Sheffield is about to have its first hosepipe ban since 1995. Is privatisation to blame?
Plus, cyclists take over Sheffield (again)
Good morning readers — and welcome to our Monday briefing.
It perhaps shouldn't be a surprise, but it’s still going to be a big inconvenience. Given the extreme temperatures and dry conditions we’ve had this summer, it felt like there was an inevitability to the news last week that a drought had been declared in Yorkshire. As a result, this week, our region will have its first enforced hosepipe ban since 1995 — 27 years ago. In today's briefing, we ask what has caused it and how much Yorkshire Water is to blame.
As well as that we have some pictures from (yet) another massive cycling event in Sheffield, a lovely piece about growing up as a David Bowie fan in the 1970s, and a “reimagining” of two of the most iconic operas in the world. Thanks for reading!
Catch up and coming up
Our nerdy weekend read by map fan Daniel Timms looked at how Sheffield needs to change to cope with the effects of climate change. You can still read that piece here.
Last week we sent two great newsletters to our 768 members. The first included a piece by me about the efforts to save Doncaster Sheffield Airport. And the second included a photo essay by Dani Cole about the brutalist buildings of Sheffield and how they’ve grown on her. An extract from that second piece is below.
It’s counterintuitive, but one of the reasons I’m head over heels for these structures is because my immediate reaction is always one of disgust. But the aftertaste they leave me with is something richer: they’re anything but generic. They are confrontational of the viewer in a way that little is: they demand a reaction, they hold you hostage for one. Eventually, I tend to default to “excitingly ugly” when I look at them.
This week we’ll send out two more newsletters full of original journalism and great recommendations. To get both and help fund a new way of doing journalism in Sheffield, please consider subscribing using the button below. It costs just £1.34 a week if you pay upfront for a year.
Subscriber testimonial: “I’ve just renewed my annual subscription to The Tribune. After enjoying a full year of interesting local journalism, with stories and articles you won’t easily find elsewhere, I can thoroughly recommend it as entertaining, thought provoking and brilliant value”, John Fleming.
The big picture: Hidden rivers
Thanks to Sid Fletcher for letting us use this great photo of a secluded part of the River Sheaf as it winds itself through Sheffield. The part pictured is behind a small row of shops on Queens Road, but is in fact only accessible via Charlotte Road. The land to the right of the bridge is currently owned by the Duke of Norfolk. To read our recent piece about Sheffield’s hidden rivers and how they are being rediscovered for new uses, click here.
This week’s weather 🌦
Our weather forecast comes from dedicated Sheffield weather service Steel City Skies, who say low pressure to the north will occasionally bring rain bearing fronts that clear to showers, with bright and drier periods in between. Warm.
Monday ☂ Deteriorating with occluded fronts bringing outbreaks of rain during the latter half of the day. Highs of 20°C.
Tuesday 🌦 With fronts clear it'll be a warmer day with the odd shower as cloud builds. Bright spells too with highs of 23°C.
Wednesday 🌦 A cold front threatens rain or showers, with warm sunshine in between. Highs of 24°C.
Thursday ⛅ Again the fronts have cleared SE, with a fresher feel from the northwest with bright or sunny spells, isolated showers and highs of 21°C.
Friday ⛅ Similar for Friday with a lot of dry and bright weather to come. Highs again close to average at around 21°C.
Outlook: Warm and often dry for the weekend with the risk of a few showers from the west. Warm sunshine prevalent, too.
The big story: Sheffield is about to have its first hosepipe ban since 1995. Is privatisation to blame? 💧
Top line: After a drought was declared in Yorkshire last week, the region is to have an enforced hosepipe ban for the first time in 27 years. Why is it happening?
Background: Yorkshire Water last week announced that it was the fifth water company in England and Wales to move into drought status and later this week it will be the first in the North of England to impose a hosepipe ban.
Yorkshire Water’s five million customers (apart from those exempt) will face restrictions on how much they can use from Friday, 26 August.
People have already been asked to reduce their usage for weeks but anyone caught breaking the ban after Friday will face a fine of up to £1,000.
Context: Yorkshire Water said parts of the region have seen the lowest rainfall since their records began more than 130 years ago. The hot and dry weather also means that reservoirs are only 50% full — around 20% lower than expected for this time of year. During the record-breaking July heat wave, water usage in Yorkshire surged to 1.5 billion litres a day. This is 200 million litres above normal levels, the equivalent of adding another city the size of Leeds to the network.
However, as our timely weekend read made clear, a huge amount of our water goes to waste. In 2018/19, 11.5bn litres was lost through leaks in Sheffield alone — the equivalent of 220,000 people’s water needs or 40% of the city. The leaks have been blamed on crumbling Victorian plumbing but many argue that Yorkshire Water hasn’t invested enough in repairs.
