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: 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!

Exploring the Caucasus

In the top room of the Red Deer pub a very special screening and presentation brought the rare and exotic sounds of the Caucasian mountains to inner city Sheffield.

Mountains of Tongues

Mountains of Tongues

The work of Ben Wheeler, Anna Harbaugh and  Stefan Williamson-Fa, The Sayat Nova Project is collecting, preserving and promoting the many wild and wonderful variants of folk music at risk of dying out in disparate communities across the region on the border of Europe and Asia.

A crossroads between eat and west, the Caucasus is a true melting pot of music from very different cultures which, now cut off and ignored to an extent in favour of other ‘big name’ cultures, seems to have developed many unique musical traditions.  During several inspired trips across the area, the team have filmed and recorded a huge amount of performances in a broad range of settings: from village wrestling competitions, to weddings, funerals, and general roadside piss-ups.  The footage was presented in a refreshingly no-nonsense way, focusing as they were on getting quality sound recordings.  The videos are like intimate home videos, cobbled together into a fascinating collage of local musicians, singers and characters.

What struck me was not necessarily the differences between these individual traditions, but the similarities. To an ethnomusicological layman like me, with no knowledge of the subtle linguistic differences at play, I could hear similarities of the musical styles…drone notes, modal harmony, virtuosic playing and singing, emphasis on rhythm…all characteristics I hear in an array of world musics.

You can get the first collection of music

“Mountains of Tongues” – Musical Dialects from the Caucasus

on vinyl from the band A Hawk and a Hacksaw’s label, L.M. Dupl-ication,with free download of the tracks and a PDF of the liner notes.  If you’d like to keep up with their progress, follow them on Facebook, Soundcloud, and Youtube (where they’ve collected some of their brilliant recordings).

I got my LP, grab one while you can!

I got my LP, grab one while you can!

I’m still trying to get the image of a mountain of actual tongues out of my head.

Field Trip: 10th May 2014 | Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet

The Sheffield Industrial Museums Trust put on a ‘do’ last weekend at the Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet, and I do like a good do.

It’s a pretty special place, the Hamlet, being one of only a few preserved historical industrial sites in the country.  More than just a museum, it’s a living, breathing place where you can immerse yourself in our local working past.

I loved wandering around with my camera, soaking up the atmosphere, taking time to imagine the place as it would have been.  It wasn’t difficult to do – the place had been restored to what seems like an authentic condition, with tools, benches, vessels and all sorts of artifacts dotted around as if the workers had just down-tools moments ago.

I’m not a believer in the afterlife, or of spirit worlds, ghosts and ghouls, but I did get the feeling that this place held a lot of lost lives within its walls.  Some of the rooms had an eerie atmosphere, I often felt as if I was getting in the way, like a Victorian ‘Teemer’ would barge past at any moment to get back to work.

When I wasn’t wandering around, daydreaming, I enjoyed the buzz of activity in the courtyard: wolfed down an amazing burger from the lovely charity-run Whirlow Hall Farm BBQ; there were rousing anthems from the Escafeld Brass Band; heritage craft displays from forging, to woodworking and weaving; cupcakes, recycled cutlery sculptures, a visit from the Lord Mayor, and displays from the local craftspeople who make Abbeydale their home.

For me, there’s so much potential for inspiration in somewhere like the AIH.  I’d love to spend time writing, playing and recording music in a venue like that.  Whenever I’ve tried writing in a different place, away from my own territory, I’m always pleased with what comes out.  AIH is also a great space for an event, with an enclosed courtyard providing a natural amphitheater, and loads of spaces in which you could set up site-specific installations.  I’m hoping that I’ll get to spend a lot of time there in the future, and that I’ll be able to tell something of its story through the music I make.

Field Trip: 8th May 2014 | The Cutting Edge

It seems there’s always lots going on in Sheffiel .  It’s not surprising given it’s long history of hard work, industriousness and graft.  I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve seen events listed on the brilliant ‘Timewalk Project’ Google Calendar and thought “I’ll get to the next one”.

Finally, I have an evening off, and there’s a cracking event for me to dash to in the Punto.  “A brief history of Sheffield’s involvement with the Cutlery trade” a presentation and fundraiser at the Portland Works just off Bramhall lane.

About halfway between the city centre and my house, Portland Works is a place brimming with history brought alive by a dedicated group of volunteers.  Without the hard work and passion of these people, one of the last remaining cutlery works in Sheffield was threatened with development into yet more identikit ‘luxury’ flats.

Instead, it’s now home to a bustling mix of creative and manufacturing industries.  From hand-made custom knife maker Stuart Mitchell, to fine artist Mary Sewell,  vintage vehicle restorer Jimmy Holmes to experimental electroacoustic record label Singing Knives Records, it’s all going on at the Works, where traditional industrial manufacturers work side-by-side with Sheffield creatives.

Many of the tenants were there last night for a special presentation by ‘naturalised Yorkshireman’ and owner of the Famous Sheffield Shop, Paul Iseard.  He told the story of his lifelong love affair with knifes and cutlery, how Sheffield became one of the centres for metal and cutlery manufacturing, and how changes in social dining paved the way for cutlery design innovation and development.  He also shared with us some of his prized collection, a stunning treasure trove of beautifully designed and made pieces.  I’ll be saving up to make a trip down ‘Eccy Road’ soon (I think ‘Pocket Knifes’ is my thing).

After the talk I got to meet some of the team behind the Works, and a few of the businesses based there.  I even got a ‘backstage’ tour from Carl Witham, (who is a local photographer and runs the Portland Works Studio) seeing the cramped ‘village within a village’ layout of the factory from one of the workshop roofs.    It’s easy to imagine the place one hundred years ago when Harry Brearly and Earnest Stuart were making their groundbreaking discovery of stainless steel.  Hundreds of workers, men, women and children, busily going about their back-breaking work, completing the full chain of production from metal working, to grinding, to buffing, packing and selling.

Truly a hive of industry then, just as it is now.  Long may it remain so.