RETRO:A friend in need to city for 40 years

Sheffield Friends of the Earth in Fargate highlighting wildlife in danger such as whales turtles and crocodiles. 1979.
Sheffield Friends of the Earth in Fargate highlighting wildlife in danger such as whales turtles and crocodiles. 1979.
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Saving the planet: it’s not an easy job but that’s never stopped this lot giving it a go.

Sheffield Friends Of The Earth is 40 years old this month. The group has been encouraging us to go green since February 1974.

Sheffield Friends of the Earth in Fargate highlighting wildlife in danger such as whales turtles and crocodiles. 1979

Sheffield Friends of the Earth in Fargate highlighting wildlife in danger such as whales turtles and crocodiles. 1979

It has run recycling schemes since before recycling was law, successfully campaigned against hated highway projects like the once proposed Heeley Bypass, and helped build several inner city wildlife gardens. Members have also done their fair share of dressing up in daft costumes to highlight problems like pollution or dangers facing big cats.

Now to celebrate the landmark anniversary, Midweek Retro brings you these pictures showing the society down the decades.

“The work we do is absolutely important,” says spokesman and member since 1992 Shaun Rumbelow. “We all have to live on this planet so we should all be doing our best to help preserve it.

“I think people understand that today better than ever before, actually. As a society we’re more enlightened about the environment, and I do think a lot of that is down to groups like ours all over the world.”

Sheffield Friends of the Earth outside the Crucible Theatre highlighting wildlife in danger such as whales turtles and crocodiles. 1979.

Sheffield Friends of the Earth outside the Crucible Theatre highlighting wildlife in danger such as whales turtles and crocodiles. 1979.

Certainly, when the Sheffield society was first founded, caring about the environment was still considered something of a minority concern. The original Friends of the Earth had only been founded in London five years earlier; and for the first meeting here just a handful of like-minded souls gathered in the Nether Edge Jude Warrender’s front room.

But, to use an appropriately green metaphor, from that little acorn a mighty oak grew. Over four decades, the group – which is now more than 100 members strong – has done much good work.

Their actions were behind Sheffield being labelled Britain’s first Recycling City in 1989, while their campaigning is credited with helping to reduce pollution in the city’s rivers. Knowledge gathered by the group was also invaluable when it came to building a cycle route to Chesterfield via the Rother Valley.

On a less local level, coach trips have regularly been organised to take protesters to demonstrations across the country, including the famous Save The Whale rally in London’s Hyde Park in 1981 when more than 15,000 people turned up.

“We try and take action on a local level to improve things here in Sheffield,” says Shaun, a 41-year-old IT worker of Vere Road, Hillsborough. “But as a group, we also want to support national and international campaigns such as, at the moment, saying no to fracking.”

And at 40, members won’t be resting on their laurels. The planet still needs saving now as much as it ever did.

This year, they are hoping to drive forward a scheme to get solar panels on all schools in Sheffield, while promising to support appropriate wind farm applications.

“The job will never be done,” says Shaun. “There’s always something to try and improve – whether that be more efficient transport systems to supporting cleaner energy.”

n Sheffield Friends of the Earth meet on the third Monday of each month, 8 – 9.30pm, in The Red Deer pub in Pitt Street. Visit sheffieldfoenewsletter.blogspot.co.uk