Favourite Things: Talking points that make Sheffield a focus for life and leisure
John Stratford is the lead technician at Sheffield Talking News. Originally from Gloucestershire, John came to Sheffield in 1994, when he began working at Sheffield University as the head of learning media. His background is in media production - before settling here he worked for the BBC, helping to make programmes for the Open University. John, who started volunteering at Talking News in 2007, now runs a production unit called Moving Frame, which began as a venture to make videos for charities. John, aged 68, lives in Millhouses and is married to Sheila, a retired teacher. He has three grown-up children - two daughters and a son - and three grandchildren.
I’ve heard Sheffield described as ‘a dirty picture in a golden frame’. Sheffield may not be so dirty any more but the frame – i.e. the surrounding countryside – is still golden. I love walking on Stanage Edge or Froggatt Edge on a beautiful clear day. The views are breathtaking and it’s hard to believe it’s all so close to Sheffield city centre. And on the theme of walks, where would we be without Sheffield’s woodlands? Being close to my home, Ecclesall Woods are a natural favourite.
Sheffield is often cited as the city of beer, but in addition to what you drink it’s equally important to consider where you drink it – and Sheffield has some cracking pubs. The Fat Cat probably rates as my favourite, especially if I’m in good company and we’re lucky enough to get one of the snug tables alongside the coal fire on a winter’s day. The Kelham Island Tavern may rate as a close second – or is it the Sheaf View in Heeley? So hard to choose.
I’m certainly not one for shopping but the character and diversity of shops in a street can make it a good place to stroll along and indulge in the growing popularity of flaneurship. Sections of Abbeydale Road are certainly attractive in that respect, representing a street in a fascinating stage of evolution. Particularly attractive to my own eye are Jameson’s the tea shop, Swallows and Damsons the florist, Mr Pickles, and the Forge Bakehouse right alongside Turners craft beer bottle shop – artisan bread and quality beer side by side. And let’s not forget long established Bardwells that sells everything the electronics nerd could ever require.
The Crucible Theatre is an absolute gem, as too is The Studio - top class and often challenging theatre in intimate surroundings. Good luck to Robert Hastie. Volunteering as I do for a charity that serves people with visual impairment (Sheffield Talking News), I’m particularly impressed with the work Sheffield Theatres are doing to make theatre more accessible to disabled people on stage, behind the scenes, and in the audience.
Weston Park Museum is a great place to visit. Being a recent grandparent, I’m seeing all the things it has to offer to young and old alike. Although I’m an incomer to Sheffield (23 years nowhere near makes me a real Sheffielder), the history gallery makes me feel a great nostalgia for what once was in this city. Is that part of the meaning of ‘home’?
The Winter Garden
How visionary of Sheffield to build a Winter Garden in the very heart of the city, especially with the Millennium Gallery alongside it. Any time we have visitors who do not know Sheffield – and this stretches back to my time at the university when people would visit on a professional basis – the visitors are always markedly impressed with the unexpectedness of such an environment in the city centre. Even without the visitors it is always a delight to walk through and see other people enjoying the space – possibly stopping to browse a temporary art exhibition or to pop into one of the galleries to discover something new.
Sheffield Talking News
Although all aspects of volunteering for STN are rewarding, in that what we all do is helping local people with a visual impairment, my favourite part is working on the occasional ‘Out and About in Sheffield’ recordings. It gives us an opportunity to pry into areas we might not otherwise come across, as was the case last summer when we worked with Sheffield People’s Theatre in its production of ‘A Dream’.