Helping Sheffield - how idea sparked in a city pub grew to an online community of 25,000 people

Like many good ideas, it all began in a Sheffield pub.

Friday, 4th June 2021, 9:47 am
Telegraph cartoonist Gary Jenkinson-Graham's take on Help Sheffield

And now Help Sheffield, the Twitter account that aims to answer any question about the city with a sense of dry humour, has reached a milestone figure of 25,000 followers who share ideas, suggestions and solutions.

The first unofficial call for help came in 2013, when snow meant a harpist could not get from Manchester to a wedding at Sheffield Town Hall.

A born and bred Sheffield man spotted the post and shared it on his own social media, eventually uniting a cello player from Chesterfield with the wedding party.

Hidden gems such as Akentannos on Sharrowvale are shared through the account

"Four days later me and a friend were in the pub and he said ‘wouldn’t it be great if you could put anything on Twitter and people answered the question?’”, that Sheffielder, who is known only as Elf One, told the Telegraph.

"I said yes it would, and we set it up in the pub there and then.”

The first @HelpSheffield question was to find a coat both designed and made in Sheffield.

Since then the account has shared job opportunities and events, as well as answering questions ranging from the best places to eat and finding swimming instructors, to the weird, wonderful and just plain wacky.

One of the queries submitted to @HelpSheffield this week

Remembering one of the most heart-warming occasions when Sheffielders pulled together to help, Elf said: “There was an American woman whose mum lived in Sheffield and it was the day before her birthday, she’d forgotten to get her a card.

"She tweeted and I put a tweet out. A bloke who lived down the road from the mum went to the shop, got a card, handwrote it and posted it through her letterbox, as well as taking pictures of what he’d done and posting it on Twitter.”

As for the weird and wacky…

"Someone wanted a George Michael impersonator once.

"Some people who I think were probably being funny asked me how to set up a brothel. I quoted laws at them, I think.”

From charity appeals, searches for volunteers or student housing, to recommendations on obscure tea types, Help Sheffield has become a ‘go to’ for people wanting answers, support or to share their love of the city and even uses different hashtags such as #sheffevents to streamline requests.

It now also has a podcast focusing on interesting local people and there are similar accounts set up for other cities, but why does prolific tweeter Elf One, who runs the account as a ‘hobby’ for free, think an idea hatched over a pint took off?

He said: “Yes, you can Google anything, but Google can be out of date.

"This way you are getting your suggestions from people living in the city who went to that restaurant last night and didn’t get food poisoning so they can recommend it. It is a very here and now response. They are also very personal responses and from right across the city.

"You aren’t going to get people recommending Zizzi’s, they will recommend Akentannos at Sharrowvale. It’s more personal than multi-million pound companies, I think Sheffield has always had that spirit anyway.”

Of hitting 25,000 followers, over his original target of 20,000, Elf One summarised: “Eight years of pointless nonsense.”

Elf now wants more people to tag @HelpSheffield in their requests, and says he wouldn’t turn down the odd pint or meal as a thank you.

While he doesn’t share business promotions on request for fear of being overwhelmed, he’d like to see more shouting about events in Sheffield.

And he’s keen to sign up others with a love for their local area to run accounts such as @HelpLeeds, as well as helping others with their social media projects.

You will find him, of course, on Twitter.

“I don’t have a telly”, he said. “But I do a lot of Twitter.”