'˜Time to work together to make Heeley the best it can be'
The Heeley landscape might have looked very different had it not been for residents who successfully fought off plans to build a road through the middle of the community.
That sense of activism and community action remains, with plenty of groups trying to do positive things in diverse area.
But there is a sense that more collaborative working is needed if Heeley is to truly flourish.
An obvious result of the fight against the ‘Heeley bypass’ – a dual carriageway from the city centre – is Heeley City Farm, which was built on land left vacant when homes were demolished.
“People didn’t want to move out,” said Sally Rodgers, who works at the farm. “It was a very strong community. The residents association wanted the land to be used for Heeley.”
Plenty of farm visitors remember the fight against the road.
Sally, a community archaeologist, said: “We’ve done three excavations looking at the history of the site. We have had people come down whose families lived here. The strong sense of community has stayed and the farm has been a good focus.
“I think it’s a nice place to live. We have problems, but there are problems everywhere. There’s some crime and some different communities. But I think that makes it interesting. It’s quite varied.”
Occasionally tensions between different groups can arise.
But places like the farm and the nearby Heeley People’s Park, transformed over two decades by the Heeley Development Trust, act as equalisers.
Sally said: “There is quite a strong tradition of activism and people getting involved in things that make it an interesting place to live. People who are working to solve problems.
“It’s good we have somewhere like the farm that’s really neutral, just a cafe and a playground for everyone to come to. We have worked hard so pretty much everything we do is free.”
Jeanie Laylor, landlord at The Wagon and Horses on Gleadless Road, is a perfect example of a Heeley resident working hard to solve problems.
Before she took on the pub in December, it had a reputation for drugs and trouble. But she has turned it into a community hub, with activities almost every day ranging from salsa dancing to English and maths lessons.
“I wanted to support people so they didn’t just come in and have a drink,” said Jeanie. “I wanted to make it back into the heart of the community.
“I wasn’t busy for about six months and then I started building it up. I got things going on every day of the week. I hope that more people and groups in the community will use it.”
Jeanie believes there is a lot of good work going on in Heeley, but largely in isolation.
“It’s important for all these groups to be working together,” she said.
Visitors to Heeley will find plenty to keep them occupied, from renowned pubs such as The Sheaf View and The Brothers Arms, to outdoor activities such as climbing and walking.
One recent arrival is the Reverend Tim Burton, who moved from Australia with his wife Aroha to join the Sheffield Church of the Nazarene in May.
As well as the contrast between the space and modernity of the ‘new world’ style of his homeland, Rev Burton was also taken aback by the friendliness of his new community.
“We found it quite a thrill bumping into people that we had met at the church and realising there was a close sense of community,” he said.
“People walk to the shops and talk to each other, whereas in Australia it’s all car trips.”
Rev Burton said there were some ‘obvious social needs’ that needed tackling.
But he was excited to be asked to take part in a new think tank that is working to address problems in Heeley.
“We need to keep talking so we are not just doing out own thing,” he said. “I’m excited to be here at a time when people are really keen to work together.”
Shopkeeper Mr Matoo, 54, has lived in Heeley for 30 years, and describes it as a ‘lovely’ neighbourhood.
“It’s a great community. People are very close. It’s like one big family.
“I’ve not had many problems since I have been here. I’ve got a house in Killamarsh and I don’t like it there as much.”
Sheffield Heeley MP Louise Haigh decided to base her constituency office right in the middle of the area, and is pleased with the positive developments nearby.
“It has really changed significantly, with a lot of independent shops, cafes and restaurants popping up,” she said. “It’s really created a vibrant atmosphere.
“I’m really pleased there’s a vegan cafe now. It’s definitely got a hippy kind of vibe.
“Heeley is extremely community-spirited with loads of community organisations. The city farm is a fantastic resource for the city.”
Louise said there were no major concerns in the area, but agreed there was more scope for collaborative working.
“Given the cuts biting into community organisations, people are naturally retreating into their core areas and having to compete for rapidly diminishing pots of funds.
“But there are some really exciting things happening.”
This weekend will provide a great stage for all Heeley has to offer, with Big Boulder music and arts festival taking place at Heeley People’s Park from midday to 6pm on Sunday.
On Saturday the Church of the Nazarene, in Fitzroy Road, will be reopened with a party after a £600,000 renovation.