Wednesday, 21 December 2011

The chance of a lifetime

Sheffield charity, whose patrons include Def Leppard, Tony Christie and Sheffield United’s Chris Morgan, helps fund life-changing operation for three-year-old

Alex Burland- "more confident after the operation"
Local charity Help a Child Have a Chance have given £1000 to three-year-old Ollie Saxton at his nursery in Intake, Sheffield. The donation will contribute towards funding a vital operation in America, which will help Ollie to walk for the first time.

Ollie was born five weeks prematurely and at 19 months he was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. He cannot sit or balance by himself and he will never walk unaided. As Ollie grows, his muscles will shorten and his joints will become deformed or possibly dislocated.

Whilst there is no cure for cerebral palsy, there is an operation to treat its affect on his body. “Selective dorsal rhizotomy” involves surgery on the spine, which will free up the tightness in Ollie’s legs and help him to be more mobile. This specialist surgery is carried out at the St Louis Children’s Hospital in Missouri, USA and costs up to £37,000.

Parents Rachel and Russell Saxton of Intake have been fundraising for six months so that Ollie can have the “best possible future”. Rachel, aged 33, said of the donation by Help a Child Have a Chance; “We feel really relieved, it’s been quite stressful organising all the fundraising events, but now we can relax.”

Whilst the Saxtons have enough to pay for the operation, they still need to raise another £10,000 to pay for Ollie’s aftercare.

Last Christmas, Help a Child Have a Chance gave a similar donation to six-year-old Alex Burland, from Hunter’s Bar, who needed to fly to America for the same operation as Ollie’s.

 “Alex is a lot more confident after the operation, he can now attend the sports club at his school, he has a lot more balance, he can even climb out of the car by himself and he is learning to walk with his walking sticks,” said mum Jayne Burland, aged 41.

Alex’s dad, Christian Burland, a self-employed builder, said of Help a Child Have a Chance, “It’s really fantastic of them, there are so many kids who need help, you don’t realise it until you find yourself in that position.”

Help a Child Have a Chance launched in 2010 in memory of the Sheffield radio broadcaster Dave Kilner. Throughout his radio career, Dave Kilner raised hundreds of thousands of pounds for local disadvantaged children. In 2009, at the age of 48, Dave Kilner died in hospital after being ill for some time. To continue his legacy, his wife Shirley Kilner and two daughters Rebecca and Nicola organised the charity’s first fundraising event, ‘Dave Kilner A Night To Remember’ at Sheffield City Hall in April 2010. The charity supports local sick, needy and disadvantaged children “giving them that chance to make their lives a little bit better”.

In the last 18 months the charity has organised a number of fundraising events and has recently donated £500 to Sheffield Royal Society for the Blind Little Sparklers, a pre-school group for children with visual impairments and £2000 to Work Ltd for students with learning disabilities. They have also funded a children’s Halloween party for the Little Rainbows Autism Group in Doncaster.

This Christmas, the charity is partnering with The Sheffield Star newspaper and others to launch a 12 days of Christmas appeal, splitting £10,000 between 12 nominees across South Yorkshire and North Derbyshire.

You can find out more about the charity and their appeal at:

Top UK Mountaineer, Andy Kirkpatrick speaks about pushing the boundaries

With the release of his second book ‘Cold Wars’ one of the UK’s top mountaineers, Andy Kirkpatrick returns to Sheffield as part of his book tour around the UK.

Andy Kirkpatrick as a child
Andy Kirkpatrick was brought up on a council estate in Hull, one of the UK’s flattest cities. He was diagnosed with severe dyslexia at the age of 19 and left school with no qualifications. At the age of 40, he is now one of the UK’s top mountaineers, an award-winning author and an acclaimed motivational speaker.

Kirkpatrick claims it was his father, Pete Kirkpatrick, one of the longest-serving team leaders in the RAF mountain rescue, who motivated him to start climbing. When he was six years old, his parents got divorced and he moved with his mother and siblings to Hull. He remembers his father visiting often to take them climbing and walking in the Peak District. “So I feel like I always had a connection with the outdoors,” said Kirkpatrick.

