“Before we held the first Lowedges Festival we were told 20 or more times that people would not come,” said Stephen Rich of the Greenhill and Bradway Tenants Association.
“But in year one we had 7,000 and the rest is history.”
That was three years ago and the crowds have steadily grown at the annual festival in Greenhill Park until last Sunday’s attendance reached an estimated 9,000 or more, said Stephen.
“If you do an event properly people will come, it doesn’t matter where it is, it could be in the middle of a field if you do it right and put the work and effort in.”
The Lowedges Festival is organised by the Greenhill and Bradway TARA and the Friends of Greenhill Park group, with support from the Lowedges, Batemoor and Jordanthorpe Community Forum, the local police and NHS, the South Community Assembly, the local Cooperative store and many others.
Stephen and colleague Harry Hunter from the Friends of Greenhill Park will start planning next year’s event in September, said an admiring Martin Hughes of the South Community Assembly.
“Local people make a difference,” said Martin. “Steve has said to me he thinks festivals around the city need to be recognised by the council, the police and the NHS as a way of bringing communities together and should be supported, and that includes with funding. I’m sure this event will bring a legacy of local groups being brought together.”
The event was designed to include something for everyone, with arenas hosting music, dancing, a dog show, a falconry display and more, sports activities, local information stalls and 200 stallholders from around the north selling everything from food and jewellery to novelty squeaking rats at £1 a time.
There were also classic car and motorbike shows and a car boot sale for bargain-hunters.
“We want to give a positive image of this area,” said Roisin Birks of the Lowedges, Batemoor and Jordanthorpe Forum. “Many people don’t even realise this park’s here, we want to get people to realise there are positive things happening here in Lowedges.”
Stephen Rich added that Lowedges had its problems in the past. “But we’ve sorted them out.”
Roisin and Martin noted that the various community groups had got together with the council, the police, the NHS and others to look at the problems and then worked hard to find ways to solve them: the new youth centre and multi-sports area are examples, said Martin.
The local police team were on hand, on bikes and on foot and reflected on the looting and arson they’d seen in London and elsewhere the week before.
“It just never crossed my mind that it would happen here in Lowedges,” said PCSO Kay Trenchard-Hill of the local Safer Neighbourhood Police team.
“It makes me quite proud of this area, and of South Yorkshire in general, that we didn’t see those kinds of things here.”
Lowedeges, like Tottenham High Road, is one of the country’s lowest 5% of residential areas for deprivation: Ealing and Croydon score significantly better on the government’s multiple deprivation index.
But the young and old at the festival on Sunday appeared to be going about their business in a different country to the one depicted recently on worldwide news.
Teenagers admired Hillman Imps and took tea with their parents and grandparents.
And as the event drew to a close, all ages and races laid on their backs on the grass laughing while the team from Phoenix Falconry sent a small hawk swooping a foot above them.
None of the officials at Lowedges felt able to pinpoint why Sheffield appears to avoid the riots and street crime seen in other large cities.
“Historically Sheffield has relatively low levels of crime,” said Martin Hughes.
“Maybe it’s a reflection of what we’ve been done here being done on a citywide level and maybe that’s a contributing factor as to why the unrest we’ve seen in other places hasn’t happened here.”
A boy with his hood up was singled out by the falconry compere, asking: “Have you come up for the day from London?”
lVolunteers are always welcome to help with forthcoming festivals and events in the Lowedges area. Contact Lowedges Batemoor and Jordanthorpe Forum on 0114 2373095.