Thurcroft Big Local helping residents spend £1m on their village

Thurcroft residents are dreaming up ways to spend £1m over the next ten years to make their village a “place where people want to bring their children up in the future.”

Thurcroft was awarded the money under the Big Local scheme back in February 2012, which is lottery money allocated to small communities previously overlooked for regeneration. It aims to enable local people to improve where they live.

Thurcroft is one of 150 areas awarded funding since the scheme began in 2010.

A public meeting was held back then for local people to find out what Big Local was all about. One interested resident was 71-year-old Alan Bucknall.

“I went because I was secretary of the bowling club, to see whether there was any funding for things that the council no longer did for us.

“I very quickly realised that wasn’t what it was all about.

“It wasn’t just spending £1m. It was getting people involved and raising public spirit and getting more of a friendly feeling around the place.”

He and 20 other keen volunteers formed the Thurcroft Big Local steering group, which has spent the last year talking to Thurcroft residents about what they want the village to be like in the future.

An initial £20,000 of ‘Getting Started’ funding enabled them to help revive the Thurcroft gala, a community festival held on August bank holiday, which had not taken place for many years.

They even held a ‘onesie party’ to attract ideas.

The group then wrote a community profile in July this year, which identified three main priorities for the £1m. These are restoration of community pride, regeneration of the whole community and greater involvement of young people in services and activities.

The steering group has recently become a more formal local partnership, made up of 15 resident members with Alan as chair. They are now beginning to write their Big Local plan which will identify specific projects to spend money on.

Rotherham Federation of Tenants and Residents (RotherFed) is the trusted organisation which holds access to the money and guides the partnership through its discussions.

Steve Ruffle, Development Manager for RotherFed said: “The nature of Big Local is that it’s very flexible. It’s resident-led and there’s no push to spend all this money in the next year or two.

“It’s very early stages and the next 4-5 months will be focusing on exactly what we’re trying to do.”

But Alan believes big changes have already been made.

“We’ve already started getting young people trained up as full-time youth leaders. We’ll have a youth club we’ve not had for four or five years.

“We’ve already got a summer play scheme which we’d never had before in Thurcroft.”

The group has also pledged to run the gala for the next two years.

Although Thurcroft’s community profile stressed the pride people have in their village, it also made clear the problems it faces. Thurcroft Colliery closed in 1992, and now a quarter of working-age residents receive benefits, with 27% of children living in poverty.

But despite this, those involved in Thurcroft Big Local are optimistic about the future.

Steve Ruffle said: “My feeling is that it comes at the right time. People are wanting to start saying ‘there have been a lot of negative things that have happened to this community but we want to start doing something new’.”

Alan Bucknall also has high hopes about what Thurcroft may look like in ten years’ time after the £1m is spent.

“If we’ve listened to what people have said I would think we would have a better community spirit.

“Instead of people saying look what Dinnington has got, or what Maltby has got, they’ll be saying look what we’ve got.

“We want it to be a place where people want to bring their children up in the future.”


Locally Grown gives helping hand to entrepreneurial social housing tenants

Entrepreneurial social housing tenants in Sheffield are being encouraged to set up their own businesses through the Locally Grown initiative.

Places for People, in partnership with four other Yorkshire housing associations and a local regeneration charity Participate Projects has won £1.5m of funding from the European Regional Development Fund to assist business start-ups until July 2015.

The scheme offers tailored support for social housing residents who want to set up their own businesses, and advice for any existing small business in the area.

Places for People has already helped up to ten businesses in Leeds through Locally Grown since it launched in August this year, and is now hoping to emulate that success in Sheffield.

It aims to establish 15-17 new businesses and support a further 30 across the city over the next two years.

The support on offer ranges from business plans and advice on accessing finance, to marketing strategies, legal support and basic book-keeping.

But, often, it is simply about giving people a helping hand.

Matthew Hesketh, Business Enabler for Locally Grown said: “A lot of people struggle with I.T, but they also struggle with filling in forms and confidence to ring people up.

“Much of it is about breaking down barriers and assisting people. Some people don’t have that get up and go and confidence just to go out and talk to people.

“It really helps people to come out of their shell.”

One Sheffield company who have already benefited from Locally Grown is Pure Tech Plumbing Services, who are one of the scheme’s business assists.

Chris Hobbs, 27, set up the business last year after working for another plumbing firm since the age of 16.

“I joined the Locally Grown project a while ago and have been to a few of their sessions. Probably the most useful thing has been someone to go through your ideas and see them from another angle. Sometimes you get lost in your own approach.

“Matt [Hesketh] has also looked over some of my marketing material and helped raise my profile in the newsletter.

