The Waterwheel Stage 2016

Looking through the Tramlines programme, I was astounded by the quantity and variety of what’s on offer during what is thought to be the UK’s largest inner city music festival.  The Folk Forest at Endcliffe Park, this year bigger than ever, and with a lineup which offered a wonderfully left-field take on ‘folk’ (Gwenno, Teleman, Jane Weaver and Field Music among loads of other great acts) has expanded their festival within a festival along the Porter Brook all the way to Shepherd Wheel, with the very first ‘Waterwheel Stage’.

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A collaboration between the Folk Forest, Heritage Song (me), Sheffield Industrial Museums Trust and Friends of Porter Valley, and with financial support from the Arts Council and Year of Making Sheffield, the full day of music and spoken word brought together the community in a shared love of Shepherd Wheel and the Porter Valley.  As well as wonderful entertainment all day, the FoPV ran a refreshment stall with delicious cakes and drinks, and the Hangingwater Allotments offered mouthwatering cakes and provisions.

Running with the Heritage Song ethos of making everything we do site-specific, the line up of acts each fitted the venue in their own way.

Opening the day’s entertainment: Keith, one of the two SIMT engineers who look after Shepherd Wheel each weekend.  How apt that someone who spends so much of their time working at this place should open the event.  As one visitor tweeted…

Who knew that the engineers at SIMT were so talented?

Keith did a wonderful job of warming up the crowd with his eclectic mix of traditional and modern folk, (and a Kinks number!), beautifully played and sung.

Next up, creating a really special atmosphere in their 19th Century costume, local theatre group Deny Edwards Players appeared as if transported from the past to sing excerpts from their 50th anniversary production of The Stirrings of Sheffield on Saturday Night.

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Stood out in front of the grinding hull, they drew an intrigued mix of fans and passers-by as local families, joggers and dog walkers wandered over from the Whiteley Woods path to hear their powerful renditions of Stirrings ‘greatest hits’.  Their run at the Library Theatre in Sheffield starts on tuesday, so get your tickets now (we’ll be there on Wednesday)

I dusted off my flat cap to play a short set of site-specific tunes picked from my recent local heritage musical walking tours of the Porter Valley.  As well as local ‘classics’ The Grinders Hardships and The Jolly Grinder, I sang about local stories such as the Edwardian newspaper article about a summer Sunday night in Endcliffe Woods  (The Rising Generation), and a tune dedicated to the stepping stones of the Porter Brook called, imaginatively, Stepping Stones.  I enjoyed playing to an appreciative audience, as we huddled beneath the porch to shelter from the rain showers.  Keeping the tone relatively ‘light’ for me (I chose to skip The Cruel Mother adaptation I occasionally sing to tell the story of the Shepherd Wheel pond drownings)  a highlight was singing my friend Mike’s anthem for the Porter Valley, Down the Porter, which you can listen to here, in a slightly 80’s setting I recorded for my Porter Songs 1 album

Pete Green is a Sheffield-based writer, poet and musician who I’ve wanted to see perform for a while.  A cancellation made a slot available for him, and he very kindly agreed to play at short notice.  The fact that his new Album was officially released that day added to the serendipity.

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In Pete’s words he “…writes about coastlines, islands, edgelands, walking, music, love, sex, railways, football, whisky, underachievement, and getting lost”.  His exploration of the ideas of changing places, and traces of lost  histories chimed really well with the site. Poems Songs such as Dimished, Dream of Firsby Station and When I Close My Eyes I See the Sea  expressed a kind of ‘Sheffield Saudade’, a reaching out for a missing something.  My favourite moment was his reading of an excerpt of his new long-form poem Sheffield Almanac, soon to be published, which drilled into the heritage of Sheffield’s crumbling industry, and its complex relationship between past, present and future.

