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Sheffield MP Miriam Cates denies knowledge of gay conversion therapy
Last week we revealed that the city’s only Conservative MP was on a controversial church’s board
Good afternoon members — and welcome to our Monday briefing.
Today we return to our exclusive story from Friday: the involvement of Sheffield MP Miriam Cates with a church which allegedly practised gay conversion therapy. That was one of our members-only stories last week, but we’ve got some details and reaction below.
We also feature an interesting piece about so-called “gig economy” workers who are fighting for better pay and conditions and recommend a new place to eat near Park Hill.
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Catch up and coming up
We hope you enjoyed our review of the Crucible’s new adaptation of Anna Karenina as much as our editor Sophie Atkinson enjoyed the play. You can still read that piece here.
Last week we sent two great newsletters to our 587 paying members. The first included a story about a group of new-age travellers who have settled near Wardsend cemetery and an additional piece of analysis on Sheffield City Council’s perilous budget situation. And the second was our scoop about Sheffield MP Miriam Cates’ involvement with a church which has been accused of practising “gay conversion therapy” — more of which later.
This week we’ll send out two more including a report from a recent “Philosophy in Pubs” session at the Millowners Arms in Kelham Island and a piece about whether fracking could be due for a comeback as energy prices soar. To get both those and help fund a renaissance of quality journalism in Sheffield, please consider subscribing using the button below.
This week’s weather
Our weather forecast comes from dedicated Sheffield weather service Steel City Skies, who say conditions will stay unsettled and windy with further bouts of rain or showers throughout the week.
Monday 🌦 early rain gives way to a bright and breezy afternoon with scattered showers. Highs of 8°C.
Tuesday 🌦 the wind freshens with outbreaks of rain during the morning clearing to sunshine and showers again. Highs of 8°C.
Wednesday ☂️ turning very mild and windy with cloud and spells of rain heading south and east. Highs of 13°C.
Thursday 🌦 Storm Dudley — gusty winds and bright or sunny spells interspersed with squally showers. Much cooler with highs of 8°C.
Friday 💨 Storm Eunice — another cold and very windy day with showers or longer spells of rain, sleet and snow. Possible accumulations. Highs of 7°C.
Outlook 🌈 the chilly, breezy and blustery conditions look likely to persist into the weekend with temperatures close to average.
The big story: Sheffield MP Miriam Cates denies knowledge of gay conversion therapy
Top line: On Friday, we revealed that the Conservative MP for Penistone and Stocksbridge Miriam Cates was closely involved with a Sheffield church which has been accused of practising so-called “gay conversion therapy”. What happens now?
Background: Matthew Drapper told The Tribune he was subjected to a “gay exorcism” at St Thomas Philadelphia Church on Gilpin Street in Sheffield in 2014. He says he was told to renounce his sexual orientation as an “agreement with Satan” and that “demonic forces” would try to stop him.
When he complained to the church they said they could not substantiate his claims and described his ordeal as simply his fellow church members “praying for him”.
Conservative MP Miriam Cates was a member of the congregation at the church for over 10 years and served as a senior leader on its board from 2016 and 2018.
Response: When we asked Mrs Cates about her involvement with St Thomas’, she told us that she was “not aware of any such therapy taking place” and that it was “never something raised with me”. She also said she left the church in 2018 due to “family reasons”. St Thomas Philadelphia have yet to respond to any of our requests for comment.
Who else is involved? The current board is made up of a number of senior leaders in the council and health service. These include Barnsley hospital trust consultant Professor Adewale Adebajo and Sheffield City Council head of special educational needs Tim Armstrong. The church has agreed to take part in an independent review of the case but denies practising conversion therapy.
A national ban: In 2018, Theresa May’s government announced plans to bring an end to gay conversion therapy but no legislation was brought forward.
In December 2021, the government opened a consultation on a proposed ban, saying it was committed to ending the “coercive and abhorrent practice”.
However, exactly how this is done is still up for debate with some campaigners worried that exceptions for prayer could create loopholes in the legislation.
Local action: Human rights campaigner Chrissy Meleady (who is working on Matthew Drapper’s case) told The Tribune she receives hundreds of reports of the practice taking place in Sheffield every year. She added that the Care Act 2014 explicitly gave local authorities powers to investigate organisations which they believe are involved in conversion therapy but that the council only intervenes if they think children are at risk. Speaking generally about the cases she has come across, she told us:
What these young people are being put through is abhorrent and degrading. They are threatened with losing their family and friends and we are seeing a massive increase in self-harm and suicide.
The broader story: Our reporting focused on Matthew Drapper’s experience, but his is clearly not an isolated case. Another former member of St Thomas Philadelphia told us that offering prayers for someone “struggling with their sexuality” was a regular occurrence. While not formal conversion therapy, many think this kind of activity should be prohibited by the new law the government is consulting on.
University strike begins
UCU members from the University of Sheffield have today started a five-day walkout over pensions, with more strike action due to take place over pay and working conditions later this month. UCU members from Sheffield Hallam University will join the strike later in February. For a good explainer on what the strike is about and its likely impact, see this BBC article.
