Mark Gamsu is a freelance public health professional, visiting professor at Leeds Metropolitan University and an artist who specialises in woodcuts and drawing.
He is currently finalising preparations for the Chance to Dance festival, which will see thousands of people dancing in Sheffield city centre on Saturday, June 30, with ‘stages’ in Fargate, Barkers Pool and the Peace Gardens.
“I don’t deny my London origins, but 22 years ago my partner Evelyn and I decided to move to Sheffield. We stayed initially in Shiregreen before moving over to the west of the city – Hunters Bar and now Fulwood.
“One of the things that I like about Sheffield is that if something is happening then you can be part of it.
“So I was really pleased to be asked by Maire McCarthy, who runs many of the city’s festivals, to work with her to set up and chair a voluntary organisation to bring Chance to Dance back.
“There will be a fantastic range of dance groups performing – from Bill Newby’s Steel City Salsa and Tango Argentina through to Bollywood and Morris – and, of course, all the dance groups will be inviting people who watch to join in.
“I think this is one of the things that we do really well in Sheffield – people coming together, being creative and recognising that we all have something to offer.”
Voluntary and community sector
Sheffield has a rich and vibrant voluntary and community sector and I have been pleased to be involved with a number of organisations who play such an important role in the city.
I am a trustee of Sheffield Mental Health CAB and Advocacy Service. We are proud to have been rated as one of the best Citizen’s Advice Bureaux in the country.
As well as providing a service in the community we also work on the wards – part of a long-term partnership with the supportive Sheffield Health and Social Care NHS Foundation Trust. We are always interested in more volunteers!
Most Saturday mornings you can find me down at Castle Market. I think it is a great place. The building is a cracker from the 1960s.
If you ignore its well used and sadly rather dilapidated facade, it’s possible to appreciate the high quality of the design inside, the lovely curved warm wooden bannisters – with special places to lean and chat to your friends, the market clock and the original lettering still on many of the stalls.
It’s a peaceful place, calm and well ordered, with people respectful of each other, stall holders smartly turned out and some great market cafes.
My current favourite is the Rooftop Cafe – they do a really nice ‘full English’ and their cottage pie is good too.
I’m a big fan of coffee shops. I’m sorry to mention chains, but I go regularly to Starbucks at the bottom of Fargate and Cafe Nero in the Peace Gardens. They are both great places for sketching and the staff in both of them are always friendly and helpful. I don’t just go to chains though.
There are some really good independents now such as Bragazzi and the Rude Shipyard on Abbeydale Road and in town the newer Tamper, in Westfield Terrace. All have a really nice atmosphere, great service, food and, of course, excellent coffee.
The Kop at Bramall Lane
I didn’t follow football before I came to Sheffield, but my two sons got me interested, and they still come along when they are in Sheffield. I have a season ticket and sit with ‘Uncle Brian’ on the Kop.
We always meet first for a quick couple of pints at the lovely Bath Hotel – which will hopefully change little now that Thornbridge have taken it over from the excellent Brian Johnson.
This visit, of course, means that we are definitely in the queue for the toilets at half time, which means that we can enjoy the slow ‘march of the penguins’ along the back of the Kop to the gents - plenty of time to share out thoughts on another excellent (or otherwise) performance by the red and white Wizards.
On the subject of toilets, the councillors’ toilet on the first floor of the town hall (I used to pop in when I worked there) is a lovely example of posh Victorian sanitary ware and I was glad to see that the cracked washbasin was finally fixed a few years ago!
Butterworths Bike Shops
Another Sheffield institution. Yes, I know that there is now no direct connection between Abbeydale Road and Catch Bar Lane except a shared name.
They are both great shops and despite the welcome growth of other outlets in the city I think they remain two of the best.
They are both run by really knowledgable people. Nothing is ever too much trouble and they always do a good job.
Mind you, taking the shortcut back from the Hillsborough Butterworths, up Hagg Lane, is not to be recommended – it may not be the longest hill in Sheffield but I think it is one of the steepest.
I cycle a lot in Sheffield and the few occasions I have had to cycle up it count as some of the most unpleasant and difficult – but what a relief when you get to the top.
A bit of art
Many of us in Sheffield feel that we were treated very shabbily by the Arts Council when they cut funding to our big galleries. Nonetheless there is still some really good stuff going on.
A couple of independents that I am a fan of are Bank Street Arts – a really innovative little gallery that often has some really interesting exhibitions – and the Showroom which continues to be a great outlet for independent cinema and has some great festivals like DocFest which brings the world to Sheffield!
My favourite sculpture in Sheffield is the Walking Man by George Fullard. I still think that his best position was in front of the old town hall extension – when he usually had a fag in his mouth.
He was then bunged into the gardens at the back of the Millennium Gallery before being moved to the steps of the Winter Garden.
I still think he is lost there and would like to see him in a more prominent place. Barkers Pool or in front of the town hall would be nice.
Nick Clegg’s constituency office
One of Nick Clegg’s biggest achievements has to be the way that he has livened up Nethergreen Road. Hardly a month goes by without a demonstration or delegation at his office.
Long may that continue.