Sheffield is a place where people come and never leave. Or is it?
New data confounds one of the city’s favourite myths — and gives us a detailed picture of where the many arrivals in Sheffield are coming from
Good morning members — and welcome to Thursday’s Tribune.
A few months ago, our spreadsheet-loving data reporter, Daniel Timms, did an exclusive investigation into where our waste ends up. This week he’s been at it again, but this time combing through the figures to answer a different question: just who, exactly, is moving here?
With 1 in 19 Sheffield residents having settled in the last year, it’s an important question — and it creates others. Where are they coming from? How old are they? What jobs do they do? And is it really true that Londoners are flocking here en masse?
All the answers to that below — along with a challenge to one of the city’s core credos. But first, our mini-briefing.
Editor’s note: What more can we do to make you become a Tribune member? Carry on putting out brilliant, thoughtful, intelligent journalism, of course. Invite you to our regular members’ events, certainly. Other than that we don’t have many other options available to us, but one we do is our Thursday members’ edition. As usual, paying members today receive the full newsletter, but free subscribers only get the first section. While we now have almost 1,800 playing members, the truth is we still need many more of you to join to make us financially sustainable over the long term. If you can, please join The Tribune today. Thank you.
Your Tribune briefing
⚖️ A 13-year-old boy has been sentenced to two years in custody after running his foster carer over with her own car. The incident, which took place in April in Greenhill, left Mrs Grant, 60, with catastrophic injuries. Mrs Grant’s family said they had been denied “meaningful justice” by the Crown Prosecution Service’s (CPS) decision to accept a lesser charge of causing death by dangerous driving. The CPS said a murder conviction was not “realistic”.
🗺️ A few weeks ago we mentioned there was an ambitious new attempt to map Sheffield’s neighbourhoods, and Now Then now have more information on the project. Organiser Simon Duffy says England is one of the most centralised countries in the world, and the best way of challenging that is by thinking on a neighbourhood level. The survey data has already begun coming through, although it may prove a challenge to interpret. You can still take part here.
❄️ Sheffield is the snowiest city in the UK, a new study has found. On average, the city gets 11 days of snow a year, two more than its closest rivals, Birmingham and Newcastle, which each get nine. The figures, which have been collated by Leonardo Hotels using Met Office data, could be affected by the fact that a third of the city lies within the Peak District. Snow was forecast for Sheffield earlier this week, but it now looks like it’s just going to get very cold.
Things to do
🎤 On Friday at Sidney and Matilda, Manor Top born rapper Young Eman will perform his debut headline show. With influences like Travis Scott and Tame Impala, the 18-year-old already has two singles under his belt, as well as a track on the new EAFC game. This, combined with his unique self-production and delivery, Eman is becoming one of the UKs most singular and compelling new artists. Doors open at 7pm and tickets are priced £8.80.
🎄 Gather under the gas lamps and celebrate the official start of the festive season, as the much-loved Victorian Christmas Markets return to Kelham Island Museum. With over 80 market stalls selling an array of Sheffield made wares, gifts and seasonal goods, its one of the best places to find perfect presents for your loved ones. The market is open on Saturday from 10am–6pm and Sunday 10am–5pm. Tickets are £8 for adults (under 16s are free).
🎻 On Sunday, the Sheffield University Symphony Orchestra brings together the best orchestral players from around the university to play a range of demanding orchestral works at Firth Hall. Always one of the university’s most popular concerts, the show is certain to be a fantastic evening of classical and modern music. Tickets are £12.50 (concessions, access tickets and university staff £10, students and under 30s £6.50) and doors open at 7.30pm.
Sheffield is a place where people come and never leave. Or is it?
By Daniel Timms
“Whereabouts do you hail from?” is one of my favourite conversational gambits when meeting someone for the first time. It’s phrased openly, so if someone doesn’t want to go there, they don’t have to. But people feel strong attachments to the places they’ve lived — and it can open up a deep conversation quite quickly. As a journalist, and an interested human, that’s the good stuff.
At our recent members’ event (which was brilliant, by the way), someone raised the question of where Tribune readers come from. Since you only have to put in an e-mail address to get our newsletters, we honestly have no idea. But I asked those in attendance to raise their hands, first, if they’d grown up here, and second, if they’d moved here. The johnny-come-latelys (or not so lately in some cases) outnumbered the born-and-breds by about three to one. Here at The Tribune, all three of us have moved to the city.
And the question of where our city’s residents hail from feels like it’s taking on a bit of extra urgency. As house prices have jumped, the sense that newcomers are to blame has been expressed in some quarters. But it’s also a point of pride for many Sheffielders that people want to stay here when they see what it’s like. The apocryphal (and highly dubious) statistic about Sheffield being the city which retains most of its graduates is seen as a badge of honour, not a problem.
As ever, my instinct is to try to put some data around this — and there’s good news. Dan has been asking me on a near-weekly basis whether the good folk at the ONS have released the data from the 2021 Census on where people move from and to. After several delays, the dream has finally come true. And there are some surprises in the data, especially when it comes to the countries people are coming from and the age profile of our new arrivals. There are also numbers that should be keeping local leaders up at night. They certainly challenge the myth of Sheffield as a city where people arrive and then can’t bear to leave.
The Census gives us forensic levels of detail on these questions. It’s all based on what people put on their form in March 2021, when they were asked where they lived a year ago. It means we have data for the year after the start of the Covid pandemic. For a couple of months in that year, people weren’t moving at all, as the government shut the housing market down. But once they reopened it, people who had saved up for months suddenly had a chance to bid. House prices soared. Estate agents' phones were off the hook. Stamp duty was cut, which poured more fuel on the flames.
During this period, 29,770 people moved to Sheffield — about 1 in 19 of the total population. So who are these people? And who decided to get out?
1. Where are people moving from?
About a fifth of those moving to Sheffield come from just ten local authorities. Top of the list: Rotherham.
It’s unsurprising that there’s this close relationship with Rotherham — the two areas make up a continuous urban area. And there are other neighbours on the list: North East Derbyshire, Barnsley, Doncaster, and Chesterfield.
But there are also some big cities: Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham, and Nottingham. Does this go to show that we’re successfully luring people away from these other regional cities?
Unfortunately not. Here’s that same graph again, but this time also showing the number of people moving from Sheffield to those places (shown in yellow).
For most of these places, the net flow goes back to them, not to us. The gap isn’t too large, but with Leeds and Manchester, it’s definitely there. (We do, however, seem to exert a slightly greater pull on Nottinghamians than Nottingham does on Sheffielders.)
But the picture looks very different when we look at London.