THEY both have seven hills – but Sheffield’s similarities with Rome no longer end there...
For next weekend, the first city centre ampitheatre in Britain will open, carved out of the hillside in Sheaf Valley Park, above the railway station.
Over the last few months, bulldozers and teams of workmen have been making the £800,000 project, funded by contributions from the Government, European Union and developers of local projects in Sheffield, a reality.
There is now a large flat open space, with tiered seating overlooking the city centre, which is set to be used by residents’ groups and could also be a venue for city centre events including the Children’s Festival, DocFest and Tramlines music festival.
Also included in the development are a new flight of steps and disabled and buggy-friendly ramp linking the station to South Street and Shrewsbury Road above.
Jeanne Foster, who chairs Friends of Sheaf Valley Park and lives nearby in Belmont Gardens, said: “It was just rough grass with some trees and pathways that were unlit and did not feel safe.
“The change is a great improvement – we have a flat area we can use for community events, and improved steps and walkways to the station and city centre.”
Simon Ogden, head of city development at Sheffield Council, said: “We came up with the idea through consultation with local residents – they wanted two things, a better route to the station and city centre, and a flat area for community events.The hillside as it was, with a 1:10 gradient, was not very useful.”
As part of the project, officials aim to create a city centre arboretum, with numerous species of trees planted whereas there were once only chestnuts.
“Now we have 100 trees of 18 species such as redwood and oak,” Mr Ogden said.
Flat areas of the site, in the centre of the ampitheatre, have been turfed, while slopes are seeded with grass. The new steps are anti-slip and have breaks in the steps to ensure they are easier and safer to climb.
Sheffield Council leader Coun Julie Dore said: “I think the scheme has made this area feel part of the city centre.
“We want to hold events here as part of the city centre’s programme of festivals, such as the Children’s Festival, which has already booked the space next year, DocFest and Tramlines.”
Further improvements are planned to Sheaf Valley Park, including revamping the stretch between the ampitheatre and Park Hill flats, which is to cost ‘several hundred thousand pounds’, covered by developer Urban Splash.
There is also a plan to create a green link between Sheaf Valley Park and the nearby Cholera Monument, immediately to the south, which will cost £300,000 to £400,000 but Mr Ogden said the council does not yet have funding.
Next Saturday, musicians and performers will gather at the top of Howard Street, in the city centre, at 11.45am before walking through Sheffield railway station over the pedestrian footbridge to a formal opening ceremony at the amphitheatre, by Coun Dore at 12.30pm, followed by music, dance and theatre events until 4pm.
The entertainment will be put on by local groups including Norfolk Sparkles Choir, Son de America Dance, Park Community Theatre, Norfolk City Stars majorettes, to name but a few.
Others include DJs and a brass band.