Beehive-inspired installation gives hope to the people of Fir Vale
In a bid to upturn Fir Vale’s reputation, an eye-catching Beehive-inspired installation, created by a group of schoolboys and a local artist, has been displayed for all to see in the centre of the community.
‘The Fir Vale Beehive’, a multicoloured array of laser-cut wooden beehives, bees and flowers, was devised by Lois Conlan; an artist for the Sheffield-based arts charity, Ignite Imaginations.
The final design, however, was made in collaboration with the pupils from Step Out; a group from the Earl Marshall Youth Centre which offers young Roma pupils alternative opportunities for learning and support.
During a workshop, Lois asked the boys - aged nine to 1-1years-old - to discuss their feelings towards the COVID-19 pandemic, which they then wrote down onto the wooden bees; now fixed to the railings of their youth centre.
“It was really good for the boys to be able to express themselves in a safe space and to project what they had created into the community where they may sometimes feel excluded. It allowed them to take ownership of their work, their area and their building,” said Lois.
She added: “They could be proud of what they had done, and proud to share their thoughts and feelings. It was an opportunity for them to be listened to and heard. The kids could represent themselves as the bees flying around their community.”
According to most recent data from Sheffield City Council, the rate of fixed term exclusion within the Roma community at secondary level is 27 per cent; significantly higher than the city average of seven per cent.
Step Out exists to give Roma the belief and hope that they can strive for better.
“These kids are on a fast track to permanent exclusion. They go to Step Out in order to try to turn them around: to give them some joy around learning and to understand the benefits of that.
"The point is to try to catch them before it’s too late.” says Colin Havard, Community Development Coordinator for Sheffield City Council.
For Mr Havard, the biggest challenge for the people of Fir Vale and Page Hall is a matter of reputation; which, for him, is far worse than the reality.
“The reason for this project was that we need to give people hope in Page Hall. The media narrative is all negative: You live in a s**t area, making you think you are are s**t and worthless. If that’s the narrative you live under, then how are you going to behave?”
He continued: “We need to give them another narrative that they can follow, a narrative that says: actually, you could create art, you’re good at something, you’re worth me talking to.
“We have to give people the sense in Page Hall that, actually, it’s not a s**t area.
“ If Lois’ artwork helped us do that, then that’s great.”
Funded by Arts Council England, ‘The Fir Vale Beehive’ is one-quarter of a Sheffield-wide project called ‘Art at the Heart’, which sought to transform people’s experiences of the Covid-19 pandemic into art.
To find out more about the Art at the Heart project across Sheffield, visit the website
To learn more about ‘The Fir Vale Beehive’, watch on YouTube