Burngreave: Crime capital or close-knit community?
Burngreave usually hits the headlines thanks to serious crime.
A quick search through The Star’s recent archives shows stories about drugs, sexual abuse and violence in the north eastern suburb.
Forgotten front gardens and closed curtains along Burngreave Road suggest an atmosphere of fear and isolation.
But look a little deeper and there is plenty of evidence of a thriving, close-knit, multiracial community.
Wayne Curtis runs Curtis Motor Accessories with his dad George, who moved to Sheffield after arriving from Jamaica in 1960. A photo of George and friends on the dock in Southampton after their three-week boat journey hangs on the wall of the shop.
The father and son have kept their businesses local and independent, and rely on word of mouth and good service for custom.
Wayne said: “We just do the things we have been doing since 1976 when we first started.”
Business is good for the Curtises despite competition from larger chains, and they have no cause to complain about the Burngreave area.
“It’s very rare that anyone is angry about anything when they come in,” said Wayne, who grew up not far from the shop - although he now lives in Fulwood.
“People will happily talk about where they come from.”
A resident of 18 years, Paul Grover has seen plenty of change in Burngreave. But he has few complaints.
Enjoying some fresh air next to Abbeyfield Park, he said: “I like it here. The people are nice and kind.
“It’s a multinational community and everyone gets along very well. It’s very cosmopolitan.
“There’s a lot of integration, communication and co-operation.”
Burngreave regularly shows up in lists of Sheffield’s most deprived areas.
Last year’s State of Sheffield report identified an above average growth in population, a particularly high concentration of black and ethnic minority residents and poor health statistics.
There are obvious signs of drug and alcohol abuse in public areas, often near playgrounds and schools.
The Burngreave Foodbank has been consistently busy since it was set up in 2012, and organisers do not expect demand to drop.
This creates obvious challenges for an already struggling public sector. But the Burngreave community does its bit to help.
There are scores of voluntary organisations in the area, from parent-run homework groups to youth clubs and religious centres.
The Women’s Construction Centre - run by Women in Construction Arts and Technology Ltd, known as WiCAT - offers practical classes in a range of trades and skills that women don’t usually have access to.
The Burngreave Messenger community newsletter keeps residents informed of the latest campaigns and causes, from road safety to tree felling.
There is an annual festival, the Burngreave Hullabaloo in Abbeyfield Park, that works with anti-racism group Hope Not Hate to unite people from different backgrounds.
And there is Burngreave Library, now run entirely by volunteers, in the glass-fronted Sorby House in Spital Hill.
“I can’t imagine this community without a library,” said co-ordinator Marcia Layne, who admits the library has ‘exceeded all expectations’ since the council handed over control to the community due to a lack of money in September 2015.
“People were concerned that we wouldn’t be able to maintain it.
“But we managed to retain all the hours that the council used to open for. We managed to keep up a lot of the activities.”
A modern library has to be about more than just books to survive, and Burngreave Library has embraced the 21st century.
As well as vital internet access, it offers baby sessions, chess clubs, drama classes and much more - in part thanks to the team of volunteers.
“They are all really passionate, giving up a lot of their time and coming in with all kinds of skills to make it work,” said Marcia.
“For the people who come into the library, it’s very important. We have supported people with all kinds of different things.
“A lot of people come in and might be looking for work, so we give support in job searches. We help them with things like scanning immigration papers.
“It’s a really important resource.”
Burngreave has a higher than average school age population. This is not a new trend, but highlights the need for a good youth support network.
The council hopes a new £25 million through school in nearby Pitsmoor will help, but other agencies are working to serve the diverse needs of the Burngreave population.
Sheffield Futures is one group offering support services in the area. It works with vulnerable young people at risk of causing antisocial behaviours and unemployed teenagers, and runs youth club services in Burngreave and across Sheffield.
Joanne Holt is community youth team manager for the north east of Sheffield. She said: “We take a lot of referrals and there is a demand for our services - whether it’s in Burngreave or the whole north east area.
“You have to remember that young people get a lot of bad publicity. But they are our society’s future and what we need to do as a city is take the time to invest in them.”
Joanne called Burngreave a ‘brilliant’ place to work.
She said: “It’s a great community feel and nothing is too much trouble for anyone. People are happy to work together.”
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