Broomhall Sheffield wears its diversity as a badge of honour

Broomhall community festival held at the Broomhall Centre and Jesus Centre. The Mothers of Burngreave performed some Somali dancing at the event.
Broomhall community festival held at the Broomhall Centre and Jesus Centre. The Mothers of Burngreave performed some Somali dancing at the event.
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Unity is the watchword in a Sheffield neighbourhood that wears its diversity as a badge of honour.

People from across the world and spanning all backgrounds have made Broomhall their home, from Sheffield families going back generations to students and refugees.

Broomhall, Sheffield. Susi Miller at the Broomhall Centre

Broomhall, Sheffield. Susi Miller at the Broomhall Centre

In the past this has caused tension, with the fatal shooting of 22-year-old James Kamara in Brunswick Street in July 2009 still vivid in the memory.

But most people there are happy to integrate and glad to be part of a vibrant community that celebrates influences from all over.

Susi Miller runs the Broomhall Centre, which acts as a hub for community activities.

She has seen tensions rise as the demographic has changed, but says trouble is swiftly stamped out thanks to collaborative working between the groups in the area.

Broomhall, Sheffield. Sue Jolly of Street Games and Unity Gym project co-ordinator Saeed Brasab.

Broomhall, Sheffield. Sue Jolly of Street Games and Unity Gym project co-ordinator Saeed Brasab.

“Broomhall is very good at alerting when these changes and conflicts happen,” she said.

“There have been some incidents where young people are involved in activities that are not appropriate. But most people are really positive.”

Many of the groups that hold activities at the centre attract people of all ethnicities. A women’s chairobics class, taking place as Susi spoke, actively encourages conversation – be that in English, Kurdish, Somali, Vietnamese or any other language. And stories are soon shared between cultures.

“In the main people see diversity as a positive,” said Susi. “If anything happens people are really quick to work together.”

Broomhall, Sheffield. Sheffield Hallam University's Collegiate Crescent Campus

Broomhall, Sheffield. Sheffield Hallam University's Collegiate Crescent Campus

On the edge of the city centre, Broomhall is bordered by Ecclesall Road and the Royal Hallamshire Hospital, taking in Sheffield Hallam University’s Collegiate Campus.

Walking west to east takes you past grand old houses in tree-lined avenues through to the Hanover Estate flats, with terraces and sheltered housing in between.

There are hidden oases of tranquillity too, with Lynwood Gardens in particular offering peace in the heart of the city. The small green space hosts Sheffield Woodland Kindergarten and includes a community allotment.

Nearby is Sunnybank Nature Reserve, which residents claim has the ‘best dawn chorus in town’. But areas are litter-strewn, and evidence of drug use is obvious, with used needles scattered among the greenery.

Broomhall, Sheffield. Discarded needles in  Sunnybank Nature Reserve

Broomhall, Sheffield. Discarded needles in Sunnybank Nature Reserve

Crime is undoubtedly a problem. There were 552 reported offences between April 2015 and March 2016 – although this was down from 570 the previous year and 585 in 2013/14. The rate is high, but still some way off areas such as Parson Cross, where there were 1,402 reported crimes last year.

Deprivation and lack of opportunity are often cited as a cause of such problems. In Broomhall, a small group of volunteers have come up with a way to try to prevent them happening.

Unity Gym was set up by Saeed Brasab in 2009. Saeed already worked with deprived young people and saw the effect of their low horizons.

“There are a lot of young people from Broomhall that have the potential to do well, but not the opportunities. That’s something we are trying to create,” he said.

The gym, in an industrial unit in Wellington Street, offers plenty of weight and cardio machines for those looking to get fit. But it is about much more than physical health.

“A big part of what we have achieved is using sport as a tool to engage with young people,” he said. “It’s certainly had a massive impact on the people we see.”

Volunteers make a mosaic for the Helping Environmental Regeneration in Broomhall scheme. Photo: Polly Blacker

Volunteers make a mosaic for the Helping Environmental Regeneration in Broomhall scheme. Photo: Polly Blacker

The gym’s mission is helped by support from the Street Games and Sheffield Futures charities. But it is the local enthusiasm that keeps it going.

It was Broomhall young people who chose the name, because they wanted unity in the community.

“Broomhall is unique,” said Saeed. “It’s multicultural.

“There’s a high level of students. We never used to mix with the students unless there was a snowball fight. But the gym has aided that, because we get students coming through and using the facilities but also building relationships with the local residents.

“It’s that commitment to community cohesion that we have developed which has improved the area.”

Students can often feel isolated within their campus bubble. But in Broomhall that’s increasingly not the case.

Polly Barker is volunteer co-ordinator for Helping Environmental Regeneration in Broomhall, or Herb, which invites students and other residents to give up their time to improve the area.

Planting and art projects have added colour to the neighbourhood and created spaces for people to gather.

“It means that different people can use the spaces,” said Polly. “Outside, they can talk to each other. When you are stuck inside you don’t meet people.”

Polly has lived in Broomhall since 1973.

“I love it here,” she said. “There are so many people that you get to know.”

The residents of Sunnybank sheltered housing scheme often don’t choose to come to the area. But they have formed their own community, and are increasingly getting involved in the wider neighbourhood.

Several residents took part in the Our Broomhall project, which culminated in a 200-page history of the area. And, once a week, the Sheffield Woodland Kindergarten visits to help create a wildlife garden.

Resident Nick Lacey said he felt safe and happy in the area, adding: “I would give Broomhall an eight out of 10.”

The best the district has to offer was on show this weekend at the Broomhall Gala, the latest in a long tradition of celebrations that has included carnivals in the past.

One man who promised to attend is Sheffield Central MP Paul Blomfield, who said: “You’ve got very traditional Sheffielders living alongside students and many others who have come to build new lives in the city. It’s vibrant and it manages to retain both the community identity and spirit.”

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Broomhall, Sheffield. The Hannover Estate

Broomhall, Sheffield. The Hannover Estate

new Our Broomhall history project

new Our Broomhall history project

Broomhall, Sheffield. Lynwood Gardens

Broomhall, Sheffield. Lynwood Gardens

Broomhall, Sheffield. Gloucester Street

Broomhall, Sheffield. Gloucester Street

Broomhall, Sheffield. Holberry playground

Broomhall, Sheffield. Holberry playground