The uncertain future of a century-old Sheffield landmark
Plus, Miriam Cates under investigation by parliament
Good afternoon readers — and welcome to our Monday briefing.
If you’ve ever set foot in Nether Edge — and even, possibly, if you haven’t — then you’ll be familiar with the iconic silhouette of the Abbeydale Picture House. This gorgeous building first opened its doors to the public in 1920, when it was a cinema so opulent that it was commonly known as the “Picture Palace”. For the past two years, however, a leaky roof has left the majority of its grand interior unusable. Today, we look at the uncertain future of a beautiful but neglected building.
As well as that we have news of an investigation into Penistone and Stocksbridge MP Miriam Cates, a bumper crop of Christmas films, and a home on the steepest street in the city.
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Catch up and coming up
For our weekend read, Dan spent a day with council leader Tom Hunt to talk about austerity, divisions in Labour and why Sheffield is “the best city in the world”. Read that piece here.
Last week we sent out two great newsletters to our 1,843 paying members. In the first, top food writer Mina Miller took on the investigative assignment of the season by trying to find the best Christmas tipple in South Yorkshire. And in the second, Victoria looked into the story of Seraphic Academy in Darnall, which abruptly shut down in June, around six months after its founder became a fan of notorious influencer Andrew Tate. An extract from that second piece is below.
The following month, Adjibade posted in a public Facebook group for Muslims in Birmingham, stating that a new school in Sheffield was looking to hire: school managers, heads of departments, primary school teachers, secondary school teachers, supply staff, teaching assistants, an admin assistant, a marketing and social media executive, a cleaner, a cook, a driver, a caretaker and a gardener. From the looks of this list, no staff from the former academy were retained. Khan and Adjibade essentially created a primary and secondary school, from scratch, in a single summer holiday.
This week we’ll send out two more, including one about how a new 40-storey skyscraper which is being planned in Castlegate will change our city’s skyline forever, and another about the financial difficulties at Sheffield Hallam University. To help fund a new way of doing journalism based on subscriptions rather than clickbait, please subscribe using the button below. It costs just £1.34 a week or 23p a day if you pay for 12 months up front (£70).
Editor’s note: This is just a quick message to let you know this briefing will be our last until January, and to thank you for your support in 2023. We started the year having just got past 1,000 members and we’re ending it on almost 1,850. Thanks to you we’ve managed to employ a new member of staff, Victoria Munro, who has since produced some of our best stories. We’d love to grow further in 2024, but we can only do so with your help. We know times are hard, but The Tribune is a great investment in the future of the city. Thank you.
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The big picture: Stunning sunset 🌇
Social media was awash with amazing photos of the sunset on Saturday evening. This one, which was taken by Adam Leathwood on Division Street in Sheffield, was one of the best.
This week’s weather 🌦
Our weather forecast comes from dedicated Sheffield weather service Steel City Skies, who say an unsettled and often windy week ahead with mild temperatures and showery spells of rain at times.
Monday 🌦 A weakening front will bring some showery spells of rain, with drier periods, too. Breezy and very mild from the southwest with highs an impressive 13°C.
Tuesday 🌦 Wettest to start, with a cold front clearing east. Once the rain clears, the rest of the day should be much brighter with the odd shower. Highs of 10°C.
Wednesday 🌦 Increasingly windy from the west with a few showers blowing through. Some brighter spells too with highs of 10°C.
Thursday 🌦 A deep low close to Scandi encourages a very windy flow from the west-northwest with further showery rain likely. Highs of 10°C but feeling cooler.
Friday 🌦 Further showers buffeting the hills from the northwest, with a keen breeze persisting. Starting to cool down, with highs closer to average at 8°C.
Outlook: Cooler but still unsettled for the weekend with northwesterly winds and showers possibly wintry over the tops should cooler air dig down 🌬
The big story: The uncertain future of a century-old Sheffield landmark
Top line: An arts charity fighting to restore a Sheffield landmark warns it is fast approaching the point where it will have no choice but to walk away. Creative Arts Development Space (CADS) has been haemorrhaging money from the Abbeydale Picture House for the last two years, when it was discovered that a large part of the building is unsafe.
Imminent collapse: CADS took over the lease for most of the building — the basement, which operates as Picture House Social, is rented separately — in January 2017. In December 2021, however, a survey revealed that the ceiling in the main auditorium was unsafe due to water damage from the roof. “With certain areas of the ceiling,” Dan Butlins from CADS told The Tribune, “it’s not if it will collapse, it’s when.” While the building as a whole is structurally sound, leaving other rooms usable, the danger in this auditorium is significant. In 2013, Butlins pointed out, the ceiling of a London theatre collapsed, injuring more than 80 people in the audience.
No progress on repairs: Steve Rimmer, founder of CADS, claimed their lease explicitly forbids the charity from having any work done on the roof of the building. However, the owner Phil Robbins — who bought the building in 2012 for £150,000 — has also not had the necessary work done. In May last year, the disagreement over the roof led to the charity being temporarily evicted and they were only allowed back into the building in June. (Phil Robbins has not yet responded to a request for comment made through his solicitor earlier today.)
