Sheffield is the best city in the world.
But it is time to speak up and make a difference. As a Sheffielder born and bred I am sick to the back teeth of watching our big city rivals thrive and sparkle around us.
For far too long we have witnessed Leeds, Manchester and Birmingham develop and improve – while we sit in Sheffield without a clear vision for the future.
Their city centres are better than ours, their roads have fewer holes, their tailbacks are shorter and even their shopping centres have overtaken ours.
We have the best theatres outside London and we have created some of the world’s biggest sporting stars, as shown by Bob Westerdale’s back-page story today.
There are amazing places in Sheffield, internationally renowned universities, the country’s best parks and hundreds of thriving businesses.
You only have to turn the page to see a wonderful scheme to reclaim the Don.
I am also proud of much of what has been done in recent decades – The Winter Garden, Leopold Square and English Institute of Sport to name a few.
Personally I love the newish market but shoppers need more reason to head in that direction.
And that’s where it starts to fall down.
Why do so many areas of our city centre look abandoned? What should be the heart of our city is like a few diamonds set in a tacky plastic necklace.
Why did a city of this size grind to a halt because of one crash on The Wicker last week?
Why aren’t we making better use of some of the empty buildings – the old court house, the old Co-op and much of The Moor springs to mind.
Why can’t we end the litter problem and why, even with millions invested, are potholes still a massive problem?
So in my first day as editor of your Star I offer this invitation.
Will you talk to us about what should be done to improve Sheffield and will you stand with us as we push for better?
It doesn’t matter if you are a pensioner or big business chief, councillor or teenager – your opinions count to your local newspaper and it is our job to make sure they are heard across the city.
I am incredibly proud to be from Sheffield, the home of Harry Brearley, Jess Ennis, Jarvis Cocker, Helen Sharman ...
I could talk about the invention of stainless steel, the days when an adult could get on the bus for 5p and every child in the city had an obsession with the Hole in the Road fish.
I could recall the day I was on a school exchange trip glued to the radio on a ferry desperate to see which team would win as Wednesday and United went to battle at Wembley.
But it isn’t time to wallow in the past, it is time to take our proud history and create a better future. It is too easy to blame the council, this one, the last one, the one before.
I am well aware there are lots of exciting plans in the air about potential developments, but it isn’t enough.
We need a concrete plan on how to make this city great again, from the awful Castle Market site to the struggling Moor, the attractive walk from the train station to the unattractive back streets.
And let’s take in all the corners to create a whole.
One of the first things I did in my new role was read this email from a reader: “What is happening to our once proud and florally elegant city centre? Gangs of muggers on Fargate and young guys playing football at 6pm.
“The Moor is a mess, all the leading shops have simply moved down to a prime position leaving boarded-up units to rot. The ‘Noah’s Ark’ market is an eyesore and the new cinema complex looks like a 1960s concrete block. The Grosvenor/Cambridge Street ‘ruins’ need demolishing and grassing over. It seems there was no need to demolish the “old” fire station either, a new John Lewis has never appeared or any of the redevelopment proposals that were promised. They are just a dim memory in a time-worn past.
“As for the prestigious Devonshire quarter – so much for quality residential areas. Rubbish abounds from food outlets and bottles strewn around. I rest my case!”
Then there was this letter from another reader: “I’m just writing to tell you my opinion. Within two or three weeks World Snooker at The Crucible will be starting up and the graffiti on Flat Street opposite the Post Office is disgusting. It makes Sheffield look very run down.
“Make our city centre clean. People from all over the world will be arriving. A good clean and brush up is needed.”
Neither wanted their names published and frankly I don’t blame them.
I can only imagine they are people who love this city with a passion only equally matched by the anger, frustration and disappointment at what it could be, and what it actually is.
We are the last people who want to talk down our favourite place in the world but we are also the only ones who have the power to make a difference.
Pick up the phone, grab a pen, send me an email. Tell me what you think should be done and how we do it.
Invite me to your neighbourhood and let The Star be your campaigning voice for change.
Yes, we Sheffielders may have a certain reputation for liking a good old moan, but enough is enough.
You, me and our families love this city more than anyone. So if we don’t stand up and fight for it who will?
It is time we stood together to do something about your Sheffield, my Sheffield, our Sheffield.