'Let's give them a big welcome and show them some Sheffield'

Plus, the first UK solo show for 'internet artist' Rafaël Rozendaal

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

In this newsletter we look at the return of students to the city, have a piece about the tragic death of Mohamed Issa Koroma that took place on High Street on Friday and include some breaking news about South Yorkshire Mayor Dan Jarvis.

We also have some great reads from around the web including an interesting piece about the Park Hill ‘I Love You’ bridge and recommend a new show at Site Gallery from an artist who has exhibited in New York and Paris.

Thanks to everyone who read, shared and commented on our weekend story about Sheffield silver magnate Samuel Roberts and his castle. You can still read that piece here.

Last week we sent our 403 subscribers two members’ pieces about the UK’s only Aztec historian and why trendy Swedish fashion shop Weekday came to Sheffield (one member wrote: “Tribune emails call for a cup of tea, time set aside for a proper read and an extra 'folder' to keep them in for re-reads”).

This week we’ll have a piece about a rewilding project in north Sheffield and another about the city’s Somali community. To get those stories and be one of the early patrons of our new approach to quality journalism in South Yorkshire, join up as a member now with the button below. It costs less than £1.50 a week if you join for a year (£70).

This week’s weather

Students return to Sheffield

Top line: Sheffield is this week welcoming students back to the city in large numbers for the first time since before the pandemic. Sheffield’s two universities are the lifeblood of our economy, and many businesses are reliant on their return.

How many students? In normal times, Sheffield is home to more than 60,000 students (around 30,000 at each university). This means more than 10% of the population of the city are studying at one of Sheffield’s two universities.

  • A study done by Hatch Regeneris for the University and College Union (UCU) found that the gross value added (GVA) for Sheffield from its student population was a staggering £1.09bn per year (£420m from Sheffield Hallam University and £670m from the University of Sheffield). 19,520 jobs in the city also depend on the higher education sector.

  • It has also been calculated that each cohort of international students brings in a net benefit of £290m to Sheffield Central alone, making the constituency the biggest beneficiary from foreign students in the UK. The figure for the whole of Sheffield (minus Stocksbridge) is £447.5m. Almost half of this (48%) is from students who come to the city from China.

The effect of Covid: Student website Studee calculated that in just one month of Covid, Sheffield lost almost £16m while over six months the figure was close to £100m. The pandemic has now been going on for 16 months. Laura Rettie, Studee vice president, said:

Students bring a huge amount of money into the areas they choose to study in — money many small towns simply can’t afford to lose. Sadly for many university towns across the country the economic pain is likely to be felt for many years to come.

Background: In the 1960s and 1970s, Sheffield’s steel industry employed tens of thousands while its universities attracted less than 5,000 students. Today, those figures have been reversed. In 40 years, the city’s economy has changed from being one dominated by heavy industry to one based on education.

A tale of two Sheffields

Friday night should have been a moment of triumph for Sheffield. But as the great and good of the city were making their way into the Crucible Theatre on Friday evening for the premiere of Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, a very different scene was taking place just yards away.

At around 4.30pm that afternoon, in the vicinity of Sports Direct on Mulberry Street, a man in his 20s was stabbed. The injured man reportedly staggered to the other side of High Street before collapsing in a pool of blood. He was pronounced dead a short time later.

I walked up High Street later that night only to be greeted by police tape blocking any passage up one of the city’s busiest streets. Further up the road a tram stood stationary and empty at the Cathedral stop, as if in silent mourning.

With the Jamie premiere and an Everly Pregnant Brothers gig at City Hall, Sheffield should have been buzzing on Friday. Instead, it resembled a ghost town. Ashen-faced people passed the cordon, while parents tried to shield their children from the disturbing sight. 

The incident was shocking but its location wasn’t. As many Sheffielders will know, High Street provides a window onto the desperate lives of the hopeless and dispossessed of the city. Arguments, threats and scuffles are commonplace. Serious incidents have happened there before, but nothing as bad as this.

Sheffield has big plans to reinvent its city centre, plans that are now even more vital than ever as we emerge from the pandemic. But the issues we face are deeper than cosmetic changes to the street scene — they are social problems that require proper thought, proper investment and much better coordination between the agencies of local government and local justice.

On Sunday, South Yorkshire Police named the victim as 24-year-old Mohamed Issa Koroma. 31-year-old James Lee, of Doncaster Road, Rotherham has been charged with his murder and appeared before Sheffield Magistrates’ Court this morning.

Jarvis to step down next year

South Yorkshire Mayor Dan Jarvis has announced he will step down from the role next year. In a statement released today, Mr Jarvis said he would not recontest the mayoralty next year, but would stay on as the MP for Barnsley Central. He said:

I ran for Mayor because I thought delivering a devolution deal for our region was the most important thing I could achieve from opposition. When I first stepped forward to take on the role, I took the decision to remain as a Member of Parliament. Some people didn't agree with that, but I said from the beginning that this wasn't a long-term arrangement. And I meant it. 

