O sculpture, where art thou? Mapping Sheffield’s public art
Plus, a new mural appears on Sidney Street
Good afternoon readers — and welcome to our Monday briefing.
Public art often provokes a strong reaction. For everyone who loves the Angel of the North, for example, there are plenty of others who hate it. But Sheffield has hundreds of pieces of public art that most people don’t even know are there. Now a new project hopes to map the public art we have and find out what people think of it. Today, we look at why we don’t look after what we’ve got and how two heritage organisations are trying to change that.
As well as that we have some of the great street art that was created over the weekend at the Paint Jam event, an amazing story about a Sheffield man who claims to have photographed UFOs twice, and a new exhibition at the Millennium Gallery by Firth Park-born artist and writer Johny Pitts.
Catch up and coming up
Thanks to everyone who read and shared our weekend piece by David Bocking about the phenomenon that is parkrun. You can still read that piece here.
Last week we sent two great newsletters out to our 750 paying members. The first was a nostalgic piece about how the Sheffield-born cutlery designer David Mellor left his mark on the city’s streetscape. And the second was a fascinating story about an underground farm in Kelham Island which is making the food of the future. An extract from that second piece is below:
In one room, tray after tray of green shoots sit under bright LED lights, while tanks of water connected by plastic pipes bubble away underneath. In the growing trays are an astonishing array of tiny green crops. These include red radish, broccoli, coriander, shiso, basil, micro kale and many others I can’t remember. Grabbing a pair of scissors, Luke cuts off samples for me to try and watches my reaction as the intense flavours explode on my tongue. “When you grow stuff like this it makes it taste a lot stronger,” he reveals.
This week we’ll send out two more including a piece about Samuel Morgan Smith, an African-American Shakespearean actor who died in Sheffield in the late nineteenth-century, and another about how the monkeypox vaccine rollout is going in Sheffield among the city’s at-risk groups. To get both of those and help fund a new way of doing journalism in Sheffield, please consider subscribing using the button below.
Editor’s appeal: Last week The Tribune passed 750 paying members, another major milestone on our way to creating a sustainable news source for Sheffield. But the reality is we need a lot more. If we can get to 1,000 by the end of this year, you will be helping us employ more staff and take on more ambitious stories and investigations. Thank you.
The big picture: All the fun of the fair 🎡
This stunning photo of Sheffield by the Seaside was posted on Instagram by Matt Gretton last week. The funfair will be at the Peace Gardens throughout August.
This week’s weather ☀️
Our weather forecast comes from dedicated Sheffield weather service Steel City Skies, who say high pressure extends across the UK bringing dry, settled and increasingly hot weather for many. Another heatwave beckons...
Monday ⛅ Sunny intervals and patchy cloud. Dry throughout with light and variable winds. Highs of 25°C.
Tuesday 🌤 Further high cloud turning the sun occasionally hazy. Remaining dry and very warm again with highs of 26°C.
Wednesday ☀️ Long sunny spells expected with light southeast breezes. Hot with highs of 28°C.
Thursday ☀️ The heatwave continues with hot and largely unbroken sunshine. Highs of 30°C.
Friday ☀️ Mainly sunny once more, and staying bone dry with easterly breezes and highs again a hot 30°C.
Outlook: Risk of more humid conditions from a developing low to the south which could bring more cloud and a slight thunderstorm risk. Still very warm or hot though with the rain risk rather low.
The big story: O sculpture, where art thou? Mapping Sheffield’s public art 🖼
Top line: Hundreds of public artworks are dotted all over Sheffield, but many are neglected and forgotten. A major new project hopes to put them on the map.
Mapping public art: This summer, Wessex Archaeology and Sheffield Visual Arts Group have joined forces to find out how Sheffield’s public artworks are viewed by residents and to create an online map of every piece of public art the city has.
Volunteers have begun recording Sheffield artworks and their condition by filling in a survey on public artwork in their local area.
It is hoped that when complete the resource will encourage future generations of Sheffielders to celebrate and preserve the city’s public art.
Major works: Hundreds of pieces of public art have been commissioned in Sheffield over the years to improve public spaces, mark major events and promote culture. These include well-known sculptures like “The Cutting Edge”, the steel water feature outside the railway station, and “Rain”, the nine metal spheres between the Peace Gardens and Winter Garden.
…but, there are also hundreds of other pieces that have largely faded into obscurity. These include “The Ali Babas”, six carved pieces of sandstone in the central reservation on High Street; and “Sheen”, a lattice of sandstone and stainless steel at the top of Howard Street which was dedicated to Sheffield-born comedian Marti Caine following her death in 1995.
