Our stories of 2021
Some great reads to remember the year
By Dan Hayes
Dear readers — let me round off an amazing year with a few words about The Tribune, and then a list of some of my favourite stories of 2021.
When I started this new venture back in May, I was taking a huge leap into the dark. I’d given up a secure job working at the Sheffield Star to go and work for a title that had one full-time member of staff and — at that time — no revenue. I’d also taken a big pay cut and knew that I was going to have to work incredibly hard to get a brand new venture off the ground.
By that point, I’d been moonlighting for my new title for a few months already. In that time we’d sent out stories about the beautiful community gardens of Meersbrook, a Victorian sexually transmitted disease clinic and the 60th birthday of Park Hill flats. The reception these pieces received convinced me that there was a market for what we were trying to do.
We launched our paid memberships in July, and that calmed my nerves a little. 73 of you subscribed to The Tribune on the first day alone and by the end of the week, we had 250 paying members. Since then it has been slow but steady progress, with around 40 new members joining each month. And two weeks ago we reached 500 paying subscribers, which felt like a huge achievement less than six months after opening up our membership scheme.
I set up The Tribune on the basis of a hunch: that people fed up with clickbait and churned out stories would be prepared to pay for well-researched and well-written, ad-free journalism. The reaction we have got so far has proved that hunch right. One of the things people like is that our goal is to create a sustainable news source that can serve the city for years to come.
Since our first newsletter went out on March 29, we’ve now published well over 100 editions of The Tribune, covering topics from the environment to heritage and transport to crime. Of course, we think all of them have been good but for our last newsletter of the year, we wanted to pick out a selection of our favourites. There is a lot more to come in 2022 but these are some of the stories that helped us get off to such a great start. Some of them are free to read and some are members-only.
Huge thanks to all of you who have supported us to this point — I’m very moved and grateful. If you fancy giving yourself the gift of good journalism as we go into 2022 and helping us to grow, please do join up now.
The quiet subversive of Sheffield
Mollie Simpson’s wonderful piece about countryside campaigner Ethel Haythornthwaite is a moving exploration of how nature can help people heal after great tragedy. Ethel’s devotion to the hills ultimately helped create Sheffield’s green belt and the Peak District.
The rise and fall of Sheffield’s newspapers
In July I took a look back at the history of journalism in Sheffield, from the Register’s humble beginnings on Hartshead in the late 18th century to the glory days of the Sheffield Daily Telegraph and the sad decline of a once-proud industry.
‘This is the worst place in the world’
Opened by the Queen Mother in 1966, Hyde Park flats once towered over the city but by the early 1990s had almost totally disappeared. We spoke to former residents about what it was really like to live there and why they were eventually demolished.
The life of Pablo Fanque
As a Beatles fan, this amazing story about the Sheffield life and work of Victorian circus impresario Pablo Fanque was a joy to write. Circus and fair expert Vanessa Toulmin filled us in on Pablo’s impact on the city and the legacy he left behind.
‘Ban him from going down Ecclesall Road at all’
When we went to Sheffield Magistrates’ Court one morning back in August, half the cases we saw involved homeless people. The chances of many of them escaping the revolving door of incarceration and life on the streets seem slim.
Life and work inside Sheffield’s super warehouse
When Pretty Little Thing arrived in Sheffield in 2018, they were welcomed with open arms. We spent a few weeks trying to track down people who work at the fast fashion firm’s huge Tinsley fulfillment centre — and what they told us certainly wasn't pretty.
Competing visions: Inside the crisis at Sheffield DocFest
When news broke in August that Sheffield DocFest had sacked its entire production team, it was clear there was a bigger story underneath the surface. We spoke to insiders about what had gone on behind closed doors at the festival and what it meant for its future.
Why George Orwell hated Sheffield
Sophie Atkinson’s brilliant piece about George Orwell’s time in Sheffield is one of our most popular stories. The legendary writer stopped here while writing The Road to Wigan Pier and wrote extensively in his diaries about his dislike for the place.
Sheffield's long wait for a symphony orchestra
Classical music expert Hugh Morris wrote for us in October on why Sheffield doesn't have a symphony orchestra. A strong tradition of choral singing is thought to be one reason — but there are signs that orchestral music is making a comeback.
‘A disparate collection of bloody minded people’
We couldn’t be a Sheffield publication and not cover the tree scandal, and a new book by two of the enfants terribles of the protest movement gave us our chance. Persons Unknown is the first account of an extraordinary moment in Sheffield’s recent history.
Life on the Manor
Our writer Jack Walton ventured to the Manor on Halloween to discover whether the much-maligned estate deserved its reputation. There he found a community fed up with the way it is seen by the outside world and proud of how it has overcome its struggles.
The local problems HS2 was trying to solve
When plans for Sheffield’s HS2 high-speed rail link were scrapped in November, we decided to do a deep dive on the history of the project and why it was needed. Railway expert Gareth Dennis filled us in on exactly what the city has lost.
Inside Sheffield’s green energy ‘gigafactory’
There is a company in Sheffield that is worth more than £2bn and yet most people have never heard of it. ITN Power makes machines that can harness the power of hydrogen and investors are betting big on the technology being key to our energy future.
'I was ready to turn bad, like that thin lass from Fame in Footloose'
Getting acclaimed Sheffield author Rachel Genn to write for us has to be one of our proudest moments over the last year. In this wonderfully evocative piece, she transports us back to her teenage years working in a Castle Market record store.
The ‘Steel City Lad’ with ties to a banned neo-Nazi organisation
A worrying piece about a Sheffield far right activist who has become a senior member of a new fascist party. Jake Bewick has joined the Yorkshire branch of Patriotic Alternative, an organisation set up by self-confessed Nazi sympathiser Mark Collett.
Three performers in search of stardom in ’90s Sheffield
Another amazing piece by Sophie Atkinson about the cult Sheffield documentary Tales from a Hard City. Sophie spoke to both the filmmakers and some cast members about what makes it so special. Just like the film, the story is both funny and incredibly moving.