Sheffield community centre to keep going despite double wrecking spree

Vandals have devastated a community centre after going on two wrecking sprees in a matter of days – destroying a gardening project and badly damaging Sheffield’s second-oldest building.

Tuesday, 5th March 2019, 10:40 am
Updated Tuesday, 5th March 2019, 10:42 am
The 3,000 polytunnel which housed the garden was destroyed by vandals

Volunteers and staff were left ‘heartbroken’ by the attacks on Herdings Community and Heritage Centre, in Gleadless Valley. 

Thugs kicked, ripped and smashed whatever they could get their hands on, rendering the centre unusable for the time being.

Kim Hinchliffe, Health Practitioner, pictured with volunteers l-r Tony Slack, James Starky, Anna Scislowska, Sandra Billard and Grace Collins. Picture: Marie Caley

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Steve Rundell, CEO of Reach South Sheffield who run the centre, said the second attack was even worse than the first, which happened last week. 

“When I saw it my heart sank and shoulders dropped. It was devastating. 

“At one point I did think of quitting and vacating the property or giving it back to the council. 

“But then we saw how much support we got last week and your head lifts, and shoulders straighten and the spirit lifts again. You realise the community spirit will not be defeated. So we will absolutely keep going. Volunteers will need a lot of support but we will rebuild and come back stronger.” On a normal week the centre is the beating heart of the community. The garden is used to grow produce for local food banks and lunch groups and the building acts as a meeting place for young carers, disadvantaged children, adult learners and other members of the community.

Smashed window of the building which is the second oldest in Sheffield

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‘Mindless’ vandals destroy Sheffield gardening project

A £3,000 polytunnel that housed the garden was also torn apart, its structure bent and skin ripped off beyond repair.

After the first attack the whole community rallied around to bring it almost back to normal by the end of the week. But the second hit has left them having to temporarily shut their doors until it is safe to use again. 

Mr Rundell said: “We are really upset by it – people who rely on it will have to miss out again. It’s not the physical damage that hurts, it’s the spirit more than anything. 

Volunteer Anna Scislowska, pictured by the Community Centre. Picture: Marie Caley

“Volunteers and extra people including residents and schoolchildren spent most of last week putting it all back together and cleaning up – they really did a fantastic job and, by the end of the week, the sun was shining. 

“They are absolutely devastated and will think ‘what’s the point’ and I understand where they’re coming from. 

“Right now we are looking at what we can do to move forwards. 

“The worry is it will just get destroyed again. But until we can identify who did it there’s not much point in trying to prevent the next one.  ”But we are not going to stop – no matter how depressing it gets.”

Councillor Lewis Dagnall, cabinet member for environment and transport and representative for Gleadless Valley ward, said: “It’s bitterly disappointing they have returned but it’s not representative of the community as a whole. 

“More funding and engagement with the young people who may have done this would be really useful. We will speak to Steve and find a way forwards. Places like these are absolutely essential – the services Reach provide across the Valley are really important to the community. It’s deplorable but it shouldn’t put us off investing in it.”

Anyone with any information should call South Yorkshire Police on 101.