Use it or lose it: A frieze by celebrated modernist sculptor William Mitchell on Barker’s Pool House was almost lost in 2020. After the potential destruction of this important piece of public art was reported by Now Then in 2020, it was taken into storage and will now be installed at Pounds Park in the Heart of the City development when it opens later this year.
Everybody’s responsibility: The public artworks that exist in Sheffield are often funded by the National Lottery or EU, or are sometimes paid for by developers in return for being granted planning permission. However, after they have been created, there is often no funding put in place for their maintenance. Joy Bullivant works with the Timewalk Project which runs heritage trails in Sheffield. She told The Tribune:
Many artworks are installed and then left. Sometimes they are forgotten altogether and no money is set aside for their upkeep. In most European cities public art is valued and cared for. I think it’s everybody's responsibility to look after the public artwork we have.
Our take: Some might say why should we bother with public art, given the impact of Covid, the cost of living crisis and the war in Ukraine. There are economic reasons to create public art and it can pay for itself many times over by bringing tourists to our city. But it is also more than that. Our city centre is always going to be a predominantly commercial space. But public art and space for people to meet and socialise give people reasons to visit beyond simply spending money.
Further reading: A previous attempt by Sheffield Hallam University to document all of Sheffield and South Yorkshire’s public art can be found here.
Home of the week 🏡
This small but beautifully formed one-bedroom mews house in Kelham Island is located in the former Alfred Beckett and Sons building and has stunning views over the River Don. It is on the market for £185,000.
Our favourite reads 📚
Sheffield lad ‘photographed flying saucers’ 👽 From journalism lecturer and UFO expert Dr David Clarke comes the strange tale of Alex Birch, a Sheffield man who claims to have photographed flying saucers — twice. 14-year-old Alex's photograph of flying saucers over Mosborough made national headlines in 1962, and the alleged sighting is still in the Ministry of Defence files. His second encounter happened in a snowy Retford town centre in 2004.
Church officer resigned after “inappropriate” relationship ⛪ The Star reports a senior member of one of Sheffield’s most successful churches resigned after engaging in an “inappropriate relationship” with a young female worshipper. Tim Cudmore, director of ministry and parish safeguarding officer at Christ Church in Fulwood, was allowed to resign in 2018 without any investigation or action. The church accepts it “badly failed” the woman involved.
Could making River Porter a person protect it from developers? 💦 A fascinating piece in Now Then about efforts to protect the River Porter as it flows through Sheffield city centre. Inspired by groundbreaking work by indigenous communities in New Zealand, researchers have said granting the river a unique status known as “legal personhood” could help protect it from developers and restore sections that have been hidden since the Victorian era.
Container park takes shape on Fargate 🏗️
The long-promised shipping containers have finally arrived on Fargate. The new retail and leisure attraction, called “Container Park”, was due to be open months ago but was delayed after concerns were raised that the weight of the containers could damage sewers under Fargate. Final touches will be made to the units over the next few weeks before it opens to the public.
Things to do 📆
Art 🦕 If you’ve been in the city centre recently, you may have spotted the Lego dinosaurs which have invaded as part of the Sheffield Bricktropolis event. As well as the dinosaur trail in which 15 huge models have been scattered across local businesses in the city centre, the event also includes a “stay and play zone” at Sheffield Cathedral until 21 August and a “giant mosaic build” taking place at Sheffield Hallam University on the 9, 10, 16 and 17 August.
Photography 📸 An exhibition of the work of Sheffield-born photographer and writer Johny Pitts goes on display at the Millennium Gallery on Thursday, 11 August. On display alongside images of Sheffield’s Firth Park, where Pitts grew up, the works look more broadly at the Black British experience, documenting a journey he took along the UK coast in 2021 with poet Roger Robinson. Home is Not a Place is free and lasts until Saturday, 24 December.
Nature 🦋 Join Alistair McLean, curator of natural science at Sheffield Museums, for this nature walk and learn how to identify dragonflies along the Dearne. The tour will start at Wombwell Ings, on the stretch of the river where the Dove meets the Dearne, before visiting the Old Moor RSPB reserve, a local dragonfly hotspot. The tour starts at the end of Vicar Lane, Darfield at 11am. In the event of notably wet or windy weather, it will be cancelled.
A celebration of street art 🎨
The Paint Jam Weekender took place at the new Pinball Park in the Cultural Industries Quarter on Saturday and Sunday. There was loads of great street art created over the weekend, with one of the best being this fantastic new mural at APG Works on Sidney Street by Jo Peel and Mark McClure, nicely photographed by the Steel City Snapper.