Sharrow Songs: The Spaces Inbetween Tour

A couple of Mondays ago, a group of Sharrow Songs explorers were invited to ‘Look Behind Walls’, as we were guided around hidden corners of Sharrow by Brian Holmshaw.

Brian led the group around Sharrow sharing a wealth of historical research about the local area, and armed with two anthologies of Sheffield poems (Poetry from Sheffield 1750-1940 compiled by Yann Lovelock and The Sheffield Anthology, edited by Agnes Lehoczky, Adam Piette, Ann Sansom and Peter Sansom)

He began with a reading of the poem that inspired the walk –

TONY WILLIAMS – THE LOOKING BEHIND WALLS CLUB 

“We looked for lost traces, evidence of things, stuff, items, trinkets”…

…along Club Garden Walk, behind Waitrose, opposite the Beer Engine, the new building that was once the Landsdowne Pub – now student flats and a bustling gym.

We spot a poem high up on the building, half hidden behind London Road restaurants and advertising boards. 

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THE SHARROW FESTIVAL POEM

To the Committee, team and artists
Many faces, different races
These are the places where nations unite.
Colour, vibrancy, people together
This is a place where everyone excites,
To capture this miracle in a loving way,
Sharrow Festival doesn’t happen every day.
Look around and celebrate
The community starts within you,
Each voice speaks multicultural words,
Long may it continue.
We sing in rainbow harmony all races
In a place with no pain,
Where we get on with our neighbours
Though we’re not all the same.
And it’s good to be different
We need more compassion
We need more kindness
Toward every nation.
We come as a family to meet our friends
Walk across the grass in bare feet
All cultures harmonising
The world in fun, food and music meet.
A tiny world in miniature
a wonderful mélange of cultures,
a superb melting pot
of hope for all our futures.
And when the day has to end
We reflect on our festival in Sharrow
in the oasis of Mount Pleasant Park
the show with a heart and a wow!!!

10.vii. 2004

We find “The left and forgotten down-at-heel sites: foxgloves, broken boxes, a flat football.” before seeking The Hermitage, Little Sheffield, and another poem attached to another block of student flats…

“Within these walls the future may be being forged.
Or maybe Jez is getting trashed on cider.
But when you melt you become the shape of your surroundings.
Your horizons become wider.
Don’t they teach you no brains at that school?”

Written for Off the Shelf JARVIS COCKER – WITHIN THESE WALLS

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On London Road, Brian introduces us to Ebeneezer Elliot, the Corn Law Rhymer, who talks of a bygone Sheffield, even back in Victorian times –  “A romanticised wistful image of a place disappeared. Now a place of crass ignorance and domestic strife.”  We wonder if, huddled outside Sainsburys, as cars rush past, all blown exhausts and acrid fumes, we might be wishing ourselves away to our own pastoral imaginings.  

Brian reads FROM THE VILLAGE PATRIARCH WHERE BLIND ENOCH TAKES THE ROAD TO TOWN PART XII and XIII 

‘harsh grates the saw, where coo’d the wood-dove coy’ 

Next, on the same theme but fast forward a hundred years or so to the 1970s, and Stanley Cook too is writing of urban decay and dislocation, leaving a sour taste which mixes with the taste of London Road fumes.  Brian reads:

STANLEY COOK – WALK INTO TOWN

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Seeking sanctuary under a newly blossoming tree in Broom Close (the name a remnant of the besom makers trade) Brian tells us of new discoveries.  How, in ‘AN ACCOUNT OF ECCLESALL’ there are references to gypsies –

“creating an image of Little Sheffield as a place of encampment, a squatter settlement on the edge of the town of Sheffield, working on woodland crafts, bonnet making, cowherds, besom making to service the needs of the townspeople, going into the Haymarket and Beast Market in Sheffield and hawking goods, knocking on doors and selling services such as knife-sharpening, tramping with their wares around sheffield and the region; and I think possibly running their own ad hoc market selling goods in the place we now call London Road” – Brian Holmshaw

JOHN CLARE – THE GYPSY CAMP

The snow falls deep; the Forest lies alone:

The boy goes hasty for his load of brakes,

Then thinks upon the fire and hurries back;

The Gipsy knocks his hands and tucks them up,

And seeks his squalid camp, half hid in snow,

Beneath the oak, which breaks away the wind,

And bushes close, with snow like hovel warm:

There stinking mutton roasts upon the coals,

And the half roasted dog squats close and rubs,

Then feels the heat too strong and goes aloof;

He watches well, but none a bit can spare,

And vainly waits the morsel thrown away:

‘Tis thus they live – a picture to the place;

A quiet, pilfering, unprotected race.

As we make our way up Sharrow Street, there are ‘damaged’ houses, previously unnoticed by many of us.  Wartime building regulations stipulated that buildings should only be re-built up to one storey in height.  The german bombs of the Sheffield Blitz helping to create a few pockets of odd Victorian-era repurposed terraced bungalows. Brian reads PIRATES by YANN LOVELOCK. 

