The Loneliest Road

One of the best things about commuting on your bike is the freedom it gives you. Freed from the aggy gridlock of the car, and jammed-in cough and splutter of the bus, I can indulge my curious side and dander off route to find new sights and sounds.

20170928_100215Nearing the end of the usual lower Don valley 5 weirs pedal, I decided to take a detour around the baffling Tinsley Roundabout subways in search of the spliced and diced roads formerly part of Tinsley village, now stranded and surrounded by busy truck-addled roads.

First, I twisted and turned to find American Golf, where a tanned man in smart casual sports wear lugs bags out of a BMW boot. Natch. Next, I cruise past the Trans Cafe, sniffing out a bacon butty. But no one is home. Mentioned in my previous post on Tinsley, this is all that remains of Plumpers Road, which once joined up to Bawtry Road and gave it’s name to the school which sat there before the M1, Seimens close, and the new/old school. Confused? Me too, so when I get to the studio I get to work.

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A quick search on ‘Picture Sheffield’ the city council’s wonderful collection of digitised Sheffield images, brings up some great stories of smithies with a sideline in grocery (or is it the other way around?)…

Charles Challoner, blacksmith at Glasswells Smithy, Sheffield Road, Tinsley

…a team shot of the Plumpers Inn’s staff looking really quite jolly…

Members of Staff, Plumpers Hotel, Sheffield Road, Tinsley

…and the obligatory spooky infants school photo notched up a few levels with the addition of costumes and what look like 1980s up-lighters.

Children of Tinsley Infant School

This image shows a view from the old Infant’s school (older than the old one I sit in now) during the demolition of the street to make way for the M1 and it’s vast Tinsley roundabout.

Demolishing Plumpers Road

Picture courtesy of Picture Sheffield, Sheffield City Council

The bend in the road helps line up the old with the new.  Looking at maps of the area the small spit of Plumpers Road that remains on the ‘Sheffield side’ of the M1 is at an angle with Seimens Close.  The row of fine terraces on the left of the picture are soon to go.  Here’s the view now from a similar position, I think:

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I carry on exploring, in search of another residential street around this edgeland, which seems to have suffered the same fate…

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Greasebro road must surely be the loneliest street in Sheffield.  As I sit on my top tube with frostbitten toes, taking snaps of the fine-looking stone dressed well-kept terraces, I struggle to think of another street I’ve seen in such a cut-off position.  The M1 looms overhead to the east end of the road, Shepcote Lane to the west, Tinsley Roundabout and it’s terrifying pedestrian tunnels to the north, and a vast razor-wired brownfield site is the view from the southern terrace yardens.

When you look at a google satelite view of the derelict land here, its patchwork remnants look like an abstract painting, all pastel blocks and soft geometries.

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This beautiful arial image, taken looking north to south, shows a clutch of streets soon to be buried beneath the Tinsley roundabout/M1 scheme and huge swathes of dark empty land.  Tinsley Locks meander off artfully to the diagonal, and in the bottom right, the edge of gargantuan East Hecla Works (Hadfield’s, famous for making projectiles and other nasty things).

Arial Shot of Tinsley Bridge and Surrounds, pre M1

Picture Courtesy of Picture Sheffield, Sheffield City Council

I go to the National Library of Scotlands sexy online map archive (I have a thing for old maps, ok!?) to find out more. The latest maps I find (1949) list the buildings in the area as Imperial Steel Works – where Edgar Allen and Co probably made bulk steel using the Tropenas method.

Treuyer Installation - Imperial Steel Works

Digital Image copyright © Sheffield City Council. All rights reserved.

It looks and sounds suspiciously like Bessemer steel, but I’m sure the dapper Monsieur Tropenas would never admit it.  Kudos to his Movember effort.

M Tropenas

There’s a 1939 film in the Yorkshire Film Archive demonstrating tool steel manufacture.  The residents in the area at one time would, like many others in Sheffield, hear the thud of the forge hammer, the hiss of the quench.

I clip back in and set off for Tinsley Village when suddenly and in slow motion my front wheel slips from underneath me and I tumble off my bike.  Cracking the back of my head on the floor my little life flashes before my beard.  If I wasn’t wearing a helmet, I cam imagine I would’ve been knocked out such was the whiplash-inducing whack I took.

As I pick up and hobble off, I daydream about Ballard’s ‘Concrete Island’, and imagine myself prone on the textured concrete pathway of the Tinsley subway, wasting away on a man-made island surrounded by fast flowing roads.  Bleak, for sure, but always interesting.

