Funding plan to make Man of Steel a reality

Artist Steve Mehdi with a bronze maquette of his Man of Steel sculpture for the M1 near Sheffield ' Picture Chris Lawton
Artist Steve Mehdi with a bronze maquette of his Man of Steel sculpture for the M1 near Sheffield ' Picture Chris Lawton

The Man of Steel is ready to talk money. After five years of planning and negotiations, a business plan is being launched to turn the vision of a 30 metre stainless figure overlooking the M1 near Meadowhall into reality.

Already sculptor Steve Mehdi has secured a wealth of technical expertise, offers of materials, a £1m pledge and a hilltop spot on the Kimberworth side of the motorway.

Recycling and renewable energy business FCC Environment has confirmed that South Yorkshire's Man of Steel is to be sited on its former landfill site, providing a high profile location overlooking the M1 corridor between Rotherham and Sheffield.'The Man of Steel sculpture ' a creation of former steel worker Steve Mehdi ' is designed to embody the region's industrial past, as well as celebrate the new technology sector that has helped regenerate the Sheffield City Region.

Recycling and renewable energy business FCC Environment has confirmed that South Yorkshire's Man of Steel is to be sited on its former landfill site, providing a high profile location overlooking the M1 corridor between Rotherham and Sheffield.'The Man of Steel sculpture ' a creation of former steel worker Steve Mehdi ' is designed to embody the region's industrial past, as well as celebrate the new technology sector that has helped regenerate the Sheffield City Region.

Now appeals are to be made to the private sector, the public and grant giving organisations with a view to the local answer to The Angel of the North going up by 2016.

One of the ideas is to offer the public the chance to have their name engraved on the Man of Steel’s two-and-half metre wide heart at £20 a time.

Finance is the latest challenge faced by Steve, who has already seen the timetable slip. But he is confident of success.

“It is going to happen,” he said. “We have got the team and a funding strategy that has really been thought through.”

The sculpture is designed to signpost the future of the area in specialist steels and engineering, the giant stainless steel figure sitting on a column of composite materials big enough to accommodate an observation tower.

Interest has grown to an extent that it is now being called the Yorkshire Man of Steel, and a four metre model of the work will be displayed at the Great Yorkshire Show in July.

Total costs are estimated at £3.5m. More than £1m is expected to be covered by donations of materials from local firms. “We are looking to raise around £2.5m.”

There is the offer a £1m from a local businessman to match funding from the private sector. An application is due to be made to the Heritage Lottery Fund. “We want to do a public appeal,” added Steve, who lives in Grindleford. “While the project is private sector led, we feel it is important people in the region have the opportunity to invest in it.”

The list of companies he has worked with so far includes FCC Environment, Tata Steels, Performance Engineering Solutions, engineering consultants Mott Macdonald, Axis Achitecture, aluminium fabricators Made in Sheffield, corporate finance experts Dow Schofield Watts and Hallam University, which estimates that the Man of Steel will generate £9m a year in visitor spend in the region.

Much of the technical work has been done at the University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre. Among the latest arrivals is We Are Branding, a creative agency in Sheffield, who are designing a website.

“I took on a project of this size without any experience,” said Steve. “Assembling a team of experts to enable us to get to the stage where we are launching the funding has been incredibly difficult. Having the belief and single-mindedness and listening to criticism has been very important.”

It has led to spin-off commissions, including a sculpture called Tall Dreams for Velocity Village at West Bar and a Tree of Life for Rotherham Hospice.

Now that the Tinsley cooling towers have gone, there is no M1 landmark in South Yorkshire. But the man behind the Man of Steel has another vision. “The main legacy will be education. We want to encourage schoolchildren to consider engineering and science as a career.”