Sheffield has an enviable reputation across so many of its sectors: healthcare, education, manufacturing, research and development... the list goes on.
This city has a proven track record for being brave. For leading the way where angels fear to tread.
Well now is the time for the Steel City to really show its mettle, because people’s lives depend on it. People’s lives depend on us.
In 2007 Sheffield became the first officially recognised ‘City of Sanctuary.’ In that moment, the leaders of this city quite rightly acknowledged the enormous contribution made to the fabric of our communities by people from outside of our borders. There is no better example of the prosperity to be had from welcoming migrants than the £65m Chinatown development that will light up our skyline when it is complete in two years’ time.
The man behind the 400+ job bonanza, Jerry Cheung, came to Sheffield in 1975. I wonder what kind of reception he received. Had Sheffield not welcomed Mr Cheung, this development would not be enhancing our streets.
I use the Chinatown example because one of the big selling points to getting it past council planners was that it would take inward Chinese investment away from the likes of Manchester and Leeds, further strengthening Sheffield’s competitiveness in national and global terms.
There’s no doubt Sheffield is playing catch-up with the likes of Manchester on an economic basis.
But hear this: nobody, but nowhere can offer desperate refugees a second chance at life like we can.
The Manchester Evening News ran this strikingly poignant front page on Friday, quite rightly making a pitch for Manchester to become a City of Sanctuary.
Well we were there almost a decade ago. We were the first to offer broken, destitute, crest-fallen families a chance to rebuild their lives. More than ever we need to live up to our reputation.