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Residency and Album Recording at Tingas Tinsley

 

Back in August I set up a temporary studio and creative space (yes, really) in classroom 5 at the former Nursury and Infant’s School in Tinsley, with only the roar of the M1 for company.  The vast imperial-measured spaces (everything in 3’s and 12’s), discarded child-sized furniture, and half-torn notices clinging to staple-scarred pin boards indicate it’s former purpose – up until last year it was home to Tinsley’s Infants, now bundled in across the way in the snazzily extended Tinsley Meadows School.  It has a brooding quiet, (albeit with a constant white noise hum of traffic) which is occasionally now interrupted by new sounds and visitors.  

Not necessarily that these are unwelcome interruptions –  They are being encouraged and facilitated by a strong partnership, called ‘Tingas’, between Studio Polpo, Sheffield City Council, and other groups such as Tinsley Time and Travel (Heeley City Farm), Tinsley Forum, Sheffield Hallam University’s Architecture department, and small local companies like myself and My Bright Toys.  Recent events bringing the local community back in to the building have included a Medieval Fair, Arts and local Heritage Workshops (Tinsley Time and Travel) live music session recording (Heritage Song + Guests) a henna party and a 1st birthday party!  Plans are in process to bring in a range of businesses, communities and organisations to use the spaces – from local day care charities, to skills training, carpentry and hydroponic growers!

 

For my part, I’ve been spending time exploring the area, and ensconced in one of the classrooms recording my new collection of songs by Victorian Sheffield Manufacturing Optician and amateur balladeer, Edward Darbyshire.  He published a collection of ballads, poems and recitations in 1885, and I’ve made it my mission to arrange and records new settings of his funny old works.  Because of the size sound of the spaces, I’ve veered way from my usual intimate acoustic fingertickled guitar, and towards overdriven electrics.    It’s sounding great, and a real step on from previous Sheffield-focused pieces I’ve recorded (see Porter Songs 1, from 2015)   I’m aiming to finish the record in November for a release in spring next year, and it’ll feature some very special guests.

I’ve invited a few friends to join me in recording short videos in different parts of the school.  So, far, flute and whistle guru and part time model Michael Walsh (aka Trad Dad) has been jamming and recording for songs on the album.  Sheffield-based musician, poet and writer Pete Green read a chapter of his wonderful Sheffield Almanac poem, as well as recording one of his songs (out online this month).  Andy Whitehouse of The Silver Darlings visited both on his own, to record his song Drunken Sailor, and with a fledgling cosmic folk-jazz quartet, playing Cherry Blossoms in the Rain.   More guests will be dropping by in the coming weeks, and the semi-regular ‘Tinsley Tunes’ series will feature a range of art from the region and beyond.

I’m also doing some R&D to see what musical activities I could offer to the local community, and assessing the demand for things like guitar clubs, choirs, music listening clubs, or music production and songwriting.  Hopefully I can find a way of bringing local people in to the space to create some special community music.

Tinsley is a place that’s had it’s fair share of interruption – a notable one being the M1 motorway, which scythed through parts of the village, leaving roads divided on either side.  Siemens Road, which the school now sits on, was once Plumper Road.  The last remnants sit stranded on the Sheffield side of the viaduct, a lone caff sitting on the corner of nothing and the edge of nowhere.

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Despite, or maybe because of this, I’d recommend it as a place to work in.  Yes, it’s very cut off from the rest of Sheffield, Rotherham, even South Yorkshire.  It’s like an island of community surrounded by waves of industry, wasteland, and trunk roads.  Isolated.  It has a strange strength in that.  Very different from the rest of Sheffield, un-gentrified, full of opportunity.  And if you’re a cyclist like me, the commute up the 5 weirs walk along the River Don is like embarking on a post-industrial psychogeographic epic voyage through secret ‘Edgelands’ .

If you’re interested in getting involved in a real grass roots transformation of a great building, why not come along to one of the forthcoming events, or drop either myself or Tingas a line.  They are still keen to hear from businesses, established and startup, to take on space there, either on a permanent or irregular basis.  There are spaces to rent for one-off events and activities, and there seems to be a demand for all sorts of community activities.

Watch this space for new session videos, recorded at Tingas, and for some previews of the new Songs of Edward Darbyshire album.

For now, enjoy the special atmosphere created by Andy when he came to play a song in the assembly hall…

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!

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: Week 3

People of Sharrow – we want you!

That was the general feeling we had at this week’s meeting of our small but passionate community creative heritage collective (sounds pretty cool that, doesn’t it?)

