Sheffield estate’s ‘wild west’ reputation is a long way from the truth, say resilient residents

The Premier convenience store, where one of the shootings took place.
The Premier convenience store, where one of the shootings took place.
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People living on a Sheffield estate that has been in the headlines for all the wrong reasons recently have issued a passionate defence of their resilient community.

Three people have been shot on the Woodthorpe estate in as many months, and last month police held a meeting for residents to discuss the increasing violence.

Woodthorpe Recreation Ground.

Woodthorpe Recreation Ground.

Officers told them the incidents were thought to be unrelated, and many in Woodthorpe believe they are the work of people who have come to the estate from outside.

Nevertheless, the setbacks have threatened to eclipse all the good work that is being done on Woodthorpe under the auspices of community group All About You, and the estate’s tenants and residents association (TARA).

All About You is a city wide organisation that grew out of the Woodthorpe Development Trust, which was set up almost two decades ago.

They deliver services to including youth clubs, provide help for elderly and disabled people, support people into employment and work on health and wellbeing.

The Woodthorpe Tenants and Residents Association.

The Woodthorpe Tenants and Residents Association.

However, their work is being made increasingly difficult by almost a decade of austerity, which has not only impacted their own budgets, but also the funding of other organisations which the community depend on, like the police.

Ryszard Szumski, deputy manager, said: “We used to have a lot of programmes for young people on gang violence, sexual health and confidence. At the moment there is no funding for anything like that.

“If you look at the policing here it is unreal - the only time you see them is when something happens. That is not their fault though, it is a lack of resources.

“In the summer we run a group called ‘holiday hunger’ where young people aged 8-13 can get a sandwich and a drink then at least we know they are being fed when they are with us.

All About yous Mo Al-Shaebi, CEO Karen Dineen,  and deputy manager Ryszard Szumski.

All About yous Mo Al-Shaebi, CEO Karen Dineen, and deputy manager Ryszard Szumski.

“We are meeting needs that should be statutory but so many people fall through the net. The effort that goes into meeting that is quite hard.”

It is that effort, however, that epitomises the selflessness that keep estates like Woodthorpe together.

“You can’t turn people away so every single person who works here also volunteers,” said CEO, Karen Dineen.

“It is not the local authority’s fault. In 2012 they had their budget cut and the city lost £1.2m overnight.”

Woodthorpe TARAs charity shop.

Woodthorpe TARAs charity shop.

“We have been fighting for a community centre where we can work with young people for donkeys years - but it never happens.”

But Karen said despite its undoubted problems, the image of Woodthorpe as some kind of ‘wild west’ is a long way from the truth.

She said: “There is a perception that Woodthorpe is a horrible place and you are going to get shot but that is rubbish.

“A lot of the things that have happened here could have happened anywhere. It is just unfortunate that we have had a few incidents all together.

“There is a lot of good stuff going on here as well.”

Next door to All About You on Ulley Road is the estate’s tenants and residents association, which on Wednesday was meeting with local councillor Dianne Hurst.

Jean Mitchell, chairman of the TARA, pictured with Jane Wilson and Dianne Hurst.

Jean Mitchell, chairman of the TARA, pictured with Jane Wilson and Dianne Hurst.

Amid the challenges Woodthorpe faces, the TARA has become a symbol of everything that is good about the estate.

Set up 40 years ago, it has - according to Councillor Hurst - been ‘revitalised’ in recent years under the leadership of the current committee.

One of their latest initiatives is a project for young people to build go-karts, which will then be raced on Woodthorpe recreation ground.

They are also collaborating with a local man on a graffiti project on a wall near their Ulley Road premises.

And in the last few weeks they have set up a charity shop which has already been inundated with donations.

The committee say there are a few troublesome - or troubled - families on the estate, but that 99 per cent of the people of Woodthorpe care for the place they live.

Jane Wilson, 53, is a member of the TARA who also works with its spin-off body, the Friends of Woodthorpe.

She said: “I have lived on this estate all my life and it is a lovely place - but we have just had some bad publicity. And all of a sudden Woodthorpe has gone from being at the top to coming right down. We are all trying our hardest to work together. We just want people to come and see what we are doing.”

Like All About You, members of the TARA acknowledge the devastating impact government cuts have had on Woodthorpe.

Jane used to work at the estate’s youth club until funding cuts slashed provision in the area. As a result a youth club that used to open five nights a week, now opens just two nights a week, with predictable consequences.

The youth club’s grounds are currently overgrown and its football pitch is unusable, meaning local young people currently have nowhere grassed to play.

Things like this have meant the community have had to step in where government has pulled back.

And the landlady of the High Noon pub next door - who was once one of the young people Jane worked with - opens up her premises to help facilitate TARA events.

“This TARA is one of the best that I have worked with,” said Dianne Hurst.

“The way that people come together for the benefit of the community is amazing.”

“We are not claiming it is the richest area in Sheffield - but it is a community that people care about.”

The youth club's overgrown football pitch.

The youth club's overgrown football pitch.

The High Noon pub.

The High Noon pub.