What 'Freedom Day' means for Sheffield

Plus, the rest of our weekly briefing

Good afternoon readers — and welcome to this week’s Monday briefing from The Tribune.

It’s a hugely significant day across the country, as almost all of England’s Covid-19 restrictions are lifted. We have the latest updates on how so-called Freedom Day will impact Sheffield, plus our usual local updates and recommendations.

As always, if you find this briefing useful we would be grateful if you shared it with friends or colleagues — either by using the button below or forwarding on the email.


The lure of the Don

We got a great reaction to our weekend read by Dani Cole. It was a beautiful piece about the mythology, folklore and poetry of the River Don. You can read the story here.

This week’s weather

The big story: Freedom Day arrives

Top line: Today is being billed as Freedom Day — the date on which most of the remaining Covid restrictions are lifted. It has now been 483 days since the first Covid lockdown was called on March 23, 2020. That’s 1 year, 3 months and 26 days.

Rules: From today, all legal restrictions on social contact cease to apply, meaning pubs, restaurants, cinemas and nightclubs can operate at full capacity once more. Masks will also no longer be compulsory in public spaces although the government “expects and recommends” people will continue to wear them in crowded places such as public transport. The full guidance is here.

A new normal? However, Sheffield City Region Mayor Dan Jarvis has said masks will remain compulsory in areas he controls like bus stations and interchanges. The city’s Director of public health Greg Fell has also vowed to carry on wearing his mask and has urged others to follow suit.

  • Many restaurants, pubs, shops and salons in Sheffield are also expected to require masks and keep social distancing in place.

  • Chains like True North which owns pubs such as the Broadfield have announced they will retain table service and won’t allow people to stand at the bar.

The ‘pingdemic’: The need for people exposed to the virus to self-isolate is causing major disruptions across the city, and will prevent many organisations from benefiting from the end of legal restrictions. Hospitality businesses and train companies are among those who are short-staffed because workers have been ‘pinged’ by the NHS app or told by Test and Trace to stay at home.

  • On Sunday, Northern trains warned people not to travel on some routes to and from Sheffield after many services were cancelled due to lack of staff.

  • Several pubs including the White Lion in Heeley and the Raven in Walkley will also be closed this week after staff were forced to self-isolate.

Vaccine data: As we reported in April, vaccine rates vary massively across Sheffield. As of July 4, less than half of all adults under 65 have had one vaccine dose in Highfield and Lowfield (48%), Burngreave and Grimesthorpe (47%), Devonshire Quarter (35%) and Cathedral and Kelham (just 31%). The virus still has the capacity to do serious damage in populations where many aren’t protected.

What’s next: Lifting restrictions in one go is a big gamble by the government. They are betting that the vaccines will protect the NHS from being overwhelmed this time, even as cases soar and a majority of the public opposes the timing of Freedom Day. Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said last week that the country could have to lock down again in a matter of weeks. We at The Tribune will be watching the Sheffield hospital numbers carefully — we have the latest data just below.

Covid-19 update

Cases: The Covid case rate in Sheffield — the number of positive cases per 100,000 population over seven days — is currently 430. That translates to 640 cases more than last week, or a 34.1% increase. The case rate for over 60s has almost doubled in the last week to 103.8. The overall England case rate is 398.6.

Hospitals: There are now 40 people being treated in hospital in Sheffield for Covid-19, an increase of 13 from last week. Six of these patients are on ventilation, an increase of one from last week. One death linked to the virus took place on July 17, bringing the total over the last three weeks to four.

Vaccines: 656,994 vaccine doses have now been given out in Sheffield in total, including 375,647 first doses and 281,347 second doses. Two in every three people in Sheffield are now fully vaccinated against Covid. However, still around a half of those under 30 haven’t had even their first vaccine dose.

Going on a bear hunt

The Bears of Sheffield are all now in place and looking fantastic. It feels great to have something in the city that is putting a smile on people's faces after the last 18 months. Many of the bears are sponsored by city firms and will be auctioned off after the sculpture trail is over in October. The money raised will go towards Sheffield Children’s Hospital’s Build a Better Future Campaign, which will provide the hospital with a new emergency department, cancer and leukaemia ward and helipad.

