fingers, a dark cartoon created by Doncaster man David Firth. An extract from that first piece is below:
“A lot of staff feel like they busted a gut during the pandemic to keep the show on the road,” one lecturer told us. “The bottom line is that staff feel like they have been working harder than ever, for longer than ever and they are getting an increasingly raw deal. There is a lot of anger and people are really dispirited. I think there is going to be a genuine crisis of people and talent in UK universities — including in Sheffield.”
This week two more will land in members’ inboxes including one about the new and highly controversial low traffic neighbourhood in Nether Edge (we’ve got our tin hats at the ready for that one!). To get both of those, become a member of The Tribune today and help fund a new way of doing journalism in Sheffield.
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This week’s weather
Our weather forecast comes from dedicated Sheffield weather service Steel City Skies, who say a shallow low brings cool and showery weather to start before high pressure attempts a settling down in time for the Jubilee bank holiday. Light breezes throughout.
Monday 🌦 a cool day with high cloud amounts and showers becoming widespread later. Highs of 14°C.
Tuesday 🌦 similar with further showers likely, some heavy and possibly thundery. Bright spells in between with highs of 15°C.
Wednesday 🌦 still a shower risk, but perhaps improving later in the day. Bright spells breaking through as well with highs of 15°C.
Thursday ⛅ high pressure starts ridging in from the west, so a drier day is likely. Warmer too in any sunshine with highs of 17°C.
Friday ⛅ a low risk of downpours moving up from the south from a Channel low, otherwise it's dry and bright, warm in the sun with highs of 18°C.
Outlook: the weekend is expected to be mainly dry as high pressure builds from the southwest 😎 A low risk of showers with highs in the high teens.
The big story: Can shipping containers save Fargate?
Top line: A new shipping container development taking shape on Fargate promises to bring life back to the once mighty shopping street — but what is the thinking behind it and will it work in Sheffield?
History: Fargate was at one time Sheffield’s main shopping street, but even before the pandemic was struggling due to the rise of online retail.
At the beginning of 2021, around a quarter of Fargate’s 40 retail units were unoccupied — but now almost a half of them are empty.
If Marks and Spencers’ recently announced plan to close stores was to include its Fargate branch, it would be another major blow.
Leisure destination: As retail has deserted the city centre, the council is increasingly looking to leisure to draw people to central Sheffield. Their purchase of the former Clinton Cards store at 20-26 Fargate to turn it into Events Central, a six-storey hub for the city’s creative sector featuring a music venue, exhibition space and co-working units, is seen as part of this move.
Background: Shipping container developments have a surprisingly long history. The first one was built in the trendy London neighbourhood of Shoreditch way back in 2011 by Boxpark, which has since opened two more in the capital and plans to open another in Manchester this summer. A similar idea called STACK Newcastle welcomed three million customers in just four years while a second STACK development in Sunderland was visited by 700,000 in its first year.
What will the Sheffield one offer? Local democracy reporter Molly Williams wrote in April that the development would feature food stalls, shops, toilets, “living walls”, outdoor seating and a big screen television. The venue will be designed and installed by Steel Yard Kelham which operates a similar (although substantially bigger) development in Neepsend.
Inside, hot dog stall Get Wurst, the Urban Pizza Co. and Korean street-food vendor Yoki will be joined by second-hand clothes shop Re-Owned.
The proposed opening hours are 8am to 11pm, every day of the week, while outside seating could be transformed into a small stage to host events.
Bottom line: Questions over whether these developments are now old hat seem misplaced; venues like this have been successful everywhere they have been tried and more are being planned all the time. At a cost of just £300,000, the temporary venue feels like a cheap way of breathing life back into a struggling area in the short to medium term. Councillor Mazher Iqbal, co-chair of the council’s new regeneration committee, told The Tribune that once it has served its purpose it will be moved to other locations in the city centre and across Sheffield.
What do you think of the development? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org, by replying to this email or commenting on the website.
Home of the week
This fabulous Grade II-listed two-bedroom semi-detached cottage in Gleadless has a lovely open-plan downstairs floor and a huge rear garden. It is on the market for £220,000.
‘Tax-raising powers would be a way of making them more accountable’
Penistone and Stocksbridge Conservative MP Miriam Cates made some interesting comments about the South Yorkshire devolution and new Labour mayor Oliver Coppard last week. Speaking to Rob Parsons from the Northern Agenda podcast, she said she supported devolution in principle but that aspects of the current settlement weren’t working properly. “Our mayors don’t have tax-raising powers and so really what they are doing is just dividing up the pot that Whitehall has given and I don’t think that is full autonomy,” she told Parsons. “[Tax-raising powers] would be a way of making them more accountable.”
Cates added she believed Oliver Coppard had “a lot of potential” and “a great vision for South Yorkshire”, but that too many people didn't know what the South Yorkshire Mayor was for. “The problem at the moment is that in the election there was a complete disengagement with the process of electing a South Yorkshire Mayor,” she said. “I think that sometimes people don't really know what they do, what they are there for and what their powers are. If they had some greater powers in terms of tax-raising, they would be much more accountable and people would take more of an interest in what they were doing.”
Our favourite reads
The former John Lewis building continues to dominate the news in Sheffield. On Friday, Star business editor David Walsh revealed that the council was looking for a buyer but that the huge issue of listing was still to be decided. Robin Hughes from Hallamshire Historic Buildings has said that losing the building would be “reckless”.
A brilliant piece by Oli Constable on the BBC website looks at the long history of the Hallam Chase Fell Race, which will be run for the 160th time on Tuesday, May 31. The gruelling race started in 1862 as a way of advertising Hallam FC’s new football season at a time when running and athletics were already huge spectator sports.
This isn’t Sheffield but it’s such an astonishing story we had to share it. Writing in our sister title the Manchester Mill, The Sunday Times’ David Collins tells the amazing story behind his new book, The Hunt for the Silver Killer. Collins investigates five murder-suicides in the north west that may have been committed by a serial killer.
Things to do
Drama: Sheffield’s Lyceum Theatre is to stage the world premiere of the new pop musical Fantastically Great Women Who Changed The World on Tuesday, May 31. The show is based on suffragette descendent Kate Pankhurst’s book and features the stories of women including Frida Kahlo, Rosa Parks, Amelia Earhart, Marie Curie and Emmeline Pankhurst.
Event: An Outlaw’s Picnic celebrating Sheffield’s connection to the Robin Hood story will take place on Thursday, June 2 at Loxley Primary School (11am-4.00pm). The school is near to where Robin of Loxley is believed to have been born (Little Haggas Croft in Loxley Valley) and the day will feature music, book and art stalls, games, talks, food and drink.
Food: The Sheffield Food Festival returns this Thursday, June 2, taking over much of the city centre for the four days of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations. The festival is the city’s largest free-to-attend event and will attract thousands of visitors across the weekend as well as hundreds of local stalls. For a preview of the event, see this piece in Now Then.
Stunning Sheffield sunsets
We’ve had some wonderful sunsets in Sheffield recently and this one of the city centre from Kelham Island captured by photographer Chris O’Grady last week was one of the best. For more of his brilliant photos follow him on Instagram.