'Meaningless word salad’ or 'cultural rebirth’?
A new project in Sheffield divides opinion, plus the rest of your weekly briefing
Good afternoon readers — and welcome to our Monday briefing.
Today we have a look at a mysterious new project that is currently underway in Sheffield. We also recommend a must-see show for any Beatles fans and feature a few lovely snow photos from city Instagram snapper Zaid Pathan.
Huge thanks to all of you who read and shared our weekend story about The Tribune’s Christmas charity Mums In Need, which supports women who are subjected to emotional abuse and coercive control after leaving relationships. You can still read that piece here.
Last week we sent out two stories to our growing community of paying members. The first looked at the remarkable longevity of Sheffield’s Atkinsons department store and the second took readers inside a phenomenally successful Sheffield sports club struggling to cope with Covid.
This week we’ll send out two more, including one about the troubling rise of a new fascist group in the UK and their presence in Sheffield. To get all our members-only editions and help us to become financially sustainable, please consider subscribing. It costs less than £1.40 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’s weather will be “chilly, very unsettled and filled to the brim with inclement weather, warnings and wintry hazards.”
Monday ☔️ A wet and breezy day will clear later with a cold night following. Icy patches likely as temperatures drop close to freezing.
Tuesday ⚠️ Storm Barra muscles in during the day bringing very windy conditions with gusts of 35-45 mph. Outbreaks of rain, sleet and snow will progress eastwards with a greater risk of disruption from snow over the hills. Warnings from the Met Office are in force for Tuesday — across the whole region for wind and just for the hills for snow.
Wednesday ☂️ As Storm Barra moves away an unsettled and chilly day is expected with lots of cloud and further spells of rain or showers.
Thursday and Friday 🌦 The outlook is far less certain but continuing low pressure is expected to mean low temperatures with further showers or longer spells of rain alternating with drier periods and the odd brighter spell. Precipitation may still be wintry over the hills.
The big story: What on earth is New Constellations?
Top line: Sheffield is currently taking part in an experimental “social imagining” project called New Constellations. But does anyone know what it is?
Background: On its website, New Constellations advertises itself as an organisation which “works with communities to imagine new and better futures.”
The not-for-profit group is made up of just four people, all of whom have run organisations with a social purpose.
Earlier this year they advertised for people in Sheffield to join their “journey” and those selected had their first meetings last month.
Who is involved? The project is the brainchild of Sheffield-born Sir Paul Collier, a professor of economics and public policy at the Blavatnik School of Government at the University of Oxford. He started working in Sheffield earlier this year using a grant from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. New Constellations was then asked to develop the project further.
Guinea pigs? The only other place the scheme has been tried in is the Cumbrian town of Barrow-in-Furness, a place often described as one of the unhappiest in the UK.
As this video shows, in Barrow-in-Furness New Constellations brought together 15 local figures to come up with ideas to transform the town’s fortunes.
The Guardian spoke to residents in January this year, one of whom said the project could lead to a “cultural rebirth” in the forgotten town.
Word salad: When the Sheffield project was launched online in October, many in the city expressed misgivings about the idea. Some said the website was full of meaningless “word salad” while others complained that by having to give up their own time, those involved were inevitably going to be drawn from less disadvantaged social groups.
The process: After a call for nominations, a “crew” of 21 Sheffielders was assembled who will go on the New Constellations journey together. They met last month to talk about the principles behind their work and will meet again this week to discuss more tangible changes.
Iris Andrews from New Constellations told The Tribune they were now half way through a two stage process. What comes out of it is ultimately up to the people who were taking part, she told us, adding:
New Constellations is about setting up collaborative relationships among people with diverse lived experiences of the city. These kinds of people have never been brought together in Sheffield before. But we are outsiders. Any change is going to come from within the city.
Analysis: The initiative didn't get off to the best of starts. Unclear communication from New Constellations didn’t help, but it might also have to do with the lingering legacy of the Sheffield trees fiasco, which seems to have created a certain suspicion in the city, particularly about outside organisations. Many assumed New Constellations was something the council was trying to foist on the public, when in fact the project is independent of the local authority, although some staff — including CEO Kate Josephs — are involved as participants. We’ll report on it in more detail for Tribune members soon.
