'It's giving with one hand and taking with the other'

Plus, a look back on one Sheffield woman's remarkable life

Good afternoon readers — and welcome to The Tribune’s weekly briefing.

Today we look at some big news on transport funding, and whether it will provide the revolution many have been hoping for. We also have an obituary about a Sheffield woman who lived an extraordinary life and look forward to a very special visit from a 10-year-old Syrian girl.

We got a great reaction to our fantastic weekend read about George Orwell’s time in Sheffield by Tribune editor and writer Sophie Atkinson. Read it here.

Is Sheffield the worst place on earth, a festering boil on the face of progress, civilization, decency? If you were to take George Orwell’s word for it, the answer would be a resounding yes. Orwell visited Sheffield for a few days in the spring of 1936 as part of his reporting trip to ‘the Distressed Areas’ of the North of England — a project embarked upon at publisher and social reformer Victor Gollancz’s suggestion — to gather material for what would become his non-fiction classic The Road to Wigan Pier. At the time, the 32-year-old writer, not yet famous and still earning a pittance for his novels, had never ventured further north than the Midlands before.

Last week we sent our members an intriguing story about Sheffield’s first gay bar and another about a controversial planning development in Kelham Island. This week we’ll send two more: the first about why Sheffield is bottom of the plastic recycling league table and another about why the fourth biggest city in the UK doesn't have a professional orchestra.

To get both those stories direct to your inbox and help The Tribune commission more great local reporters to write for us and take on more ambitious investigations, please consider becoming a member using the button below. It costs less than £1.35 a week if you join for a year.

As one reader wrote on Facebook: “The Tribune is really developing. Interesting, informative article and no adverts or bullsh*t headlines.”


Write for us

We are on the lookout for great writers from Sheffield and nearby to contribute to The Tribune. The aim is to build up a network of high quality reporters, feature writers and critics who want to contribute on a regular basis, whether they have been in journalism for 40 years or 4 months. If you’re interested, please take a look at our pitching page and email editor@sheffieldtribune.co.uk with your ideas. We pay all our freelancers, and will agree a fee with you when we commission a piece. 


This week’s weather

Our weather forecast comes from dedicated Sheffield weather service Steel City Skies, who say: “This week we have low pressure to the north-west and high pressure to the east. Initially, weather fronts will struggle to make inroads but after midweek we turn more unsettled.”

Monday ⛅️ the odd shower developing during the afternoon, but many away from western hills will stay dry and bright. Breezy WSW winds, highs of 14°C.

Tuesday ☁️ cloudier and gradually windier with the chance of drizzle over high ground. Many staying dry with the odd glimmer of brightness. Milder as we import warmer air on our long-fetch southwesterly with highs of 15°C.

Wednesday ☁️ the likelihood of patchy rain increases with large cloud amounts again thanks to the influence of low pressure and our moist airmass. Windy with highs of 17°C.

Thursday ☂️ staying breezy with the risk of stalling weather fronts bringing spells of rain, often most persistent the further west you are. Limited brightness, though still mild with highs of 16°C.

Friday 🌦 further rain or showers are likely with large cloud amounts again. Chance of brighter spells later as our weather fronts either clear or fragment. Still breezy from the southwest, with a cooling trend setting in. Highs of 14°C.

Outlook 🌦 staying mixed into next weekend with bright spells and showers. Winds not expected to be a feature as our low fills out. Temps closer to the seasonal average.


The big story: Government announces millions for South Yorkshire transport

The top line: The South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority is to get £570 million in funding from the government to transform transport in the region.

What will it be spent on? In Sheffield, the biggest item is Supertram renewal. This means improving the existing network infrastructure, new and refurbished vehicles, improvements at stops for customers with new shelters, CCTV, information points and safer pedestrian access. There will be no new lines or stations built, however. 

What else? New bus priority routes connecting the northern communities of Stannington, Wisewood and Grenoside to the city centre will be created along with improvements to areas of transport poverty in Chapeltown and High Green. There will also be more park and ride capacity and bike facilities at the Meadowhall Interchange.

Active travel: There will also be a series of active travel network improvements including from the city centre to Northern General Hospital and its surrounding communities. The active travel route connecting Nether Edge and the university and hospital campuses to Sharrow, Broomhall and the city centre will also be completed.

What about South Yorkshire? Across the region up to 27 electric, zero-emission buses will be bought as well as charging infrastructure at interchanges, on street and at depots. There will also be better rail connections to Doncaster Sheffield Airport and a new station on the Lincoln line linking the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, Waverley and potential new housing in Sheffield.

