'People don't want to cause harm'
Plus, a talk about the source of Sheffield's radical roots
Good evening readers — and welcome to our Monday briefing.
Today we take a look at the controversial issue of wood-burning stoves and whether they can ever be used safely. Music blogger Roger Quail also has a new piece out about when Cabaret Voltaire reopened the Lyceum Theatre and Dr Tim Cooper gives a talk about Sheffield’s radical roots at the Central Library.
Catch up and coming up
Thank you to everyone who read, liked and shared David Bocking’s great story about Sheffield’s rivers at the weekend. You can still read that piece here.
Last week we sent two newsletters to our 606 paying members. The first was an in-depth look at which areas might win and lose from the move to working from home and the second included an interview with the Green Party’s candidate for South Yorkshire Mayor and a look back at the life of the man who many believe was Sheffield's best artist: H.E. Allen. An extract from that piece is below:
“When you have seen some Allen pictures of Derbyshire you look at the landscape in a different way,” he says. “That is pretty rare in a painter.” But as well as a talent for capturing the essence of a landscape, Basford believes he can see some of Allen’s experience of war in his “slightly ominous” work. Big holes and gaping chasms feature prominently in his paintings. “I think you can see he had a strange relationship with the earth,” he tells me.
This week we’ll send two more including a wide-ranging interview with Sheffield’s director of public health Greg Fell two years on from the beginning of the coronavirus crisis. To get both of those and help fund a new kind of journalism based on paying members not clickbait please consider joining below. It costs just £1.34 a week if you pay for a year upfront (£70).
This week’s weather
Our weather forecast comes from dedicated Sheffield weather service Steel City Skies, who say high pressure will head east, introducing a milder and breezier flow from the south. There will be plenty of dry weather, with the highest rain risk over the hills.
Monday ⛅️ Chilly with brief bright spells and large cloud amounts. Highs of 8°C. Frost overnight.
Tuesday ⛅️ Dry and bright for much of the day. Cloudy by evening with patchy rain overnight. Highs of 9°C.
Wednesday ☁️ Brightness at a premium with extensive cloud and the odd spot of rain. Milder with highs of 12°C.
Thursday & Friday ☁️ Largely the same with windy and mild days on offer. Occasional brighter spells and the odd spot of rain. Highs of 12-13°C.
The big story: ‘People don’t want to cause harm’
Top line: Scientists at The University of Sheffield have launched the UK’s first sensor-based pollution alert system for wood-burning stoves in the city. But will people heed its warnings?
Background: There are now a reported 1.5 million wood-burning stoves in Britain, a number reported to be growing by around 200,000 every single year. Most households which use them have an alternative source of heating.
Log burners are now so widespread in urban areas that they are the leading cause of particulate matter (PM) pollution in the UK.
These particles are so small they can easily be inhaled and can exacerbate existing respiratory illnesses and cause cancer.
Green credentials: Because the fuel is technically renewable, wood burners are marketed as a clean, green alternative to using fossil fuels to heat your home. However, campaigners say they can produce as much fine particulate matter in a year as six HGVs.
The system: The Burner Alert system uses sensors and weather data to generate real-time PM pollution data. On Monday, March 7 at 4pm, the system showed levels in Ecclesall, Ecclesfield, Meersbrook and Walkley were near to dangerous levels. People can also volunteer to host a sensor and expand the network.
The detail: The three levels of alert align with the WHO’s 2022 guideline values for fine particulate matter air pollution. An alert is triggered when pollution averages above 15 micrograms per cubic metre of air in a 24-hour period.
No Alert (Green): Particle pollution in this area is well below guideline levels. Air quality is not currently unhealthy, although stove use may contribute to higher levels.
Advisory (Amber): Particle pollution in this area is near guideline levels. Please consider not using your stove, particularly if you have an alternative source of heat.
Burner Alert (Red): Particle pollution in this area is already above guideline levels. Avoid lighting your stove unless you do not have an alternative source of heating.
