The Big Challenge: Taking responsibility for peace in Sheffield

editorial image

Within discussions about how to tackle climate change, there’s often a disagreement about whether people should take individual action, or whether they should focus more on lobbying government for change. We think this is a false tension. Governments clearly have the power to create the conditions that make it easier, or harder, for people to tread lightly on the world. But people can and should take responsibility.

Taking responsibility sounds boring but it can be really fun. Find something you love to do, something that makes your heart sing, and make a connection to something you love and want to protect. The folk at Peace in the Park in Sheffield love music, dancing, food, crafts, yoga and all that a festival can bring. We wanted to protect spaces for people to talk about and share messages of peace, respect and unity. So we created a connection between the things we love to do - the festival - and the thing we love and want to protect - peace.

In 2003 the first Peace in the Park was held on Devonshire Green, evolving from grassroots protests in opposition to war. The festival hosted a venue for local bands, artists, musicians, campaigning groups and members of the public to come together in unity, making a solid commitment to peace. Over the years, Peace in the Park has grown and evolved into the massive platform that it is now. We seek to amplify the voices of people campaigning for justice and equality, like our collaboration with Sheffield Climate Alliance to create the Climate Zone.

We promote peace and understanding by bringing together communities through artistic, musical and vocal expression. We want to create a movement of peace, agencies and networks, all of whom have the same heart as Peace in the Park; to work together year-round, to connect with local communities to highlight the importance of peace. We’ve got a really broad understanding of peace. It’s more than the absence of war. It’s the absence of violence and injustice.

Peace in the Park is more than the one-day festival in June. It is a year-round movement that tries to create opportunities for people to connect over common interests. Much of this is done through supporting and promoting the brilliant work of community groups, faith groups, litter-pickers, youth clubs, craft sessions, gardening groups and campaigning organisations. We see people making friends over a common purpose, looking out for each other as they try to make their community a better place. The festival is a big highlight, of course.

Whether newcomers or old faithfuls, the folks who attend Peace in the Park festival always get something out of it. Particularly those who live in the great tower blocks who hang out of their windows and are tempted down by the music and sounds of fun.

Ponderosa is enjoyed year-round by Upperthorpe residents, but it is not an area without tension. On this day of the year there is peace. We want to try to bring more of the festival spirit, that magic of ‘everyone’s just mixed up together,’ into our year-round movement.

In the future we hope to see the festival guided by the collective imagination and drive of a broader group of people.

To do this we need help. While we have to fundraise to cover costs, so much of Peace in the Park is born out of pure goodwill, generosity of time, sharing ideas and skills. It’s a festival run on kindness, on the power of volunteers. Will you join the Peace in the Park movement for 2017-18 and for the long term? Could you bring a dish to a Picnic for Peace? Could your class help make Patches of Peace to decorate the next festival? Could you make a donation or run a fundraiser? Can you help us ‘leave no trace’ and collect and recycle after the festival? Do you have a vision for the whole festival?

However big or small your contribution, we want to hear from you. Email stewards@peaceinthepark.org.uk to get in touch.

n This year’s festival happens on the Ponderosa park in Upperthorpe from midday to 8pm on Saturday.