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)
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)…
…some historical images of Sharrow such as this of the Drill Hall, courtesy of Picture Sheffield…
Instagram feeds with the #Sharrow hashtag…
…photos by the the excellent Sheffield photographer Tim Dennell…
…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 assault 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!
Next, 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.