When will the Sheffield tree campaigners get justice?
Plus, TANK nightclub goes up for sale
Good afternoon readers — and welcome to our Monday briefing.
It’s now more than five years since the last Sheffield tree protest took place. The long-running dispute has dominated the city’s politics for years, but when Sir Mark Lowcock’s excoriating report came out in March, many assumed it was the end of the saga. No such luck. As part of the reconciliation process, Sheffield City Council promised to send personal apologies to the protesters whose lives were affected by Tuesday, 31 October. However, The Tribune has learned that at least 30 of them have yet to receive their apologies. What is taking them so long?
As well as that, we have a Hallowe’en-themed gig at Crookes Social Club, Tank nightclub goes up for sale, and the Sheffield street tree saga gets the long read treatment in The Guardian.
Catch up and coming up
In our weekend read, Mollie Simpson spoke to showpeople about a traveller site in Beighton, and discovered untold nuances and unanswered questions. You can read that piece here.
Last week we sent out two great newsletters to our 1,712 paying members. In the first, writer Ajay Close talked about her memories of growing up in Sheffield under the shadow of the Yorkshire Ripper, while in the second Victoria spoke to staff from the University of Sheffield about new plans to restructure the organisation. An extract from that second piece is below.
The idea that administrative staff no longer required in one faculty can be easily re-deployed to another assumes such jobs are far more interchangeable than they actually are. “It doesn’t take into account that staff have built up relationships with departments and particular skills to support them,” she points out, or that they applied to the job they have for a reason. University leaders have, she feels, failed to appreciate the impact this kind of chopping and changing can have on the day-to-day running of the university. The current School of Biosciences and Health, for example, is the result of a merger between three departments two years ago, which was “handled badly” and led to the rapid departure of a lot of talented professional service staff.
This week we’ll send out two more including one about the strange Sheffield tradition of Cakin’ Night (like Hallowe’en but weirder) and another which we can’t say too much about at the moment. To help fund a new way of doing journalism in Sheffield based on subscriptions rather than clickbait and endless stories about celebrities, 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: As I write this on the penultimate day of October, I can already tell you we’ve had a great month. 103 new members have joined The Tribune in the month so far, meaning more than 1,700 people now pay to receive our journalism every week. That is a figure that I would have found difficult to believe when we set The Tribune up two and a half years ago, but which proves there is still a huge appetite for what we are doing. Please join them by becoming a member today.
The big picture: Chatsworth puts on a show 🎇
Of all the fireworks displays in our region at this time of year, Chatsworth often puts on the best show. This photo, taken on Friday by Wesley Kristopher (People of the Peak on Instagram) from the bridge over the River Derwent, shows the country house and its magnificent grounds illuminated by a stunning light show.
This week’s weather 🌦
Our weather forecast comes from dedicated Sheffield weather service Steel City Skies, who say stagnant low pressure gives way to a deeper and stormier midweek, with rain, wind and showers the common theme.
Monday ☁️ Dull and damp throughout with limited brightness until later on in the day. Potentially foggy first thing with the risk of drizzle. Highs of 11°C.
Tuesday ☁️ Not a whole lot of change for Tuesday with further spells of mainly light rain possible with skies largely cloudy. Still cool, with highs of 12°C.
Wednesday 🌦 A more mobile day as southwesterly winds freshen ahead of Ciarán. Outbreaks of rain clearing to brighter skies and showers. Highs of 13°C.
Thursday 🌦 Storm Ciarán lies across southern UK, with the strongest winds to the far south. Expect a breezy and showery day with highs of 12°C.
Friday 🌦 Ciarán isn't expected to clear too quickly, with colder air heading south to mix in with the showers. Chilly and breezy with highs of 11°C.
Outlook: Staying unsettled, and potentially stormy again, into next weekend with showers or longer periods of rain ☔️ Temperatures struggling, too.
The big story: When will the Sheffield tree campaigners get justice?
Top line: When Sir Mark Lowcock delivered his excoriating report into the Sheffield street tree scandal in March, Sheffield City Council promised all the tree campaigners whose lives were affected would get a personal apology by this Tuesday. Why are many still waiting?
In their public apology, leader Tom Hunt and CEO Kate Josephs (neither of whom were in post when the tree scandal was taking place) said “protesters and campaigners were maligned, injured and experienced physical, emotional, and, for some, financial stress. The action the council took damaged Sheffield’s reputation in a way that casts a long shadow.”
At the same time as their public apologies, the council promised to personally apologise to those who had been affected, either in writing or formally in person, by 31 October. However, The Tribune has learned that of the apologies they were due to give, at least thirty campaigners still await a satisfactory apology.
The BBC reported earlier this month that some people had received personal apologies, including Green Party activist Graham Wroe, who was also part of the Sheffield Tree Action Group (STAG).
In Graham Wroe’s letter of apology, Sheffield Council’s director of policy and democratic engagement James Henderson said he was “sorry it has taken longer than I would have wanted to provide”.