Our favourite reads

  1. The fallout from the University of Sheffield’s widely-criticised decision to close its world-renowned archaeology department continues. The University and College Union’s (UCU) branch in the city last week announced it would ballot for strike action. This piece from the Museums Association has all the latest.

  2. In researching a forthcoming piece on the Old Town Hall, I came across the website of the Sheffield Town Trust. This ancient organisation, which has roots going back to the thirteenth century, was the precursor to Sheffield’s town and city councils — and is still in existence today. The site has lots of great photos and fascinating history.

  3. Local democracy reporter Lucy Ashton reported last week on two schemes that the council hopes will reduce congestion and boost cycling. A consultation on two so-called low traffic neighbourhoods in Crookes and Nether Edge has begun while plans have also been unveiled for a new cycle route along the Sheaf Valley which must be in place by March 2022.

  4. A good interview with Emily Maitlis in the University of Sheffield’s alumni magazine. The journalist and broadcaster grew up in the city and attended King Edward VII School in Broomhall. As well as her work, she talks about her love for the city. “I don’t think I realised when I was growing up just how exceptional Sheffield is,” she says.

  5. Chris Burn in the Yorkshire Post reports that Sheffield City Council has vowed to remove one of the most controversial aspects of its SCC Streets Ahead contract with private sector contractor Amey. According to critics, the contract’s “target” of replacing 17,500 of the city’s trees over the 25-year lifetime of the deal incentivised the felling of healthy trees.

Holding out for a lido

With a heatwave predicted for the rest of this week, the long-lost Millhouses Park lido would no doubt have been heaving. The park had an open air swimming pool from the 1930s but this sadly closed in the 1980s. Outdoor swimming in Sheffield still takes place (illegally) at Crookes Valley Park and (legally) at the Rivelin plunge pools. The well-established Sheffield Outdoor Plungers wild swimming club also take responsible — even if legally questionable — dips at reservoirs, lakes and rivers across the region.

Get in touch

If you have a story you would like us to look into, hit reply to this briefing or email editor@sheffieldtribune.co.uk. And if someone forwarded you this newsletter, please join The Tribune’s mailing list to get all our journalism in your inbox.

Things to do

Radio: Many of you enjoyed our weekend read about the Lure of the Don. If you’d like to listen to the river as well as read about it, this BBC radio documentary from 2017 could be just the thing you’re looking for. The show also features Professor David Clarke who Dani Cole spoke to for our piece.

Bar: Kelham Island (or more accurately Neepsend) has yet another trendy new bar. Heist Brew Co will welcome people in for the first time on ‘Freedom Day’ after its scheduled opening was set back by a year due to Covid. The bar will feature 30 keg lines in two tap rooms, as well as burgers and games.

Club: Back in March 2020, nightclubs were the first places to close and will be the last to reopen. Sheffield’s legendary Leadmill venue opens today after 16 months away with a full week of events including a reopening party, two club nights, comedy shows and talks. Live music returns next week.

Festival: Tramlines returns this year after a one-year absence due to Covid. If you’re lucky enough to have a ticket, headliners include The Streets, Royal Blood and Supergrass. If not, Tramlines Fringe events will be taking place all weekend at venues across the city. This Is Sheffield has all the details.

Craft: The Sheffield Ceramics Festival will take place on Saturday 24 and Sunday 25 July at Kelham Island Museum. The festival has been running since 2013 at Meersbrook walled garden but will this year move to a bigger venue. Tickets are £2 with all profits going to homelessness charity Depaul.

“Anagram banter”

We love this. A disused factory in Attercliffe has had its sign rearranged by some clever pranksters. Former steel company Castmaster Rolling has now become Smallest Carrot Co. Ltd. As tweeter Will Roberts says: “That’s a full day’s work, with a cherry picker. Just for some anagram banter.”