Celebration of diversity showcases Sharrow spirit
Less than a mile from the city centre, Sharrowvians were making a lively start to Sheffield’s festival season at the first weekend of Tramlines month, writes David Bocking.
“This is a celebration for everyone who lives here, “ said Colin Havard from the Sharrow Festival committee. “It’s about the people of Sharrow coming out to say hello to each other.”The 22nd Sharrow Festival in Mount Pleasant Park on Saturday saw music from local bands, food from local businesses, and 4-5,000 people saying hello in various languages. Other city festivals are available, but Sharrow was noticeable for the numerous leftish of centre political opinions on display along with the music and multicultural street food. “People who choose to live in Sharrow are often politically aware and politically active,” said Kate West of the festival committee. There were clipboard wielders discussing the Sheffield People’s Petition mingling with clean air campaigners, while festivalgoers sporting ‘coal not dole’ badges, Extinction Rebellion logos and the Flag of Europe merrily chatted to each other.“Sheffield has lots of great community festivals, but I think this is probably the biggest and the most diverse,” said local MP Paul Blomfield over his samosa. “Sharrow represents lots of community groups and local businesses and people campaigning around issues, and it all works brilliantly around this great music.” Kate West said much of the festival success came from the 25 or more volunteers who helped make it all happen.“We’ve had people helping from all backgrounds with all sorts of abilities, and they love it because they say it gives them the chance to put something back into the area. And it’s the actual population who come out here, not just people who like festivals.” But where is Sharrow? A few years ago, Colin Havard sent out a survey asking people this question, with little success. “We asked 100 people and got 100 different answers,” he said.Sharrow is probably located between Queens Road and the Inner Ring Road, but the border with Nether Edge varies, he suggested, depending on your relationship with a property’s estate agent. “Maybe Sharrow is a concept,” he mused. “It’s a multi cultural multi faith area where people get on.” The area is an example of community cohesion, said Kate West, which she defined as: “People from different cultures living well with each other.” She added that the area is economically diverse too, with new businesses setting up along London and Abbeydale Roads and their backstreets, and more people from the local area and beyond visiting the growing Sharrow and Nether Edge cafe culture.“I think it’s becoming more long term for businesses too,” she said. “It’s possible more businesses are finding it easier to survive.” Supporters of Premier League teams arriving in August will find a thriving inner city community on Bramall Lane’s doorstep, it seems. Colin Havard has lived in Sharrow for 18 years, and remembers the old comparisons of how Abbeydale Road and London Road aspired to be like the old ‘golden mile’ on Ecclesall Road.“But we’d say: ‘Why would we want to be the next Ecclesall Road? Surely we want to be London Road.’”Paul Blomfield said: “This is an area that has been characterised by small businesses. You only have to go down Abbeydale Road and London Road to get a sense of that entrepreneurial zeal, reflected in the people making a success out of their small businesses. Ecclesall Road is very different, but I think this area is every bit as successful and vital, and perhaps even more diverse.” Colin noted comparisons now being made with Sheffield’s new foodie neighbourhood at Kelham, but whereas Kelham Island has regenerated from a post-industrial backwater, Sharrow has “never been empty.”He said: “Kelham Island is great. But this is different.” Around him Sharrowvians drank prosecco and Fanta, danced and discussed, painted henna and played bongos. “Every community has its challenges,” said the local MP. “But if you think an event like this is a pretty good litmus test for how a community is doing - and I think it is - then we’re doing okay in Sharrow.”