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‘rehoused in sterilised estates’ ‘bombs exploded here, burying my neighbours two by two’. 

We climb the gentle hill away towards Sharrow Lane, and take a left to the corner of London Road, we find the grander, more solid structures of Highfield.  It’s a  High Victorian civic area for Sharrow with tall well-built shops, centres of religion, of finance, of learning and law and order.  The Civic ambition of Highfield Library, grade II of 1876, Designed by E. Mitchell Gibbs with its classic of Victorian ideals in the inscription above the door: 

“THAT THERE 

SHOULD ONE MAN DIE

IGNORANT WHO HAD CAPACITY

FOR KNOWLEDGE, THIS I CALL A

TRAGEDY, WHERE IT TO HAPPEN MORE

THAN TWENTY TIMES IN THE MINUTE, 

AS BY SOME COMPUTATIONS IT DOES”

While in general agreement with the sentiment, we struggle to make our own ‘computations’ as we round the corner back to Sharrow Lane to find the site of the old police box, just to the side of Rossi’s rastaurant (formerly a Bank). Introduced in Sheffield in 1928 by the then Chief Constable, Percy J Sillitoe, of gang-busting fame, they were eventually phased out in the 1960’s. The boxes were used by patrolmen for meal breaks and writing reports.  Perhaps nowadays they’d have WiFi and USB charging points? 

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The surprise hit of a wonderful walk – a look inside Mount Pleasant.  We giggle and shout excitedly as we are offered a rare chance to see upstairs of one of Sheffield’s oldest buildings.  A family home first for the Sitwells among others, later an asylum, a Girls’ Charity School and base for WW2 operations.  It’s home now to a group of artists and campaigners who take care of the building, offer it security, and bring new life to its old bricks.

Sharrow has never been a static community, people have always come and gone, travelled. The people living here are often between here and there, migrants and immigrants and people wanting to be emigrants, those who left in the C19th to join the gold rush to Australia and the Yukon, to make a new life in Canada and South Africa; those who come here now fleeing persecution or domestic violence, its cheap and there’s plenty of available rental. Some stay and establish themselves, being on the edge of the city suits, and whats needed for them is that it isn’t either a suburb or a city.

-Brian Holmshaw

The Last poem is read as we look back down Club Garden road towards the lights of the City Centre. LESLEY PERRINS – YELLOW

Poetry, exploration, and the city.  We all left that evening, firm members of the Looking Behind Walls Club.


The next Sharrow Songs session is meeting at Regather, Club Garden Road, on Monday 9th May at 7pm.  For more details, email scott.russell@heritagesong.org. or visit www.facebook.com/sharrowsongs

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Sharrow Songs: Creative Writing Workshop

New Mesters works at Regather was once again filled with the sound of industry and craft last night, as #SharrowSongs participants were ‘apprenticed’ to the writer and workshop facilitator Kelly Snape.

Rather than learning how to hone horn into handles (say that ten times fast), we were crafting creative writing using images of Sharrow as our raw materials.

As part of our ongoing programme of creative community sessions, I invited Kelly to come down and introduce us to ways of using images of Sharrow to spark creative writing.


First, we were invited to write an imagined ‘Postcard from Sharrow’.  A written message to friends and loved ones, from the beaches and tavernas of Sheffield City Centre.  It wasn’t too difficult as it happened – the sun was out, the magpies were sunbathing on the roof, and we all had plenty to say about the exotic culinary adventures on offer in the area (mental note to check out the amazing-sounding cakes at the Old Junior School Cafe)

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Two for Joy: Magpies enjoying a sunbathe on Regather Roof

We were clearly all a bit hungry, as Brian imagined tucking into a ‘mixed meze type thing’ in a Turkish restaurant, Scott describing ‘Restaurants from around the world side by side with abandoned works’ and Tina lovingly recreating a ‘custard/coconut/chocolate bar – never tasted anything like it (in a good way)’.  A holiday in Sharrow would clearly be a foodie one.

Others mentioned the ‘magical lantern carnival’ and the bright weather and happy atmosphere.  Our creative juices were flowing and ready to take on the main task – writing about images of Sharrow.

 

 

 

 

 

There were a range of pictures dotted around the workshop – from the permanent displays showing Horn Handle Works (Regather Works around 100 years ago)…

Horn Handle Works Display, Regather

Horn Handle Works Display, Regather

…some historical images of Sharrow such as this of the Drill Hall, courtesy of Picture Sheffield

Interior of Edmund Road Drill Hall, also known as Norfolk Barracks

Interior of Edmund Road Drill Hall, also known as Norfolk Barracks Copyright © Sheffield City Council. All rights reserved

Instagram feeds with the #Sharrow hashtag…

…photos by the the excellent Sheffield photographer Tim Dennell

No Law

…and some snaps from Scott’s commute along London Road that morning…

We were each asked to take some time to look at the images and find one which captured our imagination, for whatever reason.  When we had, we spent some time looking carefully at the image, examining it in detail, and forming a creative response to it – in whatever form that took.  We were encourage to write freely, without inhibition, and without editing.  If we got ‘stuck’, we were to write ‘banana’ until the blockage cleared and we were ready to carry on.