Cases: The Covid case rate in Sheffield — the number of positive cases per 100,000 people over seven days — is still falling rapidly. In the week to last Tuesday (February 8), it stood at 541.7, a fall of 1,574 cases or 33.0%. The England average was also down 27.5% to 706.8.
Hospitals: As of last Tuesday, there were 205 patients being treated for Covid-19 in the city’s hospitals, a fall of 48 from the previous week. Just three of these patients required critical care. At least seven deaths linked to the virus took place in the last seven days.
Home of the week
This stunning two/three-bedroom maisonette on Cavendish Road in Sheffield city centre was part of Glossop Road swimming baths. It is on the market for £425,000.
Our favourite reads
An eye-opening profile of Sheffield-born Conservative MP Dehenna Davison, who turned Bishop Auckland blue for the first time in its history at the 2019 General Election. 28-year-old Davison, who grew up on a city council estate, is now good friends with Carrie Johnson and thought by some to be the “future of the Tory party”.
An interesting interview by BBC-funded local democracy reporter Lucy Ashton with Green councillor Alison Teal, who has announced she will be stepping down in May. Teal was instrumental in the tree protests, even being arrested and spending several hours in jail at one point. She has served on the council’s executive since last year.
A great piece in Now Then about Sheffield food couriers who are demanding better pay and conditions. The action by Stuart Delivery drivers working for Just Eat is now the longest-running “gig economy” strike in history and has been called the most exciting workers' movement in the UK. The Tribune’s piece about the strike is here.
Sheffield director of public health Greg Fell has been spearheading the city’s response to the pandemic for two years. As we tentatively look to a post-Covid world, he’s written about learning to live safely with the disease and how the government’s levelling up agenda needs to address the glaring inequalities it has laid bare.
A few weeks ago The Observer was reviewing Juke and Loe and now the Financial Times has visited Bench in Nether Edge. Reviewer Tim Hayward is as taken with the food as he is with the neighbourhood. He is also very complimentary of the service: “No, he’s not being sarcastic,” he writes. “He genuinely wants you to have a lovely evening.”
There is an absolute treasure trove of old photos of Sheffield on a Flickr page flagged up by the excellent Twitter account @pott_shrigley_. Covering the years 1985-2004, the 400 plus photos by the anonymous account Trees n stuff show everything from 1980s fashions to the Poll Tax protests, documenting a period of great upheaval with compassion and humanity.
Things to do
Food: We don't recommend many restaurants as I’m not that much of a foodie but one that’s definitely caught my eye recently is new Indian 5 Tara on Duke Street near Park Hill flats. It’s not in a particularly fashionable part of town but the menu looks delicious (somewhat similar to Mowgli on Ecclesall Road) and it's already getting lots of praise on social media including by influential Sheffielders such as the owner of trendy cocktail bar Public, James O’Hara.
Talk: The second-ever Sheffield Forum: Live event takes place this Wednesday (February 16), featuring talks from poet Otis Mensah, cartoonist James Whitworth and locked-in syndrome survivor Dr Kate Allat. The quarterly events aim to bring together the city’s most talented people to give short talks which will be entertaining, insightful, and educational. The event runs from 6.30pm to 9.30pm at the Mowbray in Neepsend. Tickets are priced at £10.
Theatre: As well as Anna Karenina at the Crucible, Sheffield Theatres also have a touring production of the hugely successful stage show The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time at the Lyceum this week. The 10th-anniversary tour of the acclaimed National Theatre production focuses on a fifteen-year-old autistic boy who falls under suspicion for killing his neighbour’s dog. The show runs from Tuesday, 15 to Saturday, 19 February.
Market: Next Sunday is the third in February so it must mean the Pollen Inner-City Flower Market is back at Grey to Green in Castlegate. Brought to you by the team that runs the Peddler Market in Neepsend, the monthly celebration of all things botanical has been a big success since debuting last autumn (although exactly how successful is somewhat weather dependent). The market runs from 10am until 4pm. For a full list of stalls, see the website.
Art: Open now at the Cupola Gallery in Hillsborough are two new exhibitions of painting which are inspired by the built environment. Essential Shapes of Brutalism by Dan Broughton distils the visual language of modernism into key shapes while Escalator and other paintings by Martin Hearne focuses on the people of the artist’s home city of Bradford. The gallery is open Monday to Saturday 10am-6pm and both shows run until March 12.
“I’m shocked. It’s important to reveal these things going on right under our noses,” Sheffield MP served on board of 'gay conversion therapy' church, Chris Greenwood
“I’m not sure how many people read The Tribune so want to show this as an example of the strength of their journalism,” The Crucible’s ‘Anna Karenina’ is a minor miracle, Jo Hookway
“If you’ve not subscribed to The Tribune yet, give it a spin. Original, independent journalism with a local feel,” How South Yorkshire could ‘take back control’, Andy Kershaw
“Well done to the Sheffield Tribune for getting a comment from Council Leader Terry Fox about CEO Kate Josephs,” ‘Have we fell out? Yes of course we have’, Lucy Ashton