Memories of a special year

Sheffield Mencap and Gateway chief executive Janet Sullivan and member Nicola Raynor prepare the Time Capsule to commemorate 60 years in Sheffield
Sheffield Mencap and Gateway chief executive Janet Sullivan and member Nicola Raynor prepare the Time Capsule to commemorate 60 years in Sheffield
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WELL, if The Diary had known a copy of The Star was to be buried in a time capsule for future generations, we might have had a haircut, changed the byline picture and tried to write something prophetic...

Not that it really matters, of course.

For, those who eventually open an early 21st century treasure tome being buried in Norfolk Park will undoubtedly be less interested in the words of yours truly and rather more concerned with the container’s photos, DVDs and oral histories offering them a glimpse into the past of a very special city organisation.

Welcome, then, reader, to Norfolk Lodge, home of Sheffield Mencap and Gateway, the city’s leading charity for people with profound learning difficulties.

In 2011 the group enjoyed a year long series of events, including summer balls and balloon races, to celebrate its 60th anniversary. Now, bosses have entombed a capsule in the site’s gardens to show the charity’s future carers, volunteers and users exactly how the landmark 12 months was commemorated, whole also painting a picture of Sheffield circa 2011.

Promotional DVDs and brochures, art work, photos, T-shirts, a copy of The Star, various recorded interviews and a copy of the charity’s accounts have all been included.

“We’re so proud of the work we do and the people who come here,” says Janet Sullivan, chief executive since 2006. “And we felt it was important not just to celebrate the past but to also give something to the future. And this will show those that open the capsule exactly what Mencap – and Sheffield – was like right now.”

What it is like, incidentally, is an incredibly popular facility for more than 700 families affected by learning difficulties.

From its specially adapted base in Park Grange Road, Norfolk Park, the charity provides a range of activities including craft classes, drama workshops, discussion cafes and gardening groups, as well as being home to a learning hub and weekend social clubs.

Safe to say, with 55 staff and 150 volunteers, it has come a long way since being founded in 1951 as the rather less PC (and even less accurate) Sheffield Society For Backward Children.

And it is hoped the time capsule will help it develop even more.

“When we came to celebrate our 60th anniversary we realised we had hardly anything from our history,” says Janet. “This is a way of ensuring future generations don’t have that problem.”

It will be dug up in 2051 – the group’s centenary – when it is hoped a new one will be buried.

“Will I still be here?” says Janet. “Unlikely but if I’m still around I’d love to be wheeled out for the ceremony.”