Nat Johnson had decided to have a year off performing at Tramlines, but she has such a soft spot for Shepherd Wheel and the Porter Valley that she gladly made an exception in order to perform with her band at the Waterwheel Stage.  Wow, what a coup. Like all of the acts, her performance far exceeded my expectations (despite me knowing how good her music is)   She turned up, plugged in, and set free a beautiful set of thoughtful and playfully ethereal songs.  At one point, a song or two into the set, I put my sunglasses on to hide the fact that I was welling up a bit.  That’s how perfect her music was in that moment for me. Her connection with nature, life, thought and creativity is deep and very meaningful, and it’s clear to see why she attracted such a large following of lovely fans up to Whiteley Woods.  In fact, at  one point even a local heron swooped by a few times to have a closer listen.  Charming the birds from the trees, then.

The Urban Forest temporary poetry collective arrived at Shepherd Wheel just in time to catch Nat’s performance, and followed it with readings from their brand new anthology of poems written for their poetry trail that day.  Led by Oliver Mantell, the poets…

Elizabeth Barrett
Genevieve Carver
Mark Doyle
Angelina D’Roza
Suzannah Evans
Chris Jones
Brian Lewis
Oliver Mantell
Julie Mellor
Fay Musselwhite
Ruby Robinson
Shelley Roche-Jacques
Steve Sawyer
Linda Lee Welch…

shared their diverse responses to the area with some stunning spoken word.  Thought-provoking, passionate, witty, individual, and varied, their roaming community of creatives gave the audience a moment to rest, close their eyes, listen and reflect.   See a map of the poems (yes, that’s correct, isn’t it great) here and look out for the anthology for sale now in local book shops.

Jim Ghedi and Toby Hay rounded off the day with a rush of magical music.  Combining two guitars (one 12 and one 6-string) they’re quickly amassing a collection of breathtaking duets. There’s a vastness to the sound they make together and the guitar parts are carefully intertwined, sounding simultaneously together and distinct.  As well as intricate, multi-layered textures, they weave haunting melodies and driving rhythms through their pieces. Here’s a great example of the special sound they create:

Considering they’ve only been playing as a duo for less than a year, it’s staggering how well they’ve gelled, and exciting to think what they’ve yet to produce.  They each have solo albums out now, and are currently recording their work together, which I’m looking forward to hearing.

So, the first of many perhaps?  A huge thanks to everyone involved, and I hope to see you there next year!

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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

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…

Sheffield attempts Nottinghill, #sheffield #lantern #sharrow #festival

A post shared by Oliver Green (@o_d_g) on

…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.

Sharrow Songs: Week 1

Our first community arts and heritage get-together saw the Sharrow Songs get off to a tentative but exciting start last week, as a small and passionate group of Sheffielders got together to talk all things Sharrow and Little Sheffield.

As well as talking about the history of the area we shared anecdotes about life there, and snippets from local history resources and a few locally-themed poems and song.

One of the most powerful ideas which sprung from discussion was that a Sharrow Songbook shouldn’t just explore the usual history of the area, but explore newer stories, and how it is now as a place.  Scott shared a poem, which was written by members of the Sharrow community at the Sharrow Festival 2004, in a project led by Ralph Hancock of Chantwriters.  Here it is, from the Sharrow Festival website…

http://sharrowfestival.btck.co.uk/OtherStuff

Poem by Sharrow for Sharrow –

sourde: FURD (Football Unites, Racism Divides) http://www.furd.org/
Ralph Hancock of Chantwriters, who spent Sharrow Festival in a deckchair, collecting lines from festival-goers to put together into a poem inspired by the day:

Thank you for the wonderful lines you wrote for a poem to celebrate
Sharrow Festival. I hope you like the edited version. One man wrote a
whole poem from which we have selected the finale of the Festival poem and others wrote a haiku and limericks.

There was one line ‘I’m not very creative at the moment’ which made us
think that on the contrary everyone at Sharrow Festival was part of the
creation of a special day, even if they couldn’t put it into words on
the spur of the moment.

We received the following thought provoking lines

I never met a white man who was white
and
There is power in writing

Well, you be the judges.

And we would like YOU to give the poem a title.