When Kirkpatrick left school he began working in outdoor shops. It was then that he met other climbers who inspired him to start big wall climbing and winter expeditions. “Andy Perkins was one of my heroes, he is an all-rounder who does Scottish winter climbing, big wall climbing and expeditions.”

Winter Expeditions

Kirkpatrick has climbed the 3000-foot El Capitan, in Yosemite over 15 times and in 2010 he attempted a one-day solo ascent, climbing it in 30 hours. In 2002 he undertook one of the hardest climbs in Europe, a 15-day winter ascent of the west face of the Dru, Chamonix. He has also took part in four winter expeditions to Patagonia and climbed El Capitan with his girlfriend, paraplegic athlete Karen Darke.

Kirkpatrick on the west face of the Dru
Kirkpatrick says that his most memorable climb was when he climbed El Capitan with Darke, with whom he has been for 5 years. “It was such a mad idea, to climb with someone who hasn’t climbed in 16 years and can’t walk and then you’re there, on El Cap without a lot of training or preparation.”

Darke is training for the London 2012 Paralympics in handcycling, as part of the British Cycling Team. We’re both quite obsessed and focused,” said Kirkpatrick musing over how seldom they see each other. He said that he tried to show this in ‘Cold Wars’, “My book shows the reality, there are a lot of downsides to this kind of lifestyle, and I tried to be honest about it.”

The under-dog

Jack Geldard, chief editor of said in his review of ‘Cold Wars’, “The running theme in both Cold Wars and in Psychovertical is that of the tormented husband, to-ing and fro-ing between the strains of normal life…juxtaposed with the complexities and simplicities of big wall life and seemingly constant 'near death' climbing.”

Kirkpatrick believes that ‘Cold Wars’ won’t necessarily appeal to all climbers. He said that ‘extreme’ climbers often don’t have family or kids. “They are yet to see the reality of these things, for them I am just whining.” Kirkpatrick has two children who live with him in Sheffield; Ella aged 13 and Ewen who is 10 years old.

He explained, “A very good climber gives 100% so there is nothing left for anything else, even relationships. For me writing is as important as climbing, so I’ll easily put aside six months just to learn to be a good writer.”

Kirkpatrick believes you can only do two things well, “So I do things in binges and sometimes I have to be a crap climber or a crap father.”

Geldard also observes, “Kirkpatrick's style, which both in writing and in climbing, is that of the underdog, the wannabe, the have-a-go hero.”

Kirkpatrick acknowledges this self-deprecating tendency, “It’s because I never give climbing 100%, I just dip in and out of it, so I’m never in a position of being really strong, I always know I’m not as good as I could be.”

He also believes that this tendency to ‘flagellate’ himself comes from having a working class background. “Working class people are like that. Which is why they are working class, because they think they’re shit at everything.”

Pushing the boundaries

Kirkpatrick, mixed climbing in Scotland
However, Kirkpatrick believes that it’s all to do with your parents, “My mum was never an academic, but she always said ‘the world is your oyster’.” Whilst Kirkpatrick admits he never really knew what that meant, he believes his mother inspired them to go further afield and be ambitious.

Kirkpatrick’s reputation for pushing the boundaries goes beyond his climbing, “As a comedian you have to push beyond what people expect, that’s what makes it interesting,” said Kirkpatrick. He said he finds it hard to take himself seriously, “You know your mates will just laugh at you for saying something like ‘I climbed the hardest route in the UK’.”

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Homeless numbers rise whilst a million homes stand empty

Vicky had a ten-year heroin and cocaine habit. She was working as a prostitute and carrying out street robberies. “I did anything I could to get my next fix. I’d fallen out with my family, my mum had disowned me and I fell pregnant three times.”

