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Sheffield’s journey:
ignore the naysayers and crack on

Sheffield’s journey was an adventure into the future for a group of Sheffielders from all walks of life and all parts of the city in autumn 2021. Together they examined this moment in Sheffield’s history and the past that brought us here, and dreamed of a brighter future for the city they love: one that fully reflects the potential of Sheffield’s incredible people and places. Listen to the crew’s story in their own words here.

Made by Jo Barratt with Gemma Mortensen, Iris Andrews and Lily Piachaud

Our crew of inspiring Sheffielders (who were involved in one or more of the three gatherings that formed this journey) included Abtisam Mohamed, Alexis Krachai, Anthony Olaseinde, Beatrix Butnicu, Dave Hembrough, Gulnaz Hussain, Helen Sims, James Lock, James O’Hara, Jodie Marshall, Kate Josephs, Kathryn Littlewood, Kiri Joanna, Louisa Harrison-Walker, Mahara Haque, Martin McKervey, Matthew Yates, Matthew Pinder, Maxine Greaves, Miranda Plowden, Nathan Geering, Novaya Bedward-Makanjuola, Rebecca Varley, Sandi Carman, Sarah Want, Steve Anwar, Terezia Terry and Waqas Hameed.


I like walking around the city. It’s not boring.  You  have to navigate yourself around it and I think there’s something  quite nice about that.  

I love the fact that there’s countryside which is accessible. 

It’s the only city that crosses the boundaries of a National Park.  

The geography of the city is amazing but actually the character of the city is people. 

I love the hustle and bustle of the busyness that the students bring. I love the working class mentality and the realness of the people that walk the streets and the humour they face life with.  

Creative. It’s also hard working. Most of the things that I love in the city are,  certainly businesses are, um, run by independent people.  

Our clusters of world leading research and industrial collaboration and high value manufacturing. 

Our two football teams and our basketball team. 

Obviously, you know, we’ve got a long history of musicians, artists.

There’s lots of doers.

 In the teaching hospitals and the universities with what they contribute and bring. 

It’s a place where you can be yourself. It’s a multicultural city. 

Sheffield allowed me to have a fresh start in my life and allowed me to mould myself into the person I am today. 

Opportunity and energy, vibrancy, and just people coming together, working hard  to create a better future, to scratch an itch, to build something and do something worthwhile. 

Sheffield isn’t as modern as it could be. It’s not as progressive. 

I think it’s had a lot of knockbacks and I think that’s affected it’s the collective confidence of the place. 

 I think it’s lost its identity.  So it’s a bit of a pick and mix at minute. You know, we was a, the city of steel, like, not many other cities can, can claim something so good, you know, but we’ve lost our identity. 

If you go to different parts of Sheffield, you’ll know that it does feel like being in a completely different place. 

I think of the division between the east and west of the city, the persistent and growing social and racial inequality. 

Areas that are more affluent, don’t know what is happening in the deprived community.  

The economic divide, the social divide. It feels like we have a lot of homelessness in the city. A massive divide in health outcomes depending on where you’re born in the city and where you live.  

The fact the economy just isn’t working for everyone.  

The dark is everywhere on the streets of Sheffield where narrow pavements, narrow entrances and lack of benches tell disabled people you’re not welcome. Outside, with us.  

Poor connectivity across the city, we’ve got air pollution, boarding up shops in Fargate, queues on the parkway in Penistone Road.  

The negativity, the naysayers, the people that don’t want to do and just criticise.  

It’s Inability to grasp what’s in front of it.  

If you’re too humble, you can never make any real progress.

A sense of insecurity about who we are.  

It’s that unknown of what are we going to do next? What is the future for Sheffield? 

On the way home today, I got a taxi. The taxi driver said, how’s your day? What have you been doing?  I said, revisiting Sheffield, reimagining the future of Sheffield.  And he said, oh, good luck with that.  I said, well, what’s wrong with Sheffield? How do you want the future to be? He said, that’s all rubbish, it’s going downhill, isn’t it? I said, is it? Does it have to? Can we not do something about that? He said, uh, no chance. I said, isn’t it worth trying? Isn’t it worth thinking or challenging? What’s possible? And he said, yeah, maybe it is.  And I asked him what he liked about Sheffield, what was good. He found it really hard to answer. And perhaps that’s part of what we need to move away from,  a culture and a mindset of negativity or  limited thinking. 

Some elements of the past will always be there. You can’t eradicate the history,  you can use it to help shape a new future.  

Over all my experience of living in Sheffield, political rivalries have massively undermined change and frustrated those trying to make things different and better. 

We need to leave behind misogyny and casual sexism, racism of any kind.

We need to leave behind ableism, transphobia, homophobia, racism, xenophobia, misogyny, mental health stigma, toxic masculinity. We need to bring together the doers to be able to move forward together despite or in spite of people that may not be happy with the journey or may not be happy with the direction. 

We need to leave behind hunger for power and money and social reverence. 

Institutions who work for themselves but not collaboratively for the benefit of the city. 