Reaction: South Yorkshire Mayor Dan Jarvis said the money would mean faster bus services, upgraded shelters and stops, better rail stations and a massive expansion in high-quality walking and cycle routes. And Peter Kennan, co-chair of the transport and environment board for the South Yorkshire Local Enterprise Partnership said:

“This is a massive boost for South Yorkshire’s transport network and our economy. Businesses in our region have been loud and clear in expressing the need for better transport links, and I’m pleased the strength of the bid put forward by the Mayor, MCA and LEP has been recognised by ministers. The investment will help drive our recovery from the pandemic, boost our productivity, open up new development opportunities and attract more investment, and allow local people and visitors to make the most of the fantastic assets we have here in South Yorkshire.”

But Stocksbridge and Upper Don Councillor Francyne Johnson said that while welcome, the £570m needed to be viewed in the context of 10 years of cuts that have decimated the region’s transport system. She told The Tribune:

Any money for transport in South Yorkshire is a good thing but the Tories have overseen a decade of disinvestment in public transport and over a quarter of bus routes in South Yorkshire have been cut or reduced, this money just isn't enough to restore these axed routes which have left many across South Yorkshire stranded. 

It's giving with one hand and taking with the other. Ultimately what we need to deliver a functioning green public transport network is structural changes to how services are run, not unpredictable pots of money dropped in here and there to a failed system — that means public transport under public control so that services and prices can be regulated long term for people not profit.

Bottom line: Investment is clearly needed to help public transport recover from decades of underfunding and the Covid-19 pandemic. But there is a danger that much of this extra cash will just be swallowed up by much needed upgrades to the existing network, rather than go towards items like new tram lines or stations that many believe are desperately needed.


Covid-19 update

Cases: The Covid case rate in Sheffield — the number of positive cases per 100,000 people over seven days — currently stands at 423.4, 200 cases or 8.7% up on last week. The current average for England is 482.9, 17.6% up on last week.

Hospitals: 107 people are being treated for Covid-19 in Sheffield’s hospitals, a rise of 13 from last week. 15 of these patients are on ventilation, a fall of two. Four deaths linked to the virus have taken place in Sheffield in the last week.

Vaccines: 776,618 vaccine doses have been given out in Sheffield, including 405,168 first doses and 371,450 second doses. Three quarters of those aged 12 or over have now had their first vaccine, while just under 69% are fully vaccinated.


Home of the week

This five bedroom semi on Chapel Street in Woodhouse is deceptively spacious and has tons of character features. It is on the market for £375,000.


Our favourite reads

  1. A stunning long read in the Guardian by football writer David Conn about the Hillsborough disaster. In “The Great Betrayal,” Conn documents the families’ long fight for justice, from seeing their loved ones blamed for their own deaths in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy to their ultimate vindication at a second inquest in 2016. Despite this, no one has ever been brought to justice for the worst sporting disaster in British history.

  2. Tracey Ford now works in Sheffield City Council’s drug and alcohol coordination team, but as a 22-year-old was herself a homeless drug addict. When homelessness organisation Shelter asked her to take part in a poetry project to mark World Homlessness Day, as well as the collaborative poem she wrote a blog about her experience. Tracey is also writing a memoir and has a website where she writes about her personal experience of addiction.

  3. A lovely obituary by Robert Cumber in The Star about pioneering landlady Patricia Crehan. Along with her husband Owen, Patricia ran the Plough in Sheffield city centre, the Everest and White Rose pubs in Handsworth and the Sitwell Arms in Renishaw. The couple’s daughter Rachel says her mum and dad helped revolutionise the city’s pub industry, bringing in numerous firsts including hot meals, commercial microwave ovens and jukeboxes.

  4. As we all know, Sheffield city centre is blessed with lots of fantastic pubs. But it’s always nice to find out how outsiders see us as well. In this great piece from beer travel blog Drink in the Sights, the author (who is from Lincoln) picks out 13 of the city centre’s best pubs and bars, including the Dog and Partridge on Trippet Lane, the Bath Hotel on Victoria Street and the Beer Engine on Cemetery Road. He’s promised to do another about Kelham Island soon.

  5. We haven’t noticed these before but there is an absolute treasure trove of information on the Peak District’s website to celebrate the national park’s 70th birthday earlier this year. Their “70 years, 70 people” project profiles individuals who have made a difference to the park over the last seven decades. The profiles include Ethel Haythornthwaite, who we wrote about back in June and David Clarke who we spoke to for our River Don piece in July.