One morning, after a long night in the cold, Vicky stumbled upon the Cathedral Archer Project, a day centre for homeless and vulnerable people in Sheffield. She started going there regularly for breakfast, and soon began to trust the drugs worker who encouraged her to give up her drug habit. Slowly but surely the project seemed to be ‘pulling her out of it’, but Vicky said she ‘kept lapsing back into her old habits’ until November last year. “I woke up one morning and decided I couldn’t take it anymore, so I went on a cold turkey rattle for three weeks. Afterwards I was terrified of going back to the drugs due to boredom, so I asked if I could start volunteering to give me something to do.”

Secret Millionaire

During May this year, Channel 4’s Secret Millionaire TV programme visited The Cathedral Archer Project, along with two other Sheffield charities, Grace Tebbutt House and the Gleadless Valley Community Forum. The programme featured millionaire and former boss of the Priory rehabilitation clinics, Dr Chai Patel, who volunteered as a retired doctor with the charities.

He spent four days volunteering at the Archer Project, helping in their medical centre, in the kitchen and even going ice-skating with clients. Dr Patel later reflected on one of his favourite memories, “A young lady, with an extremely difficult life and huge loss of self-esteem, taught me not only how to skate, but also to trust her not to let me fall - which she didn't.”

This young lady was Vicky, who expressed her gratitude to Dr Patel, not only for the ice skates he bought her, but also for securing the job of Sam Pryor, the charity’s longest-serving project worker. “Sam keeps this place going,” said Vicky.

Dr Patel donated £15,000 to the Archer Project to help run their medical centre over the next three years and £30,000 to secure Sam Pryor’s position.

A client eating breakfast at the Archer Project
Ms Pryor, aged 42, works with a team helping up to 80 homeless and vulnerable people. Everyday the team and volunteers serve breakfast and lunch to whoever walks through the door. They also offer medical treatment, hygiene facilities, education opportunities and advice services.

Tim Renshaw, Chief Executive of the Archer Project said, “We’re taking people off the streets and giving them alternative things to do with their time and alternative futures. So volunteering is a way of getting people to do things differently, seeing if we can change people’s life and expectations.”

Victims of their parents

Dr Patel also donated £25,000 to help Grace Tebbutt House, in Nether Edge. Grace Tebbutt provide temporary homes and support for Sheffield’s most vulnerable women, including ex-offenders.
In an interview after the film was made, Dr Patel reflected, “The most important realisation was how innocent young children become victims of their parents' condition and how they are brought into a way of life over which they have very little control, creating the potential for history to repeat itself.”
Save Grace Tebbutt House
He was so inspired that he returned to Sheffield to launch an official appeal campaign to help raise funds for Grace Tebbutt House. In March 2012, Sheffield City Council will withdraw its £110,000 annual funding for the charity because of spending cuts. Dr Patel appealed to the Sheffield Council to reconsider their decision. He said that the charity saves taxpayers money in the long run because it offers effective support work and accommodation to these vulnerable women.

However, Sheffield City Council’s executive, Richard Webb told The Sheffield Star that they would not reconsider. He said, “Good practice and research highlighted that large accommodation was not conducive to rehabilitation”.

Mrs Harris said that their charity offers a unique service, “Other services won’t accommodate women who are considered as medium or high risk, meaning that they have an uncontrollable drug or alcohol habit and may be verbally abusive to staff.” She said there are many more vulnerable women they could help, “we get enough referrals everyday that we could fill this hostel four times over.”

The Great British property scandal

On 8th December, official figures revealed that homelessness in the UK has risen by 13%. The figures, released by the Department of Communities and Local Government show that 35,680 households in the UK have been accepted as homeless by local authorities at the start of 2011. According to Shelter’s new data search there are 371 households accepted as homeless in South Yorkshire.

Ironically, even as homelessness figures increase, there are one million empty homes in the UK; of which 350,000 have been empty for more than six months. According to George Clarke, architect and TV presenter, “That’s the equivalent of a city the size of Leeds full of empty homes.”

George Clarke’s campaign The Great British Property Scandal, has gained over 100,000 signatures which means that the issue will now be debated in parliament.

The campaign proposes two changes that they hope will give individuals and communities the power to use empty houses:

1. A law change to give people the power to turn abandoned properties into homes for people who need them.

2. Access to low-cost loan funds for people who need financial help to get empty properties back into use.

According to a Freedom of Information request there are 5,068 empty homes in Sheffield and at the same time there are 93,532 people on the housing waiting list.