We need to leave behind the attitude towards the council, and recognise that they’re made up of individuals that are working their hardest and doing their best.

We need to listen to our youth, we need to listen to the population of Sheffield, and actually, decide what they need so that we can, um, reach equity.

I think we need to leave behind the dogma, the old ways of doing things, entrenched mindset. We’ve had this thing of um, wanting to be like Leeds or like Manchester or like somewhere else and really we’re just, we’re just great for being Sheffield and that we should forget trying to be anywhere else. 

We need to leave behind what we learned about others from others and go and explore ourselves. We need to explore without any fear. I think we kind of need to leave our limiting beliefs. A lot of people in Sheffield get stuck in a rut, and negative thinking and expecting others, expecting outside forces that are going to come and save, save the day or solve the problems. That’s never going to happen. 

We  need to put the talking behind us and act more. We need to leave behind  assuming that if we do things the way it’s always been done, it will work this time. I think we need to look towards what the next hundred years hold. rather than  celebrating things that happened 100 years ago. 

So the stars are supposed to be a new map that we’re creating where the stars are principles that we want to embrace. 

In day to day life you’re very kind of here and now focused, you’re concentrating on what’s straight ahead of you, on projects, so working in concepts and principles is slightly more challenging for someone like me. But I think as the day goes on this is the exciting bit, this is where we are now looking to the future and we’ve looked at the past, we’ve looked at what we’d like to change, what needs to change, we’ve had the difficult conversations, so now it’s looking to the future and coming up with a better Sheffield. 

So it was kind of like grouping which go together and how they fit together, so kind of like a bit of a jigsaw, really. That’s what we was kind of like trying to decipher. For us, like, the end goal was we want Sheffield to be the 21st century standard of living. Like, that’s what we wanted as a city.  

Youth. The work around youth and their empowerment. That is the main for me. Looking at future for my children and others. We thought what was missing all the way through really was enough consideration to the fact that we’ve got a really poor economy. What is the priority? Is it getting something done fast or, or longer term? Is it, is it the effect? 

It’s an enabler, but it’s also the way we want to get to. It’s got to be both.  

One of the ones that  coming into it I wouldn’t have expected or wouldn’t have kind of um, come to I don’t think, is this. idea of care as a culture, not as a cure, kind of idea of being constantly mindful of people’s physical and mental health is actually, A, it’s a kind of much nicer way to live, but B, actually, it’s probably a more economically sensible way of doing it as well.

Everything from economic to business to greenery and long term plan.

For me, being a young person, it’s about having that boldness to overachievers, we’re going to overachieve. 

Potential risks are around who’s got agency to implement. So whilst there’s a wide range of perspectives in the room, the people don’t necessarily belong to organizations that have got resource or agency to implement.  

I’m very keenly aware that there are people in this group that don’t have much power, um, and some who have a lot of power. The people who have more power, institutional or otherwise, will have more power, Much more of an idea of how to put things into practice. 

 How on earth do we communicate and engage the wider community of Sheffield and communities of Sheffield, I’d say, rather than one community in this process? I’m really believing it. We’ve got to tell the story of this before we can tell the story of Sheffield before we can,  and it needs to build in momentum.  

I’m looking forward to the opportunity to work through some of the practicalities and it might be that some of the people that need to take responsibility for those things are not in this room yet, um, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be drawn in. You’re always going to have some cynics, um, but we just have to ignore those people. I think there’s enough of a groundswell of people that want change that you can just ignore the naysayers and crack on. 

If I’m thinking like this and I’m one young person, then what are all these other young people in Sheffield thinking about how they can create better things for their future and for generations to come.

The most valuable thing out of this, which is if nothing else happens, meeting all these people from various different backgrounds has been incredibly informative for me. 

I would like to see the boardrooms I sit in  as representative as this room that I’m in now today. I think if it was representative like that, we’d make such better decisions.

I think there’s a lot of, um, shared sense of purpose and a lot of willingness. The sense is everybody would like change for better from where we are. We don’t do anything. Things will happen.  But if you want to change, you need to be more radical than that.  

If I tell you about, I don’t know, maybe, um, a car and I’m trying to sell you the car. You might not want the car, but you know, I’m still going to try to. But imagine if I said to you, Oh, you know, I mean,  will you tell me how you think the tire should be on this car? You know?  You’re more inclined to buy that car after because you’ve had an input on what the car’s like, do you know what I mean? We’re all saying the same thing. We’ve established that now. Let’s do something about it. 

It’s almost like we’re on Shifting Sands. So we’re just trying to figure out the next step and every time we put our foot down, we think further. The more I talk to others  within the group, the more I realize that I’m not the only one thinking like this and we just need to focus on making ourselves stronger. 

Because there will be many things thrown at us. So I think we need to focus on long term. I think we need to  believe in the stars. I think if we put like minded people together in a room, then ideas naturally start formulating, but that opportunity needs to be consistent. If a few people get together, then they can start changing the norms. There’s strength in unity.