Kelly helped create a perfectly relaxed, comfortable and safe environment for us to create.  Many of us (myself included) probably hadn’t written with and around people in this setting for quite some time.  I know that I found it transportive, and hugely relaxing.  It was an inspiring session to be part of as we worked away, each producing our own individual take on a range of Sharrow images, nothing but the sound of pen (and Brian’s pencil) on paper, breathing, concentration and focus (and Haiku Salut’s music on the workshop playlist)


In a matter of 20 minutes the quality and range of writing we produced was fascinating.

Helen bravely went first, sharing her writing on the photo ‘No Law’ by Tim Dennell (above).  Helen lives on the Landsdowne Estate so it’s a subject close to her heart and her piece was passionate, edgy, modern spoken word delivered with real energy.  The group gave great positive feedback, comparing her style to slam poetry or beat poems.  She put into words some of the tensions of city living – wanting to make a difference in the place you live, while fearing ‘putting your head above the parapet’.

Next, I shared my stream of consciousness musings on scaffolding – the dangers (fallen restaurant signs) the challenges (1908s TV 20160418_101425assault course, winding your way through, like a crufts agility dog) the fears (one person’s elegantly faded ghost sign is another’s ‘ugly old eyesore’) and the embarrassments (coming face-to-face with a stranger “oops, sorry, you dancing?”)  It may have been too much of a glimpse into my over-caffeinated urban anxieties, but it raised a few smiles with the exploration of the mundane!

20160418_101607Next, Tina shared her pacy, electrified, abstract, impressionistic riffs on the image of flyposters on London Road.  Like the plastered shop front, Tina’s writing was multi-layered and had depth and variety.  On the printed version of the image, the dark shape on the left appeared completely black, and Tina tried to imagine what it was – where it went.  It developed a sinister presence, this nothingness, and she used it beautifully as a repeated theme in opposition to the riot of layers, nationalities and activities which the posters brought.  Again, the style of writing and delivery seemed to take on the life of the picture – fast, excited, energetic – all the things Sharrow is.  We all agreed we might struggle to sleep, as our own imaginations were drawn to the idea of this ‘black hole of London Road’ created by the torn posters.

Brian chose the image of the Drill hall – a building he has personal ties to, as his family used to attend dances there back in the day.  He astonished us by somehow, with very little editing, creating a complete historical fictional setting, with a Sheffield anti-hero (Bunting) his nemesis (the Drill Sargent) and a captivating setting of the scene.  Bunting is defined by the place in which he lives – a very specific part of Sharrow – and the places he goes, the church he attends and the pubs he visits.  All delivered in a carefully chosen voice, Brian transported us to another time, created with the help of the evocative picture of the Drill hall, and an impressive amount of knowledge of the local area (Brian will be leading a walking tour of Sharrow for us next Monday 25th April – details here).  When Brian had finished reading, we were all hooked, and ready for the next episode.  Look out for a novel coming soon I think!

Finally, Kelly shared her own piece of writing about Harland Works on John Street, a vibrant modern works.  Proving that even Sheffield folk from the lofty heights of Walkley 😉 have Sharrow Stories to share.  She described how, like the saw blade manufacturers who used to earn their living in the Works (formerly Clifton Works), she too is an apprenticed craftsperson taking Guitar lessons in one of the units there.  Now, instead of steel and blades, it’s guitars and yoga, pottery and architects.


We could have gone on longer, and it’s a sign of a good workshop when the time flies.  The writing produced about a variety of Sharrow stories was wonderful, and aligned perfectly with the aims of the Sharrow Songs project:  The local community brought together and inspired to create together.  New works exploring what it means to be in Sharrow today.

It is hoped that these new seeds of Sharrow writing will now go on to grow, and hopefully form part of the future Sharrow Songs anthology.  Watch this space for future announcements on writing and songwriting workshops to follow up this creative session.  A huge thank you to Kelly Snape, who did such a great job of guiding us on a creative journey (as one of us said ‘It wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be’) and for helping us to bring out such meaningful responses to Sharrow.  And, of course, special thanks to all the brave community creatives who came along and shared your thoughts and words with such openness and generosity.

See you next week for Brian Holmshaw’s walking tour of Sharrow: The Spaces Inbetween.  Monday 25th April, 7pm, Regather Works, Club Garden Road.

 


Special mentions to Regather for room hire and support

Kelly Snape, who is wise enough to not be on Facebook, but you can find her on Twitter Here

Picture Sheffield for a wonderful Sheffield archive resource

the lovely Sharrow photos by Sheffield photographer Tim Dennell

Haiku Salut‘s perfect creative soundtrack (‘Curated’ by Kelly)

Old Junior School Cafe for Tina’s cake

and Harland Works for being a great Sharrow hub.