Gang violence on the decline as Darnall residents turn Sheffield suburb's issues around

Sue Moger, Brenda Wheeler, Audrey Parker, Margaret Grey, Irene Brewster, Jean Metcalfe (church warden), Kath Beech and Betty Williams raised money for Macmillan
Sue Moger, Brenda Wheeler, Audrey Parker, Margaret Grey, Irene Brewster, Jean Metcalfe (church warden), Kath Beech and Betty Williams raised money for Macmillan
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A Sheffield suburb is revelling in its diversity as residents fight hard to turn a corner, consigning trouble and bad press to the past.

There is plenty of good work happening in Darnall, in the wake of some serious crime which has blighted the S9 postcode.

Darnall lies in east Sheffield

Darnall lies in east Sheffield

Everyone knows the stories: gang violence, murders, rapes and drugs doing the rounds as different ethnic groups wage war with, it seemed, no end in sight.

Many of the combatants had been taken down the wrong path from an early age, but community groups like Darnall Football Academy are getting involved early, showing the youngsters the way.

The academy has gone from strength to strength, with more than 200 kids now involved every week.

About 20 adults, a handful who are a paid but the majority donating their time, watch them run around with their mates.

Shabir Aziz is the man behind the Darnall Matters Facebook page

Shabir Aziz is the man behind the Darnall Matters Facebook page

No-one cares about colour or background, as the sport brings everyone together.

Bengali and Kurdish youngsters play alongside white British, Libyan, Yemeni, Pakistani and Indian kids.

Coach and volunteer Abdul Malik said they came further afield than just the local area to play Britain’s national sport.

“We have children from Handsworth, Tinsley, Firth Park, Sharrow, Nether Edge, Parsons Cross, in fact all over Sheffield,” Abdul said.

Darnall's residents are working to turn things around

Darnall's residents are working to turn things around

Abdul likes to get them involved early, while the risk of them getting involved with crime is low.

The key is the football, giving kids a sense of identity.

You would struggle to find a man prouder of the area than Shabir Aziz, and he’s trying to instil some of that Darnall passion in his neighbours.

He started the Darnall Matters Facebook page for locals to share old photos and discussion of all things related to the area.

Councillor Mary Lea

Councillor Mary Lea

The page came about after the murder of local man Zubair Hussain on Stainforth Road on New Year’s Eve, 2015.

The murder, Balfour Road man Mr Aziz said, happened ‘stone’s throw’ from his house.

He said things needed to change.

“By uploading some vintage and nostalgic photos of Darnall, I was hoping people would become ‘prouder’,” he said.

He said the area was getting better.

“Third and fourth generations really love the vintage photos,” Mr Aziz said.

“Although, some of the older white community feel things have become worse, especially with the demise of pubs and clubs.

“You also have to remember that Darnall is a pretty economically deprived community, and therefore suffers from related problems such as youth unemployment and poverty.”

Over at the Church of Christ, a group of men and women are doing their bit to raise money for those who need it more than they do.

A recent morning tea, at the church on Station Road, boosted the Macmillan coffers by more than £200.

There was a raffle, bric-a-brac stalls and a guess the height of the cake competition.

The morning was one of many regular days for the group members, who, although are small in number, regularly turn out, according to Susan Griffiths.

The kettle is on every week, apart from school holidays.

“If it wasn’t there, they would miss it,” Mrs Griffiths said.

There’s always something going on the church.

“It’s a well-used centre by the local community,” Mrs Griffiths, who is 65, said.

Born and raised in Darnall, Mrs Griffiths moved away to study at Bradford in the 1970s.

She returned and has stayed in the suburb ever since.

The Halsall Road woman agreed that the area had got better over the years, but she acknowledged that there was still a way to go to make her feel completely safe.

“You do feel that there are these threatening groups around,” Mrs Griffiths said.

“At the moment, there is still a problem.”

She enjoyed the diversity of the congregation these days. The different cultures are even an inspiration for Mrs Griffiths’ abstract paintings.

They are industrial style pieces which have splashes of colour.

“We get people who come in, in beautiful coloured saris, and that goes into them,” she said.

A dedicated but dwindling band of gardeners can be found in the suburb’s most historic area, but the Friends of High Hazels Park say they badly need new members.

Funding cutbacks, old age and an infinite number of other hobbies are taking their toll on the group, which looks after the park around the High Hazels House.

The house is the clubhouse for Tinsley Park Golf Club. It was commissioned by Sheffield’s first mayor, William Jeffcock, and built in 1850.

Fast forward 167 years, and less people than ever are looking after the grounds.

Group chair Paul Campbell said it was a ‘never-ending job’.

“I always likened it to trying to go up an escalator that is going down,” he said.

“You daren’t stop. There’s always something that needs doing.”

Like with many areas in Sheffield, street litter is a problem for Darnall people.

“We want to do more on litter and fly-tipping because we know this concerns people,” Sheffield councillor Mary Lea said.

“Local people and organisations in Darnall work together to make things better.

“From friends of parks to youth clubs and health, lots of volunteers.

“People in Darnall will help themselves, but expect some service providers to do their job as well.”

The area has certainly produced some tough people.

Ruby Gascoigne, one of Sheffield’s Women of Steel, was born in Darnall.

Ruby, who passed away earlier this year, was one of the leading figures in Sheffield’s bid to get official recognition for the women who kept the steelworks producing munitions.

She was 95.