Sharrow was once known as Little Sheffield – home to a densely populated industrial community.
A century on, those origins are being remembered and its traditions revived thanks to a new community of workers based in the area’s historic heart.
Regather is a trading co-operative set up in 2010 in the old Horn Handle Works in Club Garden Road. Since then it has established itself and grown in both size and influence. From a single unit in the Grade II-listed works, it has now taken over six, and its activities range from a weekly organic veg box scheme to hire of space for workshops and events.
It also runs its own programme of films, a comedy club, music – and a monthly supper club.
The most recent, last week, was part of the week-long Little Sheffield Festival, which celebrated the area’s vibrant heritage and post-industrial food culture. It seemed like a good time to go along and check it out...
Regather was founded by three members of the local community. One of them, Gareth Roberts, remains a key driver behind the project – in fact a year ago he gave up his job as a lecturer at Hallam University to run it full time.
It’s about gathering people, ideas, skills and opportunitiesGareth Roberts, co-founder
“It’s not about goods and services,” he says. “It’s about a process of bringing people, ideas, skills and opportunities together... regathering them.”
Over the last six years the co-operative has helped to nurture everything from a record label to an early years school, but gradually its focus has become clear.
“Now we know what we want to do and how it all fits together,” says Gareth.
Food culture is at the heart of Regather’s activities.
Its fruit and veg box scheme has become a popular cornerstone of operations, buying organic produce from Wortley Hall, the Freeman College’s High Riggs market garden and Sheffield Organic Growers. Eco-friendly deliveries are made around the area from as little as £10.50 per week.
The co-operative brews its own craft beer on the premises, selling it from the bar at £3.50 a pint, and also runs an outside catering service.
The professional kitchen is used by at least five local businesses – including the Real Junk Food Project, which creates meals entirely from waste or surplus food.
Overseeing this side of things is kitchen manager and chef Sally Morris.
Sally grew up in South Yorkshire but spent most of her holidays with family in Portugal. After university, she became a community worker then, ultimately, a chef, honing her skills with the team at the Burton Street Project.
Then she set off to satisfy her wanderlust; she discovered the exotic cuisines of India and Peru – and ran her own restaurant near Machu Picchu. But the altitude made her ill, so she returned to Sheffield.
When the opportunity arose to become part of Regather, it was just the challenge she was looking for. Now their new monthly supper club is giving her a chance to share her love of world cuisine with others.
The Little Sheffield supper club takes place in the studio – a long, narrow room decorated with hanging baskets and a full-size street lamp – where they also host cinema nights and gigs.
A single long table is covered in white cloths and laid with 30 place settings. Up a flight of steps at one side, an arrow points to the bar.
We don’t know anyone else, but it’s a convivial affair: we’re soon quaffing pints of Regather Craft Ale (like an old-fashioned malt ale, I’m told) and happily chatting to our new friends.
An amuse bouche sets the tone for this vegetarian world feast: bruschetta-style slices of crisp-baked rye bread are spread with creamed sweet potato and coriander.
Gareth welcomes us, then Sally and her team deliver the Vietnamese starter – bowls of green papaya salad with peanuts and mint.
It’s unusual and delicious: strips of crisp, unripe papaya, sliced radish and chopped mint are dressed with sour lime, hot chili and just a hint of sweetness, while peanuts add a bit of crunch.
Then comes the main course: Turkish meze comprising eight different dishes, some hot, some cold but all beautifully presented.
There’s carrot kofta, soft and sweet; a cinnamon-scented aubergine casserole; nutty baked humus; and leeks in olive oil.
Fava paste with dill sauce is lost on me – smooth and firm but pretty tasteless – but I love the chunky courgette and apple salad in hazlenut sauce; heritage tomatoes with tahini dressing; and mixed pickles with a wonderful sweet/sour tang.
We help ourselves to as much as we can eat, with homemade flatbreads and yogurt dip, then it’s on to dessert – lychee and ginger cheesecake from Thailand.
If I’m being picky, it’s a standard biscuit crumb base with a fairly sloppy cream topping, decorated with pieces of crystallised ginger and a fresh lychee. But I love ginger and lychees and it tastes amazing, so who cares?
The next Regather supper club is on October 12, featuring a menu from Peru.
* Regather Works, 57-59 Club Garden Road, Sharrow S118BU (0114) 2731258 Regather