The Diary: Furnace Park idea warms up nicely...

Furnace Park....LtoR. Gary Swindell, Katya Porohina, Ivan Rabodzeenko, Dr Amanda Crawley Jackson (Project Director)
Furnace Park....LtoR. Gary Swindell, Katya Porohina, Ivan Rabodzeenko, Dr Amanda Crawley Jackson (Project Director)
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There will be Sheffielders who remember when all of this was nothing but, er, industry.

Now, however, this overgrown Shalesmoor wasteland – for more than 150 years, the site of a steelworks – is to be officially turned into a community green space.

A lush two-acre urban park – set to include planted gardens, performance stage with seating and a gazebo carved from a, um, shipping container – is to be created on the now weed-wedged brownland where the Doncaster & Sons foundry once stood off Matthew Street.

The £80,000 transformation will also include an art exhibition area, while the wall of an adjoining building will be whitewashed for outdoor film screenings.

But incredibly this is no council-run project. It’s all being overseen by volunteers who were annoyed the plot was going to pot.

“We’re calling it Furnace Park in honour of its past,” says Doctor Amanda Crawley-Jackson, project director. “I’ve walked past this place for years and it seemed such a waste for it to be getting overgrown when people could be enjoying it. Something needed to be done.”

So, she and a bunch of like-minded activists went about doing it.

They persuaded the council to let them take the land for three years, drummed up local support and got funding from Sheffield University and local businesses including DLA Piper and Roxspur Measurement & Control.

That’s taken six months and was perhaps the easy part. Now, this week the hard work has really started with the eight-strong team clearing weeds and debris ahead of development.

“We want it to be a place for the whole community to come and relax and be creative,” says Amanda, a Sheffield University French lecturer , from Hillsborough. “Somewhere you might see an acoustic show on stage or attend a university workshop under the gazebo, but where you can also come with a book to enjoy the sun.”

The park will officially open in September but volunteers are now wanted to help plant, build and clear.

“It’s already been a lot of hard work and it’s going to be even more,” says Ivan Rabodzeenko, director of the Shalesmoor, Kelham Island and Neepsend Network. “But the results should be great.”

Volunteers can find out more www.furnacepark.org