James Biggin is managing director of Steel City Marketing, a promotional gifts company which this month celebrates 35 years. Born in Sheffield, James, aged 40, studied International Business Studies at Northumbria University. He spent his third year in Chambery, France, at the Ecole Superieur and did work experience in a French Decathlon store. James returned to the area and - not wanting to go straight into the family business - worked in Dronfield as a graduate trainee with a company trading in ferro-alloys and metals. The illness and early retirement of his father’s co-director coincided with a discussion between James and his father about moving into the family business, first learning the ropes in sales, then becoming a director in 2004. Away from the office James loves squash and skiing and is a keen follower of other sports. He lives in Dore with wife Rachel, daughter Rosie, son Archie and recent additions, cats Minnie and Merlin.
I’ll start with our city parks in general because of the sheer greenery. From Millhouses to Graves, I have been as a child myself and now take my own children to so many of them. If I had to pick one, it would be Endcliffe Park because of the sheer diversity of offerings – the great café, the amazing play area for the kids, the duck pond and the beautiful walk that can take you up through Forge Dam and on into the Peaks. Great for running through too. Rachel and I have both run that route and she enjoys the popular 5K Park Run there.
It just has everything in terms of cafes, bars and restaurants. From being a child, treats were Uncle Sam’s and Yankees. Now you can get anything from a quick drink- and here I confess to a soft spot for the Porter Brook pub - to a coffee and cake, a delicious meal or a full night out. I’d have to pick Graze Inn as my top choice. It has a nice bar which isn’t too busy, is spacious, friendly and Richard Smith’s food is- as usual- terrific.
I remember going to the original Sheaf Valley Baths as a kid, and seeing the diving board at one end. I am now lucky enough to take my little boy to diving classes here. The facilities and the team of coaches are amazing! At Christmas I did my first dive as an adult from the 10m board. It was nerve-wracking and hurt - something I’m not sure I plan to repeat this year!
Abbeydale Sports Club
Since I was born it seems, Abbeydale has been part of my life. I remember going down to watch my dad playing squash, then learning to play squash myself at eight, then cricket. Now I take my own children - and with family and work commitments my focus is keeping on top of my squash. As a teen I was in the same cricket team as Michael Vaughan, who was in a different class. Later on I used to spot two very young kids with blond hair, playing all weekend: these were Joe and Billy Root. Abbeydale has produced some amazing cricketing talent over the years. I played Colts Rugby briefly as well as hockey, but it has been squash for most of my life. My game is improving and I hope to take a few more points off current world number two Nick Matthew when I next get him on court. People have no idea how many sports are up that drive on Abbeydale Road South.
About as Sheffield as it comes – you can use it on anything and it makes the meal better! My kids love it, especially on cheese on toast. From a brand perspective, it has probably inspired more art than any other condiment, except perhaps Andy Warhol’s ketchup. They say it’s the only thing in Sheffield everyone agrees on!
This has been our chosen charity for the past few years. Our two children had operations when they were very young and we’ve been back occasionally for bumps and knocks. Most locals don’t realise it is one of only four dedicated children’s hospitals in the UK, with plans for expansion and at the forefront of world-class treatments. It’s an amazing place we are so blessed to have in our city.
Just around the corner from the current Steel City ‘HQ’, the Kelham Island area has a really lovely feel and I admire the way that it’s sprung back into life from a difficult period. The Real Ale culture grew from here with the Fat Cat, Kelham Island brewery and others, and it is such big business now - they are rightly renowned in their sphere. And not just for ale - you can call into places like The Milestone, or for a special event The Chimney House takes some beating. The Grind café is also pretty special.