Some tree campaigners also say they want apologies from those they see as most responsible for the scandal, however most of these people have now left the council. Chief among these are former Sheffield council leader Julie Dore, former legal and governance chief Gillian Duckworth, and former director of culture and environment Paul Billington. The council has responded, with some justification, that it cannot compel former councillors and members of staff to apologise, but the campaigners say there is nothing to stop the council asking them to.
However, is a simple apology enough? One of the most prominent tree campaigners was Calvin Payne. As well as being arrested and detained for eight hours by the police, he ended up with three convictions for contempt of court for breaching an injunction the council imposed on protesters.
These convictions remain on Payne’s record despite the council apology saying that the proceedings were “an unwise course of action”.
Three other campaigners were convicted of the same offence, four more were also taken to court, whilst many others were threatened by the council into signing undertakings.
After the council’s public apology was published in June, new council leader Tom Hunt said that while the authority did not have the power to exonerate those found guilty of breaching the injunction, they would “do everything possible to mitigate any ongoing challenges they face”. However, despite having two cordial meetings with the council’s lawyers, Calvin Payne says he still hasn’t been told how they intend to do this, or why it is taking so long. He told The Tribune:
“We’re right in the last few days of the process now and it does seem a bit strange that after six months they haven't pulled out all the stops to make this end. For some people the apology is the most crucial thing and they want it done properly. I wanted to see something done and was firmly expecting to sit down and deal with them. You would have thought they would have busted a gut to get this done, but there has been no mitigation whatsoever.”
Bottom line: The Sheffield street tree scandal is the story that refuses to die. This latest row over the apologies is just the most recent chapter in a decade-long dispute which continues to cast a long shadow over Sheffield politics. For very obvious reasons, the council desperately wants to draw a line under the story, which makes their lack of urgency even more difficult to understand. For some protesters, a sincere apology would be enough. However, for a small number of campaigners, finding a way of mitigating the ongoing effect of their convictions is also absolutely critical.
Persons Unknown: The Battle for Sheffield's Street Trees by Calvin Payne and Simon Crump with Julie Stribley is available now from Wrecking Ball Press.
Our media picks 🎧
💊 HMP Lindholme in Doncaster made headlines repeatedly last week, with the most salacious stories concerning the sentencing of 16 people involved in “what’s believed to be UK’s biggest-ever prison drugs conspiracy”. At its heart was one of the prison’s mental health nursing assistants, who “flooded” the prison with drugs at the behest of her inmate lover. Other reports concerned the findings of a “really worrying inspection” of the prison in July, which found a fifth of its prisoners were becoming addicted to drugs while in jail and that the jail was failing to prepare “potentially very dangerous men for release”.
🕒 Earlier this month, the BBC published an interesting piece on how conspiracy theories around “15-minute cities” are starting to enter mainstream politics. The idea of “15-minute city” is that neighbourhoods should be designed so that people can access basic services within a quarter of an hour’s walk or bike ride from their home. Some, however, are convinced it is front for measures that will allow local councils to control their movements. In February, Nick Fletcher, Conservative MP for Don Valley, requested a parliamentary debate on what he described as "the international socialist concept of so-called 15-minute cities and 20-minute neighbourhoods", which he said "will take away personal freedoms".
🌳 On the theme of Sheffield’s favourite scandal, The Guardian inexplicably decided now is the perfect time for a (very good) blow-by-blow of the whole sordid tale. Worth a read even if you followed the story as it happened, as there’s some interesting details included. The justification for publishing this story now is probably summed up by its final line: “You have to be able to celebrate the success… It doesn’t bring back the 5,600 trees we lost. But we achieved something.”
Property of the week 🏡
Another unusual property of the week: the lease for a city centre club that allegedly has an “excellent reputation” is up for grabs. TANK is the club beneath Arundel Gate that lies between the university and the cinema, which has room for more than 400 people and turns over £30,000 a week. The lease was originally put up with an asking price of just £1, although this appears to have been an error, as it’s now listed as POA — price on application.
Tribune Tips: If you want to tell us about a story or give us some information, please email email@example.com. We are always happy to speak to people off the record in the first instance, and we will treat your information with confidence and sensitivity.
Things to do 📆
Music 🦇 If you want to celebrate Halloween on the day itself tomorrow, head down to Crookes Social Club for a dance party organised by Bingo Records, who we interviewed for this piece from March. There’s still some tickets available but we hear they’re going fast so get yours while you can. It’ll feature sets from The Bug Club, Wesley Gonzalez and Good News and doors open at 7pm.
Film 📽️ On the same night you can also head to Sheffield General Cemetery to enjoy “a cult classic like no other” — The Rocky Horror Picture Show. The cemetery’s Samuel Worth Chapel will be transformed into a candlelit cinema for the occasion and there will be a prize for the best costume. The evening’s entertainment starts at 8pm and you can get your ticket here.
Science 🔬 On Wednesday, the University of Sheffield is launching BioFest, “a unique new festival designed to illuminate the wonders of life”. The month-long event, suitable for all ages, will showcase how researchers are seeking to solve the “five biggest challenges facing humanity”: climate change, food security, healthy ageing, antimicrobial resistance and biodiversity. As part of the event, a 90ft long inflatable E.Coli bacteria has been installed in the Winter Garden.