Runners percy-vere for prized pud
Thousands of runners braved chilly temperatures on Sunday morning for the annual Percy Pud 10k road race. The course takes competitors down the beautiful Loxley Valley, with each finisher receiving a Christmas pudding for their efforts. The race is now in its 28th year (with a one year break due to Covid), and is often seen as the unofficial start of the festive season. The run’s full history is on the Steel City Striders’ website.
Cases: The Covid case rate in Sheffield — the number of new positive cases per 100,000 people over seven days — currently stands at 277.5, 133 cases or 7.5% down on last week. The average for England currently stands at 461.3, 5.1% up on seven days ago.
Hospitals: There are currently 110 patients in hospital in Sheffield being treated for Covid-19, a fall of 25 from last week. 14 of these patients are on ventilation, a rise of four from last week. Eight deaths linked to the virus have taken place over the last seven days.
Vaccines: 956,532 vaccines have now been given out in Sheffield, 159,573 of which have been booster or third jabs. This means over a quarter of the total population has now had a booster jab. If eligible, you can now get your booster at walk-in centres across the city.
Home of the week
This two-bedroomed Broomhill bungalow was designed by modernist master David Mellor in the 1960s and retains an abundance of original features. It is on the market for £525,000.
Our favourite reads
A lovely “locals’ guide” to Sheffield in the Guardian by Abbeydale Road florist Anna Potter. The author picks out her favourite places in the city for food, inspiration, nightlife and escape, getting in a plug for her own Swallows and Damsons shop along the way. Her choices are all conventional enough but it’s nice to see how places we all take for granted are publicised to the “outside world.”
An interesting piece in the Derbyshire Times about Derbyshire Dales District Council’s efforts to ensure residents are not priced out of living in the Peak District. Councillors have expressed fears that the area is becoming a “theme park” for the wealthy at the expense of less well off younger people. They hope building more affordable homes will stop people being forced to leave the area.
A nice story in Yorkshire Live (if you can bear the website) about an Oughtibridge teenager who has secured funding for his scotch egg business. Oliver Jackson, aged 15, only started running Jawbone Scotch Egg Co during lockdown last year but has now won six months of mentoring and £1,500. He currently sells from a small shop in the village but has hopes of opening a store near Hillsborough.
Another good installment in Star business editor David Walsh’s restorations series looks at the building which used to house Topshop and Topman on Fargate. Many of the floors above street level on the traditionally retail dominated street have lain empty due to the lack of easy access. But now, developers think they can open up the upper floors of the buildings to office and residential use by installing a front door.
Bad although not entirely unexpected news that the government’s long-awaited Levelling Up white paper has been delayed until 2022. The document, which is expected to focus on industry, skills and transport, had been expected to be published before Christmas. Labour claimed that the plans were “in disarray” but government sources said the delay was down to the ongoing coronavirus crisis.
Things to do
Shopping: We know we should all shop local, but sometimes it isn’t easy. To help, Welcome to Sheffield have produced this round-up of all the independent stores in five different neighbourhoods of the city. The brilliant and useful list is broken up into Sheffield city centre, Sharrow Vale Road and Ecclesall Road, Abbeydale Road, Kelham Island and Hillsborough.
Music: The Sheffield Beatles Project returns to the stage on Saturday, two Covid interrupted years after they last performed together in December 2019. This time the group will be playing the much-loved Blue Album, a collection of songs the Fab Four recorded between 1967-1970. I went in 2019 and have been looking forward to this performance ever since.
Art: A new exhibition of work by Kelham Island Arts Collective’s John Wilkinson is now being shown at the Art Social gallery on Snig Hill. “Leave Only Footprints” looks at human beings’ relationship with the natural world and the landscapes that we irrevocably change. The show runs until Saturday, Jan 1 and the gallery is open from Wednesday to Saturday.
Photography: An exhibition of music photography by veteran city snapper Mal Whichelow is currently on display at the brilliant Dorothy Pax bar on Victoria Quays. The exhibition will run until January 12, 2022, but will be changed regularly and photos are all also available as prints. For more details about the show and an interview with Mal, see the Sheffield Wire.
Comedy: Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith made their names in the cult show The League of Gentlemen, but since 2014 have been producing comedy gold as a duo in the BBC2 series Inside No.9. On Sunday night they will appear together at Sheffield City Hall to talk about their hugely successful anthology show, in the company of author Mark Salisbury.