Put your thinking caps on and please email it to Ralph: chantwriters@fsmail.net

P o e m f o r S h a r r o w F e s t I v a l

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

I think we all agreed that, rose-tinted or not, the vibrancy of the writing, and the focus on the diversity and sharing nature of the community did a great job of summing up modern Sharrow.  The poem also served as a great example of the kind of creative interpretation of the place we inhabit, which Sharrow Songs is hoping to encourage.

This week, it’s ‘Show and Tell’ where people are invited to bring along an object, piece of writing, or picture (be creative!) to show to the group, and perhaps use as creative inspiration.  Scott will also be encouraging the group to write some mini-stories/verses/songs using similar inspiration, and perhaps, if we have time, a short wander around the block to search out material.

See you tonight – 7 while 9!  If we’ve popped out for ten minutes as part of a short Sharrow Explore, give us a call on 07929 316270 to find us!

Also coming soon – a draft programme for the coming weeks, with some exciting guests and activities!

Is it a Pop-up Folk Club – Is it a Local History Society?

Sharrow-Songbook-eventbrite-HEADER

I haven’t been able to work out where Sharrow really is.  To be honest, my attempts haven’t been all that thorough and have so far mostly consisted of looking at historical maps, and talking to local folk in the pub.  Through my, ahem, ‘rigorous’ research I’ve gathered that it seems to reach south where it rubs up against Nether Edge; north to and abrupt and noisy end at the ring road and city centre; southwest to Sharrow Head and west to Eccleshall; and east to Heeley.  The wise old internet (via postcode boundaries?) Shows the Sharrow Area here:

Screen Shot 2016-02-08 at 13.11.51.png

Where though are the actual boundaries and, within this area, do we also include Highfield,  St Mary’s, Lowfield,  and even the historical area of Little Sheffield?

It seems appropriate, for an area so hard to pin down, that a new project seeking to explore and interpret it, should itself start out so open-ended.  Like Sharrow, the place we will seek to explore, the Sharrow Songs project will be shaped by the people who call it home.

At the new sessions starting at Regather Works in Sheffield at the end of the month there is one clear aim – to work with whoever would like to get involved in the local community to produce a new songbook for and about Sharrow.

Initially, the sessions will be a loose get-together, for a diverse range of people who are interested in their local area, past and present, and who are interested in telling its story – all are welcome, and all art forms can contribute to the project.  Meetings will be a mix of open-floor ‘natters’, where all-comers can contribute stories, songs, research, photographs, thoughts, local legends and myths. They’ll be time to explore local history resources and space to consider creative ways to represent and reinterpret them. There are also plans to include ‘field trips’ out into the local area, to other parts of Sheffield, and to the Libraries, Archives and Local Studies.

The final product: a community created and curated publication incorporating a range of contributors and art forms.  Ambitious?  Maybe.  Achievable?  Definitely.  If the resourcefulness and entrepreneurial nature of your average Sheffield-dweller is anything to go by.


Sessions are free and will take place on Monday Evenings from 7-9pm at Regather Works, 57-59 Club Garden Rd, Sheffield S11 8BU.  There will be refreshments available including hot drinks, soft drinks, and Regather’s very own micro-brewed ale.

Email scott.russell@heritagesong.org or call Scott on 07929 316270 if you’d like more information or have any questions or visit our Facebook Event or Eventbrite bookings page.

LIVE LATE: The Folk Forest presents Musical Museum

Saucy stories of a Beauty of the Court of King Charles the Second

Saucy stories of a Beauty of the Court of King Charles the Second

I’ll be performing as part of the Folk Forest gallery takeover at the Graves Art Gallery a week on Friday, and I’m looking forward to making some new musical connections with some of my favourite art works on display there.

From 7.30pm on Friday 20th November I’ll be roaming around the gallery, performing newly written and arranged pieces with, for and around some carefully chosen works.   In the style of the Heritage Song ‘musical heritage walking tours’  I led along the river Porter, we will wander from one artwork to another, sharing my take on their unique stories and playing some specifically chosen and composed works.

