“When we first went to knock on doors, people had never heard of us,” admits Sheffield Green party leader Jillian Creasy.
“When we first went to knock on doors, people had never heard of us”, admits Sheffield’s Green party leader Jillian Creasy.
It is ten years to the day since the former GP became the city’s first ever Green councillor and the party says it is now seeing a major swelling in support.
Membership, once small enough to hold party meetings in someone’s living room, now stands at more than 300 people - with a 15 per cent increase during the election campaign alone.
And the number of Green councillors was doubled at the local elections to four, with many candidates snapping at the heels of the winners.
Jillian, of Broomhall, said: “The change is the recognition we now get. When we first used to knock on doors people had never heard of us - they would say ‘are you from Greenpeace?’
“That is completely different now because we have an MP nationally and also we have worked very hard locally.”
Jillian was inspired to get involved in politics after 9/11 and the start of the Iraq War.
She was the sole Green councillor, representing the biggest ward Sheffield Central, for two years, and continued working as a GP for years until treatment for breast cancer last year made her realise ‘something had to go’.
She said: “I remember seeing that footage of 9-11 repeatedly and just thinking ‘this is going to change everything’.
“People across Sheffield and the country forged this huge anti-war campaign, whenI joined they wanted people who represented different areas. So I said I was a member of the Green party, which was really about six people meeting in other people’s houses.”
The profile of the Sheffield Greens was raised by their opposition to a long-running debate over the replacement of the Bernard Road incinerator, which was rebuilt in a 30-year contract despite concerns from local people and opposition councillors.
Another victory was when their candidate finished second in Sharrow, beating the Liberal Democrats by eight votes, in 2003.
“That was a real turning point, because you can say that you are the alternative party, said Jillian, aged 56.
“Now we are in that situation in six wards.”
The party, which last week moved to a bigger office in the town hall so Sheffield’s three new UKIP councillors could have their old HQ, aims to ‘knock on every door’ in its wards once a year.
It is keen to show that it doesn’t just focus on the environment, as some critics say, but that green issues go ‘hand in hand’ with those of equality and fairness.
Campaigns have included fighting for 20mph zones on all residential streets city wide, for the re-regulation of buses and to improve the standard of housing.
Priorities for the future including securing a living wage - difficult at the council as so many staff carry out authority work but are employed by contractors - the impact of climate change, and issues surrounding employment and equality.
Jillian added: “It feels like there has been this sea change, this swell of support for the Greens. The other thing that happened at the election was that UKIP got in to the council.
“We don’t agree with UKIP policies at all but we do think it is important for people to notice that people aren’t happy with the status quo, with the main political parties.”