Has Sheffield’s new political dawn materialised?

Plus, the rest of our weekly briefing

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

This week’s newsletter has an in depth look at how Sheffield City Council is operating almost two months after May’s seismic local elections and referendum result. We also look back at a classic Sheffield adventure book plus we have all our usual updates and recommendations.

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We had a great reaction to our weekend read about Ethel Haythornthwaite. That piece — which was written by trainee Mollie Simpson — can still be read here.

This week’s weather

The big story: Has Sheffield’s new political dawn materialised?

Top line: In May, voters in Sheffield chose to fundamentally alter the way our city is run. In voting out the ruling Labour Party and in favour of a new way of working in a referendum, voters decisively opted for a new style of politics. But almost two months on, how much has changed?

Background: Labour lost control of Sheffield City Council in May for the first time in a decade. A new ‘cooperative executive’ between Labour and the Greens was unveiled two weeks later.

At the same time, a referendum was passed which will change the way Sheffield takes decisions for at least the next 10 years. The so-called ‘modern committee system’ requires a new constitution which the council has a year to draw up.

How’s it going? It’s Our City! who ran the referendum campaign hoped both results would usher in a new era of political cooperation, transparency and openness in Sheffield. But Ruth Hubbard, a member of the It’s Our City! coordinating group, said this cultural change had yet to materialise. She said:

There are lots of fine words around about ‘working together’ and the aggressive rhetoric coming from the leadership has been dialled down. But there is little point without a council that listens. At the moment the council largely seems to want to return to their top-down ‘business as usual’ comfort zone, deciding everything themselves.

A different view: But Nether Edge and Sharrow councillor Alison Teal, who is now one of three Green members on the council’s executive, disagrees. She told The Tribune she believed both the cooperative executive and the move towards a new committee system is changing politics in the city for good. She said:

It’s Our City! have rushed to judgement. I’m pleasantly surprised at how well cooperation with Labour is going so far and there has only been one meeting about the committee system. I wish they would be a bit more patient and give us more time.

Councillor Teal also pointed to the inquiry into the Sheffield tree scandal that was announced last month and the declaration of a nature emergency as policies that she said would never have happened were it not for their presence in the executive.

Analysis: In some ways this was to be expected. Changing political habits of a lifetime will take time and giving power up is something that organisations often find very hard to do. People in Sheffield can expect more bumps in the road as our new political reality is born over the next year.

What’s next? A ‘governance committee’ of 11 councillors has been set up to look at how the modern committee system will work and write a constitution. It has also been agreed in principle that four ‘transitional committees’ will be set up with chairs from different parties. The new system must be in place by May 2022.

Thanks to Tribune trainee Andrew Dowdeswell who contributed reporting to this piece.

Tudor Square was transformed at the weekend with street acts, music, poetry and theatre taking place across both Saturday and Sunday. The event was the first part of the Summer in The Outdoor City programme which will run until October.

Covid-19 update

Cases: The Covid case rate in Sheffield — the number of positive cases per 100,000 population over seven days — is now rising sharply. In the seven days to June 22, there were 558 cases, a rise of more than 80% on the previous week. But the city’s current rate of 95.4 is still below the England rate of 119.5

Hospitals: The number of people in hospital with Covid in Sheffield has risen again to 18 from 14 last week. Just one of these patients is on ventilation, however, a fall of three from last week. One further death linked to the disease took place on June 13 but was registered during the last seven days.

Vaccines: An astonishing 600,454 vaccines have now been given out in Sheffield, including 350,387 first doses and 250,067 second doses. More than 50% of the adult population in Sheffield have now had their second dose. Sheffield City Council say most cases are occurring in younger age groups who are not fully vaccinated.

Book of the week

Touching the Void by Joe Simpson

The Sheffield Adventure Film Festival gets underway next week and there’s no better way to get yourself in the mood than by reading (or re-reading) this heart-stopping bestseller. The book was first published in 1988 and has since been made into a 2003 documentary and most recently a hit stage show. One reviewer said they had lost count of the number of people who had recounted reading it in a single, breathless sitting.

Touching the Void tells the true story of how Sheffield mountaineer Joe Simpson survived after being left for dead by his climbing partner Simon Yates in the Peruvian Andes. The pair had been attempting to summit an unclimbed peak when an accident left Simon with an agonising decision: cut Joe loose and save himself or slowly be pulled off the mountain by his friend’s weight. The choice Simon made has been debated by climbers ever since.