There's still an awful lot I want to get done and I'll be working hard to get us into the best possible shape for the future. I'm letting people know my intentions now because I think it's important that potential candidates are given sufficient notice to step forward. South Yorkshire deserves someone of the highest calibre as their next Mayor, who can provide the leadership required. 

In 2018, Mr Jarvis became the first Sheffield City Region Mayor (the name was later changed) but took on a role which at the beginning had no powers or funding. One of his main priorities has been transport, with a review of the bus system chaired by Clive Betts MP reporting last year and an active travel commissioner appointed in Dame Sarah Storey.

In terms of who might replace him, on a county-wide basis it’s difficult to look beyond Labour providing the winner. Mr Jarvis defeated Walkley councillor Ben Curran for the Labour nomination in 2018 but mayoral roles in other parts of the North have generally been won by politicians with a national profile. Labour figures who could come under pressure to stand include current Rotherham MP Sarah Champion and former Don Valley MP Caroline Flint.

Our favourite reads

  1. The saga of Pinstone Street continued last week as councillors debated the road’s pedestrianisation scheme for four hours in committee, watched by local democracy reporter Lucy Ashton. As ever, battle lines were drawn between Labour and the Greens on the future of the project, but councillors gave no indication when a final decision will be taken.

  2. In our members email on Thursday we flagged up this documentary about the famous Park Hill “I Love You” bridge. This superb Guardian piece goes into much more detail on the background to the graffiti, and how it was controversially co-opted by developers Urban Splash as a marketing tool. The slogan was removed in February but will be replaced when phase 2 of the redevelopment is complete.

  3. Now Then have an interesting opinion piece from Minesh Parekh arguing for a “transport revolution” in Sheffield. He says a publicly owned bus system, an expanded tram network and investment in active travel could both transform Sheffield and help the city meet its climate change commitments.

  4. Yorkshire-based freelance journalist Robyn Vinter reports from Sheffield on the case of Simba Mujakachi, a 29-year-old personal trainer who was denied NHS treatment after suffering a stroke. Mujakachi has lived in the UK since he was a child but was denied asylum in 2009 and has now been landed with a medical bill of almost £100,000.

  5. An exclusive report by the Yorkshire Post’s new political editor Chris Burn on county-wide efforts to combat climate change. The paper says the Yorkshire and Humber Climate Change Commission, an organisation which is supported by the region’s local councils, has drawn up a 50-point plan which will be published to coincide with the COP26 conference in November.

Things to do

Crafts: Artists at Portland Works MakerSpace on Randall Street have opened up their studios for an exhibition of their work. Portland Works is a community owned industrial heritage building dating from 1879 which doubles as workshops for modern and traditional craftspeople. Unit 26 is on now and continues until Sunday, September 26.

Art: Dutch-Brazilian internet artist Rafaël Rosendaal is the subject of a major new show at Site Gallery from this Thursday (September 23). Permanent Distraction is the first solo exhibition of Rozendaal’s work in the UK and his most expansive installation to date. The artist has previously exhibited in New York’s Times Square and the Pompidou Centre in Paris.

Music: Canadian folk singer-songwriter Martha Wainwright (daughter of Loudon and sister of Rufus) has a new album out (Love Will Be Reborn) and plays the Leadmill on Friday night as part of a worldwide tour to promote it. The venue’s website says Wainwright’s fifth studio album “follows recent years of loneliness and clarity in search of optimism and joy”.

Theatre: Part gig, part play, Typical Girls certainly doesn’t sound like your usual theatre experience. A group of women prisoners locked up in a specialist unit discover the music of The Slits and form a punk rock band. The show starts this Friday (September 24) and continues until October 9. It will also be live-streamed on Wednesday, October 6.

Film: Four years after the stage production first opened at the Crucible, the film version of teenage drag queen musical Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is now in selected cinemas (including the Showroom) and on streaming site Amazon Prime. Shot in Sheffield at locations including Parson Cross and Crookes Social Club — and produced by Park Hill based Warp Films — the movie is a massive Sheffield success story.

Covid-19 update

Cases: The Covid cases rate in Sheffield — the number of positive cases per 100,000 people over seven days — has fallen over the last week. The rate now stands at 282.7, a fall of 18.5% or 377 cases from last week. The England rate is also falling and stands at 265.

Hospitals: The number of patients in hospital in Sheffield has risen sharply to 110, an increase of 22 on last week. This includes 108 patients at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals at two at the childrens. Seven deaths linked to the virus have taken place over the last week.

Vaccines: More than three quarters of a million (750,307) vaccine doses have now been given out in Sheffield, including 393,147 first doses and 357,160 second doses. Millions of vulnerable people and key workers in the UK are to begin getting booster jabs this week.