Kelham Island Sheffield: A brilliant island with a long way to go, according to those based there

Kelham is a brilliant island with a long way to go.
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At least that’s the impression I got from a visit to commemorate it’s ranking by Time Out magazineas the 35th best ‘neighbourhood’ in the world. I went to some of the spots that the magazine recommends and found some common themes – and complaints.

Alp Ozan, owner of the Grind Café (recommended as a top breakfast spot) tells me that it ‘feels like a different city’ compared to the rest of Sheffield – but hit out at the council for holding the area back.

The Green Lane works arch at Kelham Island. Picture: Ben ShahrabiThe Green Lane works arch at Kelham Island. Picture: Ben Shahrabi
The Green Lane works arch at Kelham Island. Picture: Ben Shahrabi
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He said: “When people go for a night out, they don’t just come to drink, they come and they go to local coffee shops and visit restaurants and there’s the potential to make it one the most significant places in the UK”.

Alp believes that the council makes it too difficult for places like his to get a license for late opening, enabling them to serve customers late at night – as is common across in Europe, and even in parts of the UK, such as Manchester (an example Alp cites).

The Grind Café is a delightful little spot that I visited just as they were closing and really captures the niche magic that has won the island such acclaim.

A wander around the area as day turns to dusk really is illuminating. Much of the old school industrial feel remains, a call back to the Sheffield of yesteryear when the Steel City moniker was apt. Of course, Sheffield is now the Green City, and a modern feel has swept Kelham Island. It’s charming without being too hipster, some of the pubs show that Sheffield hasn’t lost its teeth and that reassuringly rough edge is retained in some parts.

The Grind Cafe, Kelham Island. Picture: Ben ShahrabiThe Grind Cafe, Kelham Island. Picture: Ben Shahrabi
The Grind Cafe, Kelham Island. Picture: Ben Shahrabi
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One pub I went to is the famous Fat Cat, an establishment that has seen a lot of change since it’s early years. It’s an old Victorian building full of warmth (and Sunday roast only costs £6)

Owner Ed Wickett has lived in Kelham Island since 1990 and has seen a lot of change. He’s optimistic about the state of these parts but again stresses that there’s still untapped potential. He explains: “I still think there’s a way to go. The infrastructure of the area is still quite transient, there’s not enough to keep people coming. There’s some great bars, great cafes but we need some shops to keep people coming. It can be dead Monday to Friday. We need more to really take it to the next level, which we can.”

It appears to me that Kelham Island is a wonderful area with a lot of untapped potential. You really get a sense of a place that harnesses Sheffield’s industrial past while also looking to the future, a greener, brighter Sheffield. It’s a truly wonderful area of a truly wonderful city but you just get the sense that with a little more love and care that it could become the jewel of South Yorkshire’s crown.

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