New Sheffield train station exhibition will examine the impact of 'periphery' living

Do you live life on the periphery? And if so – Dr Paula Meth would love to hear from you.

Friday, 1st November 2019, 10:54 am
Updated Wednesday, 6th November 2019, 2:13 pm
Festival of Social Science

For the past three years, the reader and director of the student engagement department of Urban Studies and Planning at University of Sheffield has been examining what it is like for people living on the periphery of a big city, and the impact this has on their lives.

“We're trying to encourage the public to think about what these places are like to live in, whether as places in our cities they feel isolated, peaceful, or well located?” she explains.

“This might include the edges of cities anywhere in the world, and in the case of Sheffield could include areas such as the far end of Fulwood looking out to the Peaks, or Stocksbridge or Kiveton Park for example. Any area that the public are familiar with that is geographically quite 'far out' in relative terms. Obviously this idea is open to a lot of debate as feeling like you live far away might just be a result of poor transportation.

Festival of Social Science

“What kinds of activities and opportunities are there in these places, and what types of changes do you think could improve them? These are the kinds of questions we think about as urban planners and urban researchers when trying to work with local residents to improve areas.’

And it is questions like these that have formed the basis for a new exhibition being hosted by the university at Sheffield railway station, as part of its upcoming Festival of Social Science.

The exhibition, which forms a part of the ‘Living the Urban Periphery’ project, will feature 55 photographs taken recently in Ethiopia and South Africa depicting what everyday life is like living on the edges of three big African cities. The photos were taken by South African photographer Mark Lewis.

Paula says: “The photographs were taken as part of the larger research project that I've been leading since 2016, along with my colleague from the university, Dr Tom Goodfellow, and colleagues based at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.

“Our project examined how people living on the very edges of three big cities in South Africa and Ethiopia have been experiencing changes to their cities. The kinds of changes we were looking at were varied, but included investment by the Ethiopian and South African governments into housing – mainly for poorer urban residents – but also investment in industry, transport, and water.

“These parts of cities are changing quite rapidly and some of the recent changes are presenting both opportunities for residents, but also problems. The problems we observed there are a serious lack of employment, and challenges of access to schools, work, services, and health centres.”

And now Paula is inviting the people of Sheffield to share their own thoughts on living on the outskirts of a major city, submitting their own photographs to the exhibition, which will be unveiled at Sheffield train station this weekend.

She says: “There will be blank postcards at the train station where the public can write down their thoughts, but they are also welcome to try and provoke our thinking by submitting their photos. We're inviting members of the public to submit their own photographs of urban peripheries that they are familiar with. If they submit their images to us by midday tomorrow, Friday November 8, we'll include them in our slide show being held at Sheffield train station this Saturday.

“We're hiring a big TV screen which will stand alongside the exhibition and screen all the photos that the public send in. We’re hoping some aspiring photographers submit some great photos from the local region and beyond.”

The exhibition will run from 11am to 2pm this Saturday, and will bring the Festival of Social Science to a close.

The Festival of Social Science launched on November 2, and has featured a whole range of free events in the city – including exhibitions, plays, workshops, and talks – showcasing various pieces of research and work being done by the university and its partners.

A university spokesman for the festival added: “In the midst of times that seem uncertain and unsettling, our social scientists seek to answer the greatest questions facing global society: how to ensure we can all lead fulfilling lives, how to build communities that can tackle the climate crisis, and why the ethics of robotics and AI matter as much as the technology itself.

“Simply put, we apply the social to science.

“The University of Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam University are home to world leading social science researchers working at the frontier of knowledge. We work with communities, governments and business leaders to understand society and improve lives.

“The Festival of Social Science, which is part of the national ESRC festival, gives the people of the city the chance to find out what we do and why we do it, through talks and debates, performance art, exhibitions, and immersive experiences for all ages.”

If you would like to submit an image for the exhibition, post them on Twitter with the hashtage #livingtheperipheries or email to before noon tomorrow.

Visit for details of events.