Open newsroom

Here are a few stories we are working on at the moment — if you have some expertise or insight to offer, please hit reply to this newsletter or email editor@sheffieldtribune.co.uk.

  • If you have views or information to contribute to our piece about why Sheffield doesn’t have a professional orchestra, please drop us a line by Tuesday night. 

  • We are writing a profile of the company Sumo Digital. If you work there, or worked there, or have something to contribute, we’d love to hear from you. 

  • We’re also speaking to people who work at the University of Sheffield about the university’s recent leadership, direction and internal culture. We would like to speak to lots more sources, off the record if you prefer. Please get in touch for a chat. 

As always, if you have a tip for a story or would just like to speak, we’re always delighted to hear from readers. 


Fantastic Mr Fox

As we’ve mentioned many times before, Sheffield is blessed with some fantastic street art. A new one is Faunagraphic’s fox mural in Meersbrook Park. The artist (real name Sarah Yates) has almost 20 in the city now. For a full list, see the Street Art Sheffield website.


Things to do

Books: The University of Sheffield’s Off the Shelf literary festival comes to an end next Sunday, October 31. Highlights of the last week include Nick Hayes talking about his new work The Book of Trespass on Thursday and a live interview with David Blunkett talking about his personal archive on Saturday. We also love the short story dispenser in the Millennium Gallery where you can buy stories of one, three and five minutes in length.

Talk: We’ve featured the book Sheffield Troublemakers by David Price in The Tribune before, but now there’s a chance to hear from the author himself. On Thursday, October 28 at 6pm, he will host an online talk tracing Sheffield’s long history of radicalism and the role it played on the national stage. Price calls it “a story of dissenting middle classes, independent minded artisans, champions of the weak and an unwillingness to be pushed around.” 

Event: Little Amal, a 3.5 metre puppet of a 10-year-old Syrian girl has travelled from the Middle East to the UK and will arrive in Sheffield on Friday, October 29. To mark her arrival (which will take place shortly after 4pm at Victoria Quays) there will be a full day of free activities at Victoria Quays (1pm-5.15pm), Tudor Square (2.30pm-6.30pm) and the Peace Gardens (6.30pm-7.30pm). Amal will complete her journey in Manchester on November 3.

Theatre: Classically-trained Scottish Shakespearean actor Ian McDiarmid is (probably unjustly) most famous for playing the evil Emperor Palpatine in the Star Wars franchise. In the world premiere of Julian Barnes’ The Lemon Table he plays both a concert goer and composer, in a two part play which celebrates “a love of music, live performance, and life itself.” The Lemon Table runs from Tuesday, October 26 to Saturday 30 at the Crucible.

Hallowe’en: Kelham Island Museum are offering two “after hours” tours of the museum on Thursday, October 28, one for families and one strictly for adults-only. Creepy Kelham: Family Fun takes place from 5.30pm-7.30pm and features chilling tales and slime making while Creepy Kelham: After Dark takes place from 8pm-10pm and offers those brave enough a guide round the museum’s most haunted areas including a spine-tingling tour of the cellar.


Obituary

Maria Teresa Platts’ life seems almost too far-fetched to be believed. She was born in Archangel, North West Russia in 1940, a few months after her mother Wanda Adamczyk had been deported there from Poland by the Red Army. After Maria was born, Wanda had to bury her in the snow every morning before work to stop the Soviets taking her new baby away.

After Russia entered the war in 1942, the family were freed and travelled to Persia where they were taken in by the Red Cross. After Persia the family travelled to a refugee camp in Tanzania and eventually to England, first to Cornwall and eventually to Sheffield in 1951. In the Steel City she met her husband of 52 years Brian Platts and lived a long and happy life.

Maria passed away peacefully at Northern General Hospital on September 1 at the age of 81. At her funeral, her daughter Gay Bell said: “Today there are over 26 million refugees in the world, half of which are children. These people, just like Maria, are forced by fate of where they are born to flee persecution and conflict and seek safety in foreign lands.

“This is why we have chosen to support the British Red Cross and the work they do for refugees in Mum’s memory. Her luckiest break came when she got to that Red Cross refugee camp in Tehran, and we hope that our donations can help others like her.” To contribute to the fund set up in Maria’s memory, visit the family’s Just Giving page here.


That’s it — you’re all caught up.