Money pit: Between rent and energy bills, Rimmer said the cost to the charity of running the building is around £5,000 a month. However, while CADS is still able to put on events at Speakeasy Bar and in the Fly Tower, these spaces have a severely limited capacity — the Fly Tower, for example, has room for just 60 people — which means the profits they bring in only amount to a fraction of this sum. “It’s been loss-making for the past two years,” Rimmer said. “We are only able to sustain it because we have multiple sites.”
The dream: CADS’ preferred solution is to buy the building, which would allow it to repair the roof, and Robbins has reportedly agreed a price. While this sum is proving difficult for the charity to raise, Rimmer said they have “put so much blood, sweat and tears” into the building — in addition to hundreds of thousands of pounds — that it is hard to imagine walking away. “It’s an amazing building, a fantastic space,” he said, “I even had my wedding in there so I’ve got a personal connection.”
Butlins added that, even before he was involved in CADS, he would often walk past Abbeydale Picture House and hope someone would one day restore it to its former glory. “When we first took it on, it felt like a real privilege to be part of it,” he said. “I still feel the same way really, it’s really unique.” On the other hand, the charity cannot go on losing money indefinitely. “We’ve really tried every possible angle to make it work,” Butlins said. “It’s increasingly looking like we are going to have to call it a day.”
Our take: The Abbeydale Picture House is a beautiful building and, while the necessary repairs will not be cheap, keeping a more than century old listed building in use is arguably priceless. CADS has promised that there is a big update coming in the next month or so — hopefully the first step of many towards the building fully opening to the public once more.
The Weekly Whitworth ✍️
Our resident cartoonist James Whitworth with his own inimitable take on this week’s big story.
Cates under investigation by standards watchdog
Penistone and Stocksbridge MP Miriam Cates is under investigation by the parliamentary standards watchdog, it has been revealed. It is not known what the investigation relates to other than it is alleged that she has caused “significant damage to the reputation of the house”. She is forbidden from talking about it until the investigation is completed. In 2019, Cates was the first Conservative ever elected in the traditionally Labour “Red Wall” seat, and has become a popular figure on the right of the party, co-chairing the New Conservatives group, a party faction which promotes traditional family values and is strongly opposed to immigration. Our piece about Cates from earlier this year is here.
Our media picks 🎧
Why South Yorkshire needed a citizens’ assembly for net zero 🗳️ A fascinating piece by South Yorkshire Mayor Oliver Coppard about the citizens’ assembly he has convened to look at climate change. 100 people were chosen to debate the issue, and the results will appear in a report next year. However, as well as being useful on net zero, Mr Coppard says the process has convinced him that doing politics with people rather than to them is the way forward.
Scandal-hit tech firm urged to hand over emails about ex-CEO's wife 💾 The Yorkshire Post reveals that the wife of former WANDisco CEO David Richards has issued a request to the company for 12,000 emails about her. The piece says that the firm sent the emails about Jane Richards — who helped her husband run the couple’s foundation — in a five month period, more than 115 per working day. Our piece about Richards' business troubles is here.
‘The story tells itself’ 🎸 Richard Hawley has received a prestigious Made in Sheffield makers’ mark for his musical Standing at the Sky’s Edge. Hawley said the accolade, which is usually reserved for manufacturing, was something he was still struggling to get his head around. The smash hit show, which tells the story of Park Hill flats over 60 years and last year won the Olivier Award for best new musical, is due to begin a West End run in January.
Home of the week 🏡
This four-bedroomed Walkley mid-terrace has tons of period features and is also situated on Blake Street, which is famously the steepest road in the city. It is on the market for £240,000.
Tribune Tips: If you want to tell us about a story or give us some information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. We are always happy to speak to people off the record in the first poll instance, and we will treat your information with confidence and sensitivity.
Things to do 📆
Film 🍿 ‘Tis this season for Christmas films and cinemas in Sheffield have a great selection on this week. The Muppets Christmas Carol is on at The Light while Elf, Die Hard and The Nightmare Before Christmas are on at The Light and the Showroom). The Grinch is also on at The Leadmill and my personal favourite It’s A Wonderful Life is on at the Showroom. For those who don’t want Christmas overload, Godzilla Minus One is on at The Light as well.
Theatre 🎭 Just when you thought Christmas couldn't get any camper, Yorkshire's very own Glitterbomb Dancers are back in Sheffield to unveil their second remake of a holiday classic. An 80s Christmas party. A boss named Carol who thinks the season has gotten too silly. And the Chers of Christmas Past, Present and Future, who teach her how fun the holidays can really be. Carol! It's Christmas is on until Saturday at Theatre Deli. Tickets are £17-£35.
Music 🎤 On Thursday at Sheffield University’s Octagon Centre, The Unthanks premiere their dream-like winter fantasia. Using the traditional music of the North East of England as a starting point, the influence of Miles Davis, Steve Reich, Sufjan Stevens, Robert Wyatt, Antony & The Johnsons, King Crimson and Tom Waits makes The Unthanks a unique band, earning them a Mercury Music Prize nomination and international acclaim along the way.