Urban Regeneration to some has its good sides. Shattered concrete town centres have given way to swanky libraries and health centres, with flats and offices perched atop public buildings. The publicly beneficial being subsidised by the privately profitable has been a pattern for new building up and down the country. But now the boom time is over and the new generation is degeneration. There has never been such a time for urban exploration, in Sheffield I was to young in the 1970’s other than to play in the part demolished shells over the road on West Don Street, by 1979 I was sniffing glue and derelict spaces such as The Old Silver Mill Neepsend, The former Neepsend Power Station was where I lost my virginity while sniffing glue.
I come back to Sheffield for the holidays I was at School in Cheltenham in the early 1980’s it was only in 1986 dereliction come to play a part in the former Broomhall flats, where I was sleeping when running from Shirecliff Boys Home to goto gigs, 1987 and all that I was doing a course on photographic skills at NACRO over the road from Sheffield Victoria Station demolished in 1989 it would be another 10 years before dereliction took over my life, there was walks in the former Middlewood Hospital but it was becoming involved with Access Space where it kicked off.
All those smooth offices lie empty and singletons peer out of sparsely occupied ‘city-living’ flats. The sheen has gone; red rust runs into once unmarked gutters. Decay is creeping over the acres of steel and concrete that were put up with such optimism are my playground along with the derelict industry of Sheffield.
One of the Council’s flagship regeneration projects has been Decent Homes. Costing a hundred million pounds a year, this has given new kitchens and bathrooms to thousands of council house owners, others just lay un-used in Park Hill Flats before the people was moved all had new kitchens and bathrooms, now they wait there fait for landfill and another playground for people like me has opened up, along with the junkies dealers other social outcast.
Park Hill was previously the site of back-to-back housing, known as “Little Chicago” in the 1930s,due to the violent crimes sometimes committed there. This was partially razed before World War II.
Although there have been problems – contractors going awol in the middle of work, or going round the house with blinkers on, not allowed to touch jobs that don’t fall in their remit – there is some doubt that council homes are more decent than before?. But now money from the Government has dried up for this work and the Council is having to scrape every penny together to finish off the job. Re-wiring, general upkeep and improvements for disabled tenants will all be neglected to finish off the programme.
Other big schemes have hit the buffers too. The forthcoming Sevenstone retail quarter aimed to bring the feel of Meadowhall to down town Sheffield, not so nice. The company behind Sevenstone, with the jolly help of the Council, chucked out resident businesses – then all the money dried up and everything ground to a halt. Sheffield Centre now looks like the set of 28 Days Later, a urban explorers paradise and a nightmare for those who moved there, was living there already the ghetto some wanted to escape, the dead end of suburbia where others escaped from now they face a uncertain future.
Over in Attercliffe, a young Berris Connolly, a photographer and friend adds this thought:
“Sheffield, like all northern cites they’re all competing for new things to replace the old industrial and I feel that Sheffield will lose it uniqueness and become like other cities”
Yet the sad face of the downturn doesn’t have a 1980s haircut this time round. We’ve got a better idea of what is naff and what might be good. The Council has teamed up with the Uni to come up with uses for the “empty quarter” in the town centre. Ideas include turning empty space into living art, places for charity or community work, and homes for start-up businesses. They are inviting ideas from all concerned, but not those living there and the rest of Sheffield;s working class who play no part in what happens to our city.
The former Wellington Street Fire Station.
The first real blossoming of this project is working with a bunch of people to turn several floors of Furnival House, by the Arundel Gate roundabout, into a Swap Shop of skills and stuff. Like open-university meets Freecycle, it needs to asked how involved will the working class be, is this just another utopia for the Middle Class, some watched as Matilda become a dystopia a with space for working and playing how welcome will the working class be?. Plans are being drawn up for programmes of activities and use of the space throughout November, and maybe beyond. Having spaces to do stuff in for free makes sense when the number of people out of work has doubled. It generates energy and ideas, and helps people out when life is looking rubbish, for a lot of people in Sheffield but this has been the case for some years, as the city has become a playground for the Middle Class, the homeless and street drinkers are harassed by the Police, meanwhile those out each night defecating and pissing on war memorials are given extra police, they see no consequence for there actions, all right the person pissing on the memorial has been made an example of, but not much has changed and for the long term new residents the nightmare of city centre living goes on and when the demolition of the 20 year old fire station is done there will be more wasteland.
At the bottom of the Moor, regeneration still limps along. A plan for hundreds of student flats above a new market fell through. All those flats would have made the scheme cheaper for the Council and in the bold shiny world of Before Crunch that was great – although the design managed to recreate the underworld of Castle Markets. The downturn has left the Council as the only funder, so strangely the new scheme looks better. It will now have the feel of the Winter Gardens – with wood, glass and light.
There are still worries about how spankingly expensive the thing will be for market traders, and how many current shoppers will make it across from the far side of Sheffield, but the building looks a lot less pants than before. So, stuff getting down about recession and degeneration. Let us welcome them with glad arms. Let the Council build some stuff and leave other stuff where it is. Let us turn over our buildings to good people and smother ourselves in glorious decay. Refuse the lure of regeneration. Let us leave behind the shining future and play in the empty buildings of the present and past, need we ask the consent of the owners to play and use them?
Urban and Bucolic Exploration is a subject dedicated to the subversion of space via the exploration of local places in which capital is temporarily absent or in which capitalist functionality is suffocated by the presence of the marvellous. This was the intention for our own expeditions into these places to publish photographs and detail there history campaign to safe them such as the former Crooksmoor Church, now we move onto the former Botanic Gardens
“if life’s journey be endless where is its goal? The answer is, it everywhere We are in a palace which has no end, but which we have reached, by exploring it and extending our relationship with it we are ever making it more and more our own”
underclassrising.net is a path to various unseen, lost, of limit and just forgotten parts of human civilisation The results are untold amounts of derelict and forgotten places that pepper every corner of our world from factories, and transport networks to bunkers tunnels and mines Out of respect for the locations as for any others who may visit latter a basic set “ethical thoughts have been followed during the exploration of the places we visit No forced entry Leave no trace Take nothing Damage nothing….
Get involved with the Swap Shop and make it last:
If you have any other ideas, get in touch with the empty quarter project:
Council housing is being hung out to dry, so have a shout over how to save it: