Sheffield is one of the most welcoming cities in the world
Kevin Unwin, 59, is Managing Director of Self Architects and White Design, the Sheffield-based architectural and design practice.Married to Catherine for 35 years, with two children, Kevin has lived and worked in Sheffield all his life.
I am so proud to come from Sheffield and I love the fact that the city is like a big village. You can go out
and nine times out of ten you’ll meet people that you know.
It could not be more far removed from the archetypal anonymous big city, where nobody talks to each
other and you can feel a stranger even though you’re surrounded by masses of people. Sheffield must be
amongst the most friendly and welcoming cities in the world.
I know clients who have just stayed in the city for a night and been amazed that people have asked them
to join them for something to eat or a drink!
I know everyone says it, but the fact that we have a National Park literally on our doorsteps is just
I have been going out to the Peak District since I was about 12 years-old. I was too young to join the
Scouts so became a Boy’s Brigade cadet and our Brigade Captain was a big advocate of walking and
would take us into the Peaks as often as possible, waking, scrambling and rock climbing.
For years my wife and I have gone walking in the Peak District most Saturdays and it’s always such a
pleasure. Among our favourite walks are Baslow to Curbar Edge and Stanedge Edge, including Robin
More closer to home, we can be in the Mayfield Valley in ten minutes which is always our family Boxing
Five Weirs Walk
Our practice has recently moved into new city centre offices at Quayside House, close to Victoria Quays
at the head of the Sheffield and Tinsley Canal.
We really feel we are at the heart of the city – very much in touch with Sheffield’s rich industrial past and
part of its vibrant and exciting future.
One of the lovely discoveries is the Five Weirs Walk, the canal towpath that follows the River Don for
eight kilometres and makes the perfect urban alternative to the Peak District.
You can walk along the canal side and see the old steel and cutlery works. I remember having a summer
job when I was about 15 in one of the cutlery factories which really was an eye-opening experience.
It frightened the life out of me every time I had to go into the buffer works where the Sheffield buffer
girls were – a particular breed of women who had a tough job buffing the cutlery and who knew how to
scare the pants off a naïve teenage boy!
The Five Weirs Walk is proving a hit with some of our team who are very keen runners and it also feeds
one of my big passions which is industrial architecture.
Whether it’s along the canal side or across other parts of the city you can still see lots of buildings which
provide a literal window into Sheffield’s industrial past.
These are the places that made Sheffield what it is – the old mills and the steelworks, the workshops and
warehouses. I think we still produce as much steel as we ever did and the ‘Made in Sheffield’ mark still
represents quality and craftsmanship, but these buildings give such a fascinating insight into some of the
forces that have shaped Sheffield and its people.
It’s one of the reasons why I enjoy discovering and having a drink in some of Sheffield’s oldest pubs in
Darnall, Brightside and around Kelham Island, before it became so popular. We work in the hospitality
sector for clients across the country delivering new restaurants, pubs and hotels, but I have a real soft
spot for old, traditional, independent pubs.
Sheffield Manor Lodge
If I had not worked in the Architectural sector, I would have liked to have been an archaeologist. I also
love discovering some of our city’s hidden gems like Sheffield Manor Lodge, once a large Tudor manor
house associated with Sheffield Castle. The house was the home of George Talbot, 6th Earl of Shrewsbury
and his wife Bess of Hardwick. Mary, Queen of Scots was held as a prisoner here in the 1570s and 1580s.
It’s an important historic building which used to stand in the middle of a deer park but is now right in the
middle of the Manor council housing estate, so is something you really have to find and it’s only open a
few days a year. But it’s really worth a visit.
Although I’m not a great theatre lover my wife and daughter are and very rarely miss a production at
Sheffield Theatres. I do like to go to the cinema but normally find the big chain complexes to be
uncomfortable and impersonal places.
The exception for many years in Sheffield has been the Curzon and it’s great now to see The Light on The
Moor has followed this example. You can sit down in comfort, get something to eat and take a glass of
something in with you to watch the film.