A volunteer-led tour of the Graves Art gallery

A volunteer-led tour of the Graves Art gallery

I enjoyed a tour around the gallery last Friday, and found some great subjects to get my creative juices flowing.  The playlist currently takes in a musical setting of Edith Sitwell’s poetry (to accompany her portrait by Roger Fry), Edith Sitwell, portrait by Roger Frya song-setting of a WW1 poem (for C R W Nevinson’s ‘Rain and Mud after the Battle’) and a new song for Peter Blake’s ‘Footsteps’.

I love an Art Gallery as a musical venue.  Back in 2010, with the Liverpool Guitar Society, I helped programme a guitar takeover of the Walker Art Gallery as part of Liverpool’s Light Night.  It was great seeing a whole new audience, brought together in an unusual venue, at an unusual time, to experience music with and as art.

Since then I’ve had a real appreciation for connections between art, music, story and place.

There’s lots of other great acts performing on the night, and I hope to be able to fit among and around them as they share their own musical responses to the wonderful venue.    If you’re a Facebooker, visit the Folk Forest and Museums Sheffield event page for more info or if you’d prefer, the Museums Sheffield website.

rain and mud after the battle

Useful info:


Museums Sheffield has teamed up with The Folk Forest to re-imagine your gallery experience.

Each room of the beautiful Graves Gallery has been carefully curated for your entertainment, with more than 10 ‘live exhibits’ bringing together the finest folk, acoustic and atmospheric artists from across the UK.

Artists confirmed on the night include The Buffalo Skinners, Nuala Honan, Woolly Mammoth, The Little Unsaid, Dean Mcphee, Bellevue Gypsy Jazz Band, Pete David & Landon Shaffer, Sarah Morey, Scott Russell, Winkie Thin, plus more TBC.

£8 per ticket.

Limited tickets are available in advance- please call 0114 278 2655 or learning@museums-sheffield.org.uk. Tickets will also be available on the door.

Halloween Happenings at the Hamlet

desktop_low_res_P1000408Scott appeared at Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet as their resident ‘Singing Sycthe Grinder’ last week, guiding fearless families on a musical journey into the grisly past, as he led the annual Spooky Songs Halloween workshop!  Children from the ages of four to eleven joined their parents on a ghost hunt around the site, where they learned about the kinds of accidents and dangers that befell workers at the historic Scythe and tool works.

Bill Packham (Scott, in his best ‘Mumford’ outfit), Scythe and Sickle grinder of no. 22 Totley, loves a good singalong (especially if he’s in the Cross Scythes, the Inn at Totley) and was joined in singing the new traditional tune The Ghost of the Hamlet (click link for a song sheet), a song which tells the tale of the tragic boiler explosion of 1870.

Visitors were shown around Abbeydale works, where spooky soundscapes were installed, filling the spaces with otherworldly sounds, like auditory hauntings from the past.  In the Grinding Hull the screeches and wails of the normally silent grindstones could be heard, as Bill explained the terribly treacherous trials and tribulations of working as a grinder in Victorian times.

“If a broken stone doesn’t get you, the grinder’s lung will!”

Bill isn’t allowed in the Manager’s House (He and Mester Tyzack don’t see eye to eye – union disputes) but he sent the intrepid children to investigate reports of a haunted piano in the parlour.  Talk is, it’s been playing all day, but no pianist can be seen…

When the group returned to the warmth and safety of the learning building, they set about working together to turn their spooky inspiration into their own songs and stories.  Here’s how well they did… songs about horseless carriages riding through the night, exploding kettles and dripping rain at freaky houses.  Terrifying stuff!

If you’re still feeling in the Halloween mood, why not print off a copy of the Spooky Songbook, and take it down to Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet, and see if you’re inspired to re-write the ‘Ghost of the Hamlet’ or ‘The Grinder’s Hardships’ with your own ghoulish rhymes?


The Community and Learning team at SIMT are dedicated to offering activities that investigate and interpret the unique history of the sites and collections in innovative ways, inviting visitors to use their senses, creativity and imagination to bring new life to old stories.