Something to live for

Grace Tebbutt House and The Cathedral Archer Project say they could help a huge number of homeless people if they were able to turn abandoned properties into homes.

Vicky is now working in the kitchen at the Archer Project and has even started cooking her own meals for the clients. She is hoping to do an NVQ in Catering once she has finished her NVQ in Health and Social Care. “It has given me a goal to aim to, something to live for. I’ve not been in jail for two and half years, which is so unlike me as I was in and out of prison every other month. I’m now talking to my mum and am back in contact with my kids.”

Vicky said that all she used to think about was where the next £20 was coming from for her next bag of heroine and cocaine; but she is a different person now. “I love getting up in the morning, it sounds weird but I can’t wait to go to bed at night, to get up and come here in the morning.”

SKINN, a new network of businesses and organisations in Sheffield, proves that Cameron’s ‘big society’ is already here

SKINN- Shalesmoor, Kelham Island and Neepsend Network, officially launched on the weekend of the 29th of October with a mini-festival and ‘art crawl’. The event featured two free days of art exhibitions, crafts stalls, fashion shows, improve theatre, pop-up bars and live music.

CADS entrance at Shalesmoor
Set up to “share resources, information and skills”, SKINN is a non-for-profit network of businesses and organisations whose aim is to improve the local area and its community.

Studio complexes, including The Nichols Building in Shalesmoor, CADS in Smithfield and Pebble Dash Studios in Burton Road, welcomed visitors throughout the weekend. An industrial area in the past, the SKIN area now comprises of award-winning restaurants, real ale pubs, studios, galleries, vintage stores and designer workshops.

SKINN aims to encourage local people to get more involved in events and workshops held in the studios and galleries, linked into mini-festivals and events held with the restaurants and local pubs.

Creative collaboration

It is one of the many new projects supported by CADS, a multi-purpose arts complex in Shalesmoor, who rent out studios for “all forms of creativity”. Ivan Rabodzeenko, development officer for CADS, explained that SKINN originated from the ‘Ideas Bazaar’ event hosted by Sheffield University in September, for Sheffield’s creative community.

Working with local breweries like Kelham Island and Five Rivers
Ivan said that they realised there was a lack of communication between the different creative and other industries in the SKIN area. So a meeting was organised between the industries and the idea of holding an ‘art crawl’ and other similar events transpired.

“The Nichols building, which only opened in July, is a good example,” said Katja Porohina, communications and development officer at CADS. The building is an antiques, arts and crafts centre, run by an interior designer. “They are really keen to promote their building so they offered us the use of their upstairs space for free. We said, ok we have experience of running events and music nights, so lets do it together.”

Katja believes that the lack of communication between industries is due to a culture of competitiveness rather than one of collaboration. “But if you collaborate you end up with something better, this is the way we want SKINN to work,” said Katja.

A policy of inclusiveness

CADS gallery space
CADS was born from director Steve Rimmer’s frustration with the exclusiveness of artistic communities. Mr Rimmer, aged 25, said that research and general experience taught him that “many creative art spaces don’t accept you if you are not doing contemporary art or fulfil their criteria, but there is so much more to creativity.”

Mr Rimmer acquired his first studio space whilst hot-desking at Stag Works (a building of significant industrial heritage). He then discovered he could hire three studios for the same price as one if he moved to the Shalesmoor area. Mr Rimmer decided to rent out the two extra studios to cover costs, which meant he could take on a larger studio to do more events. CADS soon consisted of eight studios and continued to expand from there. “It just organically evolved as we needed more resources and space for studios, by filling the studios, we were able to re-invest in our own expansion or other projects we were supporting.”

Mr Rimmer explained that CADS works within a mutually beneficial management mode, “everything we set up links into and benefits everything else.” SKINN has mapped out a network of businesses and organisations within the area. During the ‘art crawl’ on the weekend, this map, marked with the various businesses and organisations, was presented for people to look at.

