Looking back on a city that passed the test

Kathryn Stallard in one of her favourite Sheffield places, Endcliffe Park.                            Photo: Dean Atkins
Kathryn Stallard in one of her favourite Sheffield places, Endcliffe Park. Photo: Dean Atkins

KATHRYN Stallard has lived in Sheffield most of her life, making her name as a headteacher, union rep and national president of the NUT. But at the end of this month she is starting a new life in Norfolk.

Kathryn, who retired earlier this year, is moving with husband Peter to be closer to his family. However, they don’t plan to bury themselves in the countryside.

Their new home is within easy access of the ferry port and they intend to spend much of their time caravanning around the historical sites of Europe.

Kathryn is looking forward to the adventures ahead, although leaving Sheffield will no doubt be a wrench. She is close to her sisters, who all grew up in the same Sheffield house where their mother was born, and still live in the area.

Here she looks back on the places that mean the most to her.

City Hall

I have always felt that the City Hall was a wonderful setting for a range of different events. Throughout the years I have seen an eclectic mix of entertainment there, ranging from Elton John, Tom Paxton and Elkie Brookes to Manor Operatics and, most recently, Al Murray.

I have also attended and spoken at gatherings on the steps of the building when teachers and other public sector workers came together to protest on issues like redundancy, pensions and indiscriminate testing.

My earliest recollection of the City Hall was performing there in a school concert, led by our excellent and energetic music teacher, Miss Williams. I played the French horn (though I doubt that I could get a note out of the instrument now!) and also sang in the choir. It was an incredible place to perform and the venue still lends an aura of grandeur to any event.

I believe it was a good thing for the city when the venue was renovated. The City Hall is certainly an asset, allowing Sheffield to showcase a greater diversity of culture and talent. It is also one of the most graceful and attractive focal points within the city centre.

Peace Gardens

The idea of the Peace Gardens as a public place to sit, relax and appreciate life was always an appealing one. Nowadays this is much more of a reality. The work carried out on redeveloping the gardens has led to an attractive space which is well used by the public.

The design of the redevelopment has helped create a pleasant atmosphere where you might relax while sitting reading or just idly watching passers-by. On a fine day it’s great experience to sit there and watch people quietly chatting or laughing loudly as they run in and out of the water spurting out from the fountains.

I also love the design of the Winter Garden, though it is a great pity that the view of the magnificent structure of the roof is now dwarfed by the surrounding buildings.

Endcliffe Park

Some of my earliest memories are from family walks through Endcliffe Park, stopping at the pond to feed the ducks, crossing over to Whiteley Woods and onwards to Forge Dam.

I also have fond memories of the Whitsuntide church gatherings in the park, or the Whit sing as we called it.

As a child it gave a great sense of community to be part of a large group walking from our local chapel, behind the Boys Brigade band, through the streets round Sharrow to Endcliffe Park. The green would be packed by other similar groups, all gathering to sing the Whit hymns.

This was a real event in the calendar and would seem to mark the beginning of summer (as well as a new dress and shoes!).

I attended Hunters Bar Junior School and our summer sports day was held in Endcliffe Park. Although I have never excelled in any sporting event, this was a welcome break from routine, and I looked forward to the relaxed atmosphere.

In later years I also remember the smell and excitement of bonfire night events, with large firework displays and funfairs with their myriad of colour and cheerful noise.

The park is still a hive of activity on a pleasant day.

Sharrow Primary School

I have visited many schools, but one of my favourites has to be Sharrow Primary School, which has become known for its grass roof. It is perhaps an overused phrase to talk about ‘built for purpose’, but this building certainly seems the epitome of this. I feel the design contributes to an environment which is businesslike, but also secure and relaxed.

The reception area, with the open space and wooden seating, is inviting, as are the staff who greet you. The whole school gives an impression of light and space.

The pupils appear well focused and polite and very much at ease in their setting. The staff is clearly committed to creating opportunities for learning and encouraging respect and openness.

I have felt on many occasions that this school, in its attractive building, is a model of harmony where learning and personal development are promoted.

Views over Sheffield

One of my favourite experiences has been to drive into Sheffield from Derbyshire at night. The views across the city, with lights like stars marking out the landscape and buildings, is incredible.

My most vivid recollection of this approach is one summer’s evening when I watched a thunderstorm moving across the city. The lightning cracked silver white across a heavy purpled sky and the landscape was intermittently flashed with a fiery orange glow.

It may seem clichéd to speak of this as an uplifting experience, but it truly was and the memory still makes me feel very much alive.