Buy Touching the Void here.

Our favourite reads

  1. One of the most interesting and idiosyncratic websites about Sheffield is David Poole’s Sheffielder blog. Describing it as ‘random notes on Steelopolis’, recent blogs include a look at the former fire station which is now the Bungalows and Bears bar and proposals for a new park in the Heart of the City II development. David also runs a Facebook page which is well worth following.

  2. Sheffield Hallam MP Olivia Blake has written about the miscarriage she suffered during lockdown in the i newspaper. Last year, Blake spoke movingly in Parliament about the experience of being alone in hospital while her husband had to wait outside due to Covid regulations. In this piece she identifies three key recommendations that she says would improve the system and offer women better support.

  3. Neighbours in Waterthorpe have fallen out over a conifer tree which one couple said was encroaching on their driveway. A picture of the tree — chopped in half — went viral on social media and was picked up by the press. The row was covered by most of the national papers but the Metro scooped them all by getting hold of the previously tight-lipped and unrepentant couple who hired the tree surgeons.

  4. Heritage Sheffield on Instagram have been doing a lovely series of short pieces with people from South America who now live in Sheffield as part of their coverage of the forthcoming Migration Matters festival. The pieces include Santiago and Ofelia from Chile, and Livia, Andre, and Laura and Luisa from Brazil. It also has a nice piece about when Pele came to visit the world’s oldest club, Sheffield FC.

  5. This New Statesman piece looks at the frankly difficult to believe news that the Spar petrol station on Bramall Lane has become a favourite destination for TikTokers. Videos of social media stars on their way to the garage and wandering around inside have been springing up on the video sharing site since April. The phenomenon has been embraced by the garage who share the videos on Facebook.

This view of Sheffield shows what it looked like in 1874 from St John’s Church off Bernard Street. For an interesting story about a grusome incident which took place at this spot in 1865, see Chris Hobbs’ excellent Sheffield history site.

Things to do

Learn: A portrait of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu which hangs in the Graves gallery is the subject of this week’s Sheffield Museums Facebook Live talk. Lady Montagu was a pioneer in the field of inoculation but her contribution to the science is far less well known than her male counterparts. An archive of all previous Sheffield Museums Facebook Live talks is available on this page

Art: The Fronteer gallery on Exchange Street is one of the city’s lesser known art galleries, but since 2017 has hosted a number of well received exhibitions. Currently on at the Castlegate venue is a new free exhibition of work inspired by the summer solstice. Featuring 25 different artists from around the UK, the show is on until July 3 and is open 10am-3pm Tuesdays-Fridays and 2pm-7pm Saturdays.

Food and drink: This Is Sheffield is the best guide to everything that’s going on in the city that we’ve found. This guide to every single independent pub in the city — split up by area — will keep you busy for a while. And opening last week in the city centre was new bar Alto on Carver Street. The venue — which boasts a roof terrace on the top floor — should be great as long as the weather cooperates.

Art: John Hoyland was born into a working class Sheffield family in the 1930s but went on to become one the UK’s most celebrated abstract artists. Starting next Saturday, July 3, at the Millennium gallery is John Hoyland: The Last Paintings, an exhibition of nine pieces he made in the last eight years of his life. Look out also for a forthcoming Tribune interview with the curator of the exhibition.

Watch: Glastonbury being canceled again has given the BBC an excuse to raid their archive for the best performances of the last 30 years. One that’s particularly fondly remembered in Sheffield is Pulp’s legendary headline slot on the main stage in 1995. The gig has gone down in Glastonbury folklore as one of the greatest ever and marked the culmination of the Sheffield band’s career.


Keith Peters was the founder and band leader of the Keith Peters Big Band, a jazz group which entertained audiences in Sheffield for more than 40 years. They have played at various venues around the city over the last four decades but most recently held concerts at Farm Road Social Club.

Keith was diagnosed with dementia some years ago and passed away aged 91 on June 12. A message announcing the news on the band’s website said all band members were committed to continuing the band in his name in order to ‘fittingly honour’ the legacy he had left.

Keith leaves his wife Joan, son Peter, daughter Michelle and grandson Samuel. His funeral will take place tomorrow, Tuesday, June 29 at Hutcliffe Wood Crematorium at 2.30pm. It will also be streamed live online. For more details see the band’s website.

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