“We’re asking people what they think of the area, and for ideas of how it can be developed,” said Katja. She explained that they want to be inclusive to all businesses, organisations and residents in the area when deciding how existing resources and spaces can be used.

Utilising empty spaces

“We are also looking into what can be done with the empty buildings in the area, trying to link up with property owners of vacant buildings to find a way of making positive use of those spaces,” said Mr Rimmer. CADS aims to utilise waste materials from these properties, which can be recycled and used on projects such as the urban garden at Pebble Dash studios. CADS is working with volunteers from Sheffield University to build seating and flowerbeds in the studio yard, out of waste material from local building firms.

Mr Rimmer explained how this is an example of drawing on the resources of the network system; he explained that when people are aware of other businesses and what resources they have or spaces that are vacant, others are able to utilise these resources until they are needed again.

“I’ve always said it is better to have collaboration rather than competition,” said Mr Rimmer.

You can find out more about SKINN at

Sunday, 11 December 2011

As "the baton is passed from artisan to artist" can we look forward to a new kind of regeneration?

Sheffield's City Centre is turning into a ghost town of empty shops along The Moor and surrounding areas. This is due to the thwarting of ambitious plans of developers and the city council by the recession in 2009. 

Yet, whilst writing an article about CADS and their new project SKINN, I come across similar fascinating and exciting projects like the 140 year old Stag Works and the adjacent Portland Works. And I wonder whether the halting of urban regeneration is really such a terrible thing?

What other exciting projects are being born out the 'crisis' which leaves us with no option but to 'do it ourselves'?

"Sheffield's 'Stag Works' is a decaying, crumbling curiosity with a fascinating place in the city's cultural and industrial heritage. As the old workshops and artisans give way to new music studios and artists, the building bears witness to a tapestry of innovation, passion and imagination. A metaphor for the modern city?"

Thursday, 1 December 2011

As world leaders delay over climate change, Sheffield groups are ‘getting on with it’

This week country representatives debate a global agreement to cut carbon emissions at the UN Climate Change Conference in Durban, South Africa. Unwilling to await their decision, Sheffield groups are calling for voters to help them tackle climate change today.

Friends of Millhouses Park and Sheffield Renewables are two Sheffield groups taking part in a national X-Factor style vote to win over £125,000 towards local community renewable energy projects.

The two groups have made it into the final stage of the EnergyShare Launch Fund, run by British Gas and celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s environmental organisation River Cottage.

Public voting ends at 5pm this Saturday and the two groups only need to beat one other scheme to win their categories. They are calling for everybody to vote online today.

The Millhouses mill buildings project, run by Friends of Millhouses Park, is transforming the oldest water mill site in the city into a sustainable community centre. The group have already raised £68,000 towards refurbishing the historic 13th century corn mill in Millhouses Park. If they win, the buildings will be fitted with solar panels, insulation and a ground source heat pump, which will save over .5 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year.

Jane Hunter, executive committee member of Friends of Millhouses Park, said: “It’s all about awareness raising; micro-generation can make a big contribution to the total energy mix.” Jane believes that by installing renewable energy in community buildings they are providing concrete examples of how people can create their own energy. 

Sheffield Renewables, a volunteer-led social enterprise, has already raised over £65,000 towards Jordan Dam, a hydro-electricity project on the River Don, near Meadowhall. The group have been granted planning permission to install a modern Archimedes screw at Jordan Dam. This community owned waterpower scheme would generate enough electricity for 80 typical family homes, saving 170 tonnes of carbon dioxide each year.

An artist's impression of the Jordan Dam Hydro

“We want people to feel empowered about tackling climate change, we’re all about getting things done on the ground, so that people can see what is possible and start spreading ideas” said Miss Cariad Thomas-Cooke, project officer for Sheffield Renewables.

Megg Munn, MP for Sheffield Heeley said: “This project is a great example of how local organisations can work with local people to make a real difference to our environment. I’ve already voted for it- and want to give the Sheffield Renewables team my full support for this project.”

Voting is open until 5pm, Saturday 3rd December, to vote log on to