Nick Gillott is a director of J F Finnegan Ltd, the Sheffield-based construction company formed in 1945 and responsible for Sheffield icons like the Cheesegrater car park, Wards Brewery redevelopment and the two Sheffield Colleges. Nick has lived in and around Sheffield all his life. He now lives in Dore with his wife Sarah and three children, Oliver, Mia and Poppy.
I don’t care how many times this has been said, but a third of our city lies in the Peak District National Park - no other English city does that. My passion for it started some time ago, triggered when my wife got a job at the Park Authority, she had a soft-top sports car and I was extremely jealous of her commute through that incredible scenery, around those twisting corners. I’m now a keen photographer and a fair weather cyclist, so it’s my playground.
What does a middle-aged man know about Sheffield music? To be honest I’m only aware of Bring Me the Horizon because they had a studio in one of our old buildings for a time. Nonetheless Sheffield appears to still have a thriving music scene and has done for as long as I can remember. I’ll avoid listing all the artists I like, but suffice to say my life has been soundtracked by Sheffield bands starting as a child listening to The Human League. At 18 if I didn’t end up in the Leadmill at least once a week I was doing it wrong. For music, why hasn’t Sheffield won the UK City of Culture at least once?
I’ve worked on Eccy Road for nearly 30 years, give or take, so it’s taken for granted, but when you think of your favourite things it’s got to be on the list. It’s four miles of hell for the commuter, but otherwise you can get pretty much anything you need in your lunch hour - you can do the dry cleaning, get a haircut, stare into the Bang and Olufsen shop and still have time for a sandwich. At night it’s arguably the hub of our city, it’s blessed with all sorts of bars and restaurants.
In 1988 this building was Grade II* listed because it played such a key role in Sheffield industrial history. At much the same time I left school and started work. Some 16 years later, like all the buildings on Arundel Street, it was still in terminal decline and the owner was trying to find a new custodian so my firm purchased it. I was charged with delivering its restoration and we had a really great team, but it felt like a big responsibility. It was the last chance to protect this historic building. Since its completion a decade ago the whole Cultural Industries Quarter has been transformed beyond all recognition. So when I walk through the arch and stare at the impressive chimney it’s a space full of memories and will hopefully stand for another 200 years.
Our Innovation District
We don’t shout about this kind of thing enough - it’s the first in the UK. I don’t want to get bogged down in all the acronyms: AMID, SBP, AMRC. What’s important is that it’s bringing jobs and investment; it’s an eco-system for firms with similar technological needs. Businesses want to come and we need them. The plan is to support this success and start to consider the best way to address transport, housing and recreation. It’s far bigger than any one organisation involved and it’s developing all the time. Locally we seem to have the resources, relevant talent and skills to attract world-leading employers and it’s fast becoming our Silicon Valley.
Of course I drink tea now and again - I’m from Yorkshire - but I wake up for coffee, I do business over it and can’t have a day out-and-about without stopping for a cup. If I’m honest I’m suspicious of the un-caffeinated. It’s great that our city offers some fantastic independent coffee places. My favourite venues have revitalised buildings from our industrial heritage like Tamper Sellers Wheel and Steam Yard. My wife’s a serious tea drinker, but she also loves a flat white at Bragazzis. That place is a Sheffield institution. I like the trust exercise when you go and settle up: “What have you had then?”