Is privatisation to blame? When Yorkshire Water was privatised along with 10 other water companies in 1989, one of the reasons given for the sell off was that it would release capital to upgrade the system.
Whether privatisation is to blame for all the problems of the water industry is difficult to prove, but many believe that something as fundamental to all our lives as water should not be managed by profit making companies.
Over the last 10 years, Yorkshire Water has paid out more than £1 billion in dividends. Some argue that this should be reinvested into improvements and repairs rather than syphoned off for wealthy shareholders.
Polluted rivers: As well as leaks, Yorkshire Water has been criticised for dumping huge amounts of raw sewage in rivers and the sea. This is legal (under certain circumstances) and has happened for years, but concerns have been raised that it is happening more often than it should be. Again, it seems to be a problem with decaying Victorian drains not being able to cope with heavy rain (something that’s likely to happen more often as climate change gets worse).
Bottom line: It would be churlish not to accept this year has posed significant challenges to Yorkshire Water, but some problems are of its own making. Water is currently more in demand than ever and in the hotter and drier summers of the future, is likely to become increasingly scarce. Seen in this context, wasting as much of it as we do is unforgivable. Whether public ownership would make the situation better is debatable, but England and Wales’ privatised water system is certainly an international outlier.
Home of the week 🏡
This beautifully-presented three-double-bedroomed Broomhill duplex apartment is one of four in this gorgeous stone-built Victorian detached house. It is on the market for £299,950.
Our media picks 🎧
‘If you can’t be who you are, your mental health really suffers’ 🎤 Rebecca Lucy Taylor aka Self Esteem was on Woman’s Hour last Tuesday, talking about her recent nomination for the Mercury Music Prize. In the interview, the Rotherham-born popstar talks smashing the patriarchy, toxic relationships and sexual abuse — and also performs her biggest hit to date, I Do This All The Time, live in the studio (fast forward to 23 minutes for the full interview).
Cole Brothers listed as Historic England conduct review of department stores 🏬 A timely piece on the 20C Society’s website explains the reasons behind the listing of Cole Brothers. It says the building, which was designed by Sheffield architects Yorke, Rosenberg & Mardall (who were also behind St Thomas’s Hospital in London, Gatwick Airport and Manchester Magistrates’ Court), is notable for its “strong proportions” and “clean, crisp lines”.
David Bowie. Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh, 28th June 1983 🎸 The latest installment of Sheffield musician Roger Quail’s blog of every gig he’s ever been to looks back at a huge David Bowie concert in Scotland in 1983. As well as talking about the show, Roger also recalls what it was like growing up as a Bowie fan in Sheffield in the 1970s and how Ziggy Stardust set him on the path to becoming a musician himself (a podcast is also available).
Reclaiming the streets 🚲
Yet again, Sheffield’s two-wheeled army have taken over the city’s streets to make the case for easier and safer cycling. The group set off from Tudor Square at 2pm on Sunday before making its way to Millhouses Park via the Sheaf Valley cycle route. As happened during June’s hugely successful “drum and bass mass cycle ride”, cyclists brought party wear, blew whistles and carried sound systems as they rode the four mile journey up Abbeydale Road.
Things to do 📆
Dance 💃 On Wednesday and Thursday (24 and 25 August), Dance in the Gardens will bring contemporary ballet to Sheffield’s Botanical Gardens. No Time Like The Present brings together South Yorkshire-born dancer and Bolshoi graduate Tala Lee-Turton teaming up with choreographer Zhongjing Fang from the American Ballet Theatre. The performance sees five women explore what makes them who they are, presenting their stories in dance form.
Opera 🎭 Taking place at the University of Sheffield’s Drama Studio on Thursday, Friday and Saturday (25-27 August) is Opera on Location’s Verismo — a “reimagining” of one of the most powerful double bills in opera: Pietro Mascagni's Cavalleria rusticana and Ruggero Leoncavallo's Pagliacci. Starring Canio and Nedda Caruso as the tragic lovers, audiences will be transported to the home front of World War II in a “rollicking musical extravaganza”.
Children 🧚♀️ Coming to the South Street Amphitheatre on Friday, 27 August, is The Not So Grimm Twins, a family adventure from the Wrongsemble Theatre Company in which fairytales really do come true. World-famous twins Jake and Will Grimm (oh, and their little sister Lottie too!) take out a brimful of stories from their wagon. However, when things take a turn for the unexpected, they need all the help they can get to defeat the creatures of their own creation.
Don’t you walk me? 🦮
We love the name of this Sheffield dog walking service we spotted on Instagram this week. The Human Lead are based in Burngreave and offer exercise, pet sitting and a taxi service in Sheffield and surrounding areas. Both the company name and their logo (complete with Phil Oakey fringe) are works of genius. Also, if you’re in need of cheering up, the photos they share on Facebook are wonderful.