Casting my eyes over the copy from our ‘If you ask me…’ contributors several words in particular leaped out at me. 

Momentum. Transformation. Journey.

These sum up 2017 in Sheffield for me and what I want to see more of in 2018 and beyond – progress.

Some years ago I read a letter in one of the local papers in response to the plans for Charles Street Car Park – now probably better, and more affectionately, known as the Cheesegrater.

It went on to be named the one of ‘coolest car parks in the world’ in 2013 after judges said the design turned ‘a traditional car park shape into a visually striking building’. But back when plans for it were being drawn up, the concept got a decidedly chilly response from the letter writer.

Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells – or Disgruntled from Totley or Tinsley – believed the city neither needed or wanted developments like it. Their argument? These buildings were not for the likes of Sheffield because: ‘We’re not Leeds or Manchester.’

I moved to Sheffield as an undergraduate in the mid-nineties and have seen a lot of changes across my adopted city in the years since. But the letter-writer’s attitude – and they’re far from alone – has always infuriated me, and I believe has probably hindered progress.

Don’t get me wrong – I don’t want to turn Sheffield into Leeds. I’ve always just wanted the city to shout more about its strengths and successes, its ambitions and its attractions, the way our West Yorkshire counterpart does. And ultimately send the message that new developments are for the likes of us.

But as another of our contributors points out: ‘Things have moved on considerably’ for Sheffield in recent years.

It was interesting to note the city ‘mindset’ Sheffield Chamber executive director Richard Wright mentioned recently while commenting on the bid to be the new base for Channel 4’s headquarters.

What is really pleasing to me is that we now have the confidence and ambition to go for this. I wonder if we would have been so serious ten years ago. It shows how far the city has come culturally and mentally.

Progress that would probably be echoed by Coda Planning director Adam Murray who’d like to see the Shalesmoor tram stop renamed Kelham Island to make more of Sheffield as a destination city.

Several Facebook commentators agreed:

‘Kelham Island is a new hub for Tourism & Businesses. Shalesmore (sic) isn’t.’

And, of course, plenty didn’t:

‘Why would Sheffield want to hide its history? … Get a grip and stop trying to be boringly trendy like the South (where i came from)’.

But notice the first reference point in Adam’s quote: “Kelham Island is such an exciting place with its industrial heritage, new street markets, and new community, alongside some very well-established pubs, bars and restaurants – with more opening all the time.”

Taking the city forward in 2018 doesn’t mean ignoring or ‘hiding’ the city’s history. I also come from down south – the boringly trendy (apparently) Ipswich! – and I am as much of a fan of urban exploring as I am touring old buildings like Abbeydale Picture House or Manor Lodge on Heritage Open Days.

As Adam added: “(Kelham Island) resonates with me personally as it’s the area within which two of my grandparents earned their living back in the early to mid-20th century and now I’m doing the same thing in its rejuvenated form.”

This, I feel, is a vision the city needs to be headed towards – a buzzing blend of old and new, established and emerging, traditional and cutting-edge.

I hope this will be the direction for Sheffield in 2018 and beyond.

More from the ‘If you ask me’ series

‘If you ask me…’ with Alexis Krachai – View article

‘If you ask me…’ with Dave Capper – View article

‘If you ask me…’ with Brenda Jordan – View article

‘If you ask me…’ with Jay Bhayani – View article

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