The range and scope of the stories we shared as a group took us to all the ends of Sharrow. We recounted tales of buying greenhouses in the local pub, finding 15th century coaching inns on Sharrow Lane (TBC) and the first cricketer to score a run on a tour of Australia having cut his teeth on Bramhall Lane!

We need more stories – no, more People – to involve.  That is the challenge for our little ‘band of blatherers’ going forward… and we had ideas on how to spread the word.  Over the next weeks we will track down former neighbours, vox-pop random people on the streets of Sharrow, and chat to businesses about their ‘Sharrow Story’… in the process, we may recruit some new Sharrow Songers, and collect more oral histories, and oral now-stories, for inclusion in our collection.

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You may well find yourself confronted by one of these things on the Streets of Sharrow soon…

So, the plan for next week’s get together on Monday 21st March 7-9pm at Regather Works, Club Garden Road (the last for a couple of weeks, as we’re off on holiday on the 28th March and 4th April):

Using some of our recent source materials, such as images (past and present) maps, and gossip to start writing creatively.  We’ll do this in the form of some structured creative writing activities.  Bring something to write with and on – something special you might like to use as your Sharrow Journal.  There’ll be people on hand to help, and all ages and abilities are welcome.  It’s an informal and friendly place where people can be part of a new creative tribute to Sharrow.

 

 

*Managed to namecheck #Sharrow no fewer than ten times in this article.  Shameless!

Sharrow Songs: Week 2

A quieter evening, it’s fair to say, at the second meeting of the #SharrowSongs community creative collective, but no less productive.  What we lacked in bodies, we made up for in inspiration.  The evening centred around discussion of two ‘Digital Artefacts’ which Helen brought in to ‘Show and Tell’ to the group.

First,  we looked at an advert on ‘Rightmove’ (other online estate agencies are available) of an apparently ancient house of Sharrow Lane, for sale…

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Streetview image of the Sharrow Lane House which caught Helen’s eye.  Copyright 2016 Google.

It’s a building I’ve walked, driven and cycled past without a second look being, as it is, set back from the road, smothered in grubby pebbledash, and fronted by tarmac.  Some sort of electricity substation sits by the gate, with it’s aggressively spiky-hair anti-intruder razor wire.  Now it’s on Rightmove though, we can look ‘through the keyhole’ and have a nosy inside and out… we learn that it is, apparently:

…thought to have been occupied since approximately the 1400s. This old coach station was once the Sheffield stop on the London to Scotland route. Developed in the 1800s to its current size, this is a four bedroom, link detached, family home with a fantastic garden.

Merely estate agent spin, or is there truth in the claim that this was once an important stop off for travellers passing through Sheffield?  It’s a great story, and one which we’ll try to follow up to find out more.

When combined with Helen’s second Sharrow story, there emerged a strong theme to do with a sense of ‘changing homes’ in the buildings of the area.  We looked at a picture she’d taken on her phone, of the plaque which commemorates the building of the Landsdowne Estate, where she lives in one of the low-rise flats.  Helen had researched into the history of the area and found that her flat is more or less situated in the place where an old road called Cliff Street once was… here is a powerful image of it being demolished back in the 1960’s…

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Copyright Picture Sheffield, Sheffield City Library

Formerly a row of terraces which were demolished as part of Sheffield corporation’s development of ‘slum’ areas, now a cluster of modern, brutalist homes.

These lovely photos by Tim Dennell show snapshots of the estate back in 2010, before it was given a spruce up by the council…

Wash Day at Lansdown

View From a Towerblock Over Lansdown Estate Maisonette Blocks

(Copyright Tim Dennell)

A piece of creative history emerged, organically, when Helen was invited to imagine herself back at the time when she had just moved in, and was making her new flat into a ‘home’.  She described how, when she was decorating it, ‘giving it back the love it needed’, she was peeling back layer upon layer of wallpaper, which seemed to chart the decades of the property’s exsistence.  After scraping away years of interior design fad and fashion, removing traces of former residents, she reached what we thought was the bottom layer – the late-60’s / early-70’s.

Crudely done, lurid bright red above

turquoise below.

We quickly set this scene down on paper, and it began to emerge as a powerful piece of creative writing.  An ode to her home, and its place in the continuum of former and future homes.

This week 14th March, we’ll be building on such thoughts and feelings, using the story of home and domestic life in #Sharrow as our inspiration.

Next week – 21st March, we’ll be using pictures and maps to spark creative writing.

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!