Can they be used responsibly? Some believe the burners can be used responsibly, and an array of DEFRA-approved, eco-friendly, low-emission stoves are available.
Parts of London are designated as “smoke control areas” where owners are only allowed to use certain fuels and appliances, but enforcement is weak.
But Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation both urge households to avoid using wood burners at all unless they have no other source of heating.
An advisory system: University of Nottingham academic James Heydon, the co-creator of Burner Alert, told the i that it was intended to fill the gaps in the current regulations. He said:
People are environmentally conscious, increasingly so, and at a very basic level don’t want to cause harm. Our idea was to make this an advisory system, so that people actually could see the action they should take.
Bottom line: Considering the amount of wood-burning stoves that are now in use, a ban seems highly unlikely. But encouraging people to use the stoves they have more responsibly (and consider not using them at all at certain times) could be an innovative solution.
Home of the week
This four-bedroomed detached home in Gleadless has grounds of an acre as well as solar panels and a separate annexe with a garage and hot tub. It is on the market for £525,000.
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Our favourite reads
A brilliant read in Now Then about Sheffield’s subversive queer history by academic Lucy Brownson. Beginning with the story of Edward Carpenter in the late nineteenth century, she brings the piece into the present day via transgender World War Two veteran Louise Jennings and the political battles gay people fought in the 70s and 80s.
The Guardian report that an inquest into the death of Sheffield English teacher Jack Ritchie has found that information and treatment on dealing with gambling problems was “woefully inadequate” at the time of his death. Mr Ritchie became addicted to using fixed-odds betting terminals while a sixth-form student and took his own life in 2017.
The latest installment in Sheffield music blogger Roger Quail’s attempt to document every gig he has ever been to looks at when Cabaret Voltaire reopened the Lyceum Theatre in 1982. Quail describes The Lyceum’s “potholes, star-lit sky views and cascading rainwater” as having more in common with the Peak District than a music venue.
Steam returns to Sheffield
I sadly missed the LMS Jubilee Class 45699 Galatea as it came through Sheffield station and past Park Hill pulling the Railway Touring Company’s “Peaks Express” carriages on Sunday. But fortunately, as ever, the Steel City Snapper was on hand to get these great pictures (and a lovely video as well).
Things to do
Art: The Fronteer Gallery on Exchange Street has two new exhibitions on at the moment. “Colour” features vibrant work from more than 50 artists and “Dirty Secrets” showcases 40 pieces which respond to the themes of lust and licentiousness. The free gallery is open 10am-3pm Wednesdays to Fridays, and 2pm-7pm Saturdays. Both exhibitions are on until March 18.
Food and drink: Running from today until Sunday, March 13 is Sheffield Beer Week. The annual event had to go virtual in 2021 due to Covid, but is back to normal for this year. Highlights of the festival include a Sheffield Pub Heritage Walk on Wednesday and a chance to look around Attercliffe brewery St Mars of the Desert’s taproom on Friday and Saturday.
Talk: The Story of Sheffield author Dr Tim Cooper explores the origins of Sheffield’s revolutionary spirit — from tales of Robin Hood to the “People's Republic of South Yorkshire” — and suggests that the city's location on a number of important geographical and historical boundaries may be behind it. The talk takes place at 7pm on Thursday at the Central Library.
“Interesting and informative piece to read, being new to the city. Looking forward to doing the Five Weirs Walk.” From the 'big stink' to deer in the Don: How Sheffield reclaimed its rivers, Joan Allen
“Love Allen’s work, tried ages ago to find prints, but not available anywhere. I think they would sell well in Sheffield if anyone stocked them!” Harry Epworth Allen: Clerk, soldier, and 'Sheffield’s best artist', Paul Varley
“Excellent piece. Goes together well with the Sheffield City Centre consultation piece.” Walkley, High Green, Totley? A model predicts the winners and losers from the move to remote work, Perry Ismangil
“Again good stuff with some pretty sharp images — keep it up Tribune.” Sheffield stands with Ukraine: ‘I am shocked to see so many people here’, Ron Clayton