By Anne Greaves.
This isn’t the most glamorous photograph of Sheffield, but it represents a few takes on ‘mobility’ in the city which I’ll explain in turn. It’s also part of my daily walk to work.
First of all: hills. Sheffield is one of the hilliest cities in the UK and it’s virtually impossible to travel anywhere without going up or down at least one. I like to walk everywhere and although some of the hills are pretty challenging, I’m well aware that they must be playing a significant part in keeping me fit! Winter poses new problems for residents when the icy hills make even a short walk a terrifying ordeal and I’ve had to learn new routes to and from work to avoid the steepest roads.
Secondly: regeneration. This photo was taken in an old industrial area to the north of the city known as the St Vincent’s Quarter. Historically the area was a major centre for the production of cutlery and tools and was packed with factories, workshops, pubs and hundreds of poor quality workers’ houses. A combination of factors including the decline of the metal industries, WWII bomb damage and a programme of slum clearance left the area as a hotch potch of wasteland, empty factories and the occasional Victorian building. Some redevelopment took place in the post-war years with the building of a large complex of local authority flats and several office blocks, but the area still suffered as the old factories closed, the buildings fell into disrepair and it became a notorious red light district.
Since the early 2000s this part of Sheffield has been a focus for regeneration characterised by towering office and apartment blocks and several student accommodation buildings, three of which can be seen in the photograph. Evidence that the area is still in transition can be seen to the left of the photo with an empty plot of land in the foreground adjacent to a disused building. Years of building works and industrial vehicles have ruined the road surfaces and the number of cars in the photo is testament to the influx of students and office workers which the area isn’t yet able to cope with.
Thirdly: a changing population. Sheffield has two large universities and many of the new apartment blocks built to house the students are in this part of the city. The last few years have seen a dramatic increase in the number of Chinese students coming to Sheffield and many of them live here. The area is changing accordingly with a Chinese supermarket and a karaoke bar opening within the last few months and several Oriental restaurants and shops just a few minutes away.
Discussions about mobility in Sheffield could go in many directions – our public transport, our geographical position in the country, the flow of goods, raw materials and knowledge in and out of the city – but I hope this short article has given a flavour of some aspects of mobility as I experience them in my day to day life.