“It’s been good to just be able to speak to someone, it can often be a scary place setting up on your own.

“I think like any business it was slow to start with but things have picked up and I’m pretty busy now.”

More information about Pure Tech Plumbing Services can be found at

Voices of the Holocaust perform the heroic story of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising

Voices of the Holocaust, a new theatre and education company, performed its latest show Fragile Fire at the Library Theatre in Sheffield on 4th December.

Fragile Fire tells the story of Mordechai Anielewicz, one of the chief figures of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, who kept the invading Nazis at bay for a month in 1943.

The group is touring with Sheffield resident Shonaleigh, who is thought to be the only remaining Drut’syla in the world, a traditional Yiddish storyteller. The play is paired with one of Shonaleigh’s stories, The Fool of the Warsaw Ghetto, which was created by her grandmother in Auschwitz.

Her grandmother survived the death camp and came to live with Shonaleigh in Britain, where she began to teach her the tradition from the age of four. Shonaleigh holds around 4,500 stories in her head, and now travels around the world telling. She is also Associate Lecturer in Storytelling at the University of Derby.

Shonaleigh said: “It is a huge reportoire of folktales, wonder tales, legends, myths, traditionally passed down from the grandmother to the granddaughter. It worked within a community, you told these stories, they promoted debate and enlightenment.”

A Drut’syla would historically be embedded within a small Jewish community, but their numbers began to diminish after the first world war, and they barely existed following the second.

“The first people into the gas chambers were the old people and the children so it pretty much wiped out the tradition.”

Shonaleigh is working with three universities to record her stories, and is beginning to teach them to her 16-year-old son.

Voices of the Holocaust was formed on Holocaust Memorial Day earlier this year, and is the only specialist group of its type in the country, teaching the Holocaust through theatre and performance.

The cast of Fragile Fire (image courtesy of


Cate Hibbert, Voices of the Holocaust’s founder and creative director said: “What we do is create historically accurate narratives by using theatre in the most beautiful and stunning visual and aural styles you can imagine.”

Although Cate is passionate about theatre, she believes there is a fundamental problem with the way the Holocaust is being taught to children, and wants to take Voices into schools.

“We’ve only existed for a few months and we’ve had to work flat out as volunteers. We had to set this up from nothing. People didn’t really see that there was a need but there is a need and it’s massive.

“For 70 years the Jews have been represented as a people who went like lambs to the slaughter, that they didn’t fight back or resist. Well that’s not true.”

Although still in its infancy, Voices has been winning support from politicians, and attended an event in parliament earlier this year. Local MPs in its performing cities attend the shows and have been moved by what they have seen.

Iain Stewart, MP for Milton Keynes South, where Voices have their headquarters, said: “I think that the work of Voices of the Holocaust is a very effective way of bringing the reality of the Holocaust into the curriculum for students.

“As time goes on fewer and fewer survivors of the Holocaust will be left to tell their stories firsthand. These need to be kept alive to remind, and educate, future generations about the possible consequences of intolerance.”

Fragile Fire is touring theatres across the country. More information about the show can be found at

Homeless charity Roundabout launch £10,000 crowdfund for ‘extremely run down’ flats

Amy Casbolt, fundraising co-ordinator at Roundabout
Amy Casbolt, fundraising co-ordinator at Roundabout

A Sheffield charity has launched an online appeal to raise the £10,000 it needs to renovate flats for young homeless people.

Roundabout is asking people to invest directly in the project through a six-week crowfunding campaign. Those who donate can then track the progress of the appeal online.

It is hoping that this innovative new way of raising funds will enable it to provide a much-needed facelift for its eight flats on St Barnabas’ Road.

‘Extremely run down’

Amy Casbolt, fundraising co-ordinator for Roundabout said: “They’re extremely run down. There’s not much furniture in there, they need painting, the heating system is terrible and they’re really not nice.”

The flats are next-door to Roundabout’s Emergency Access Hostel, the only one in Sheffield to take in 16 and 17 year olds. Young people typically stay there for six weeks before moving into the flats, where they can stay for up to a year.

The hostel last year underwent a huge £1m refurbishment to provide more bedrooms for residents and training space for Roundabout staff, who help those staying to claim appropriate benefits and plan for life after they move out.

Casbolt said: “It’s been really nice to see the impact that’s had on the young people.

“But it’s always been an incentive for people in the hostel that if you work with us, you can then move onto the flats next door, and they’re thinking why would I want to go there when it’s really nice in here?”

The hostel refurbishment was completed with £700,000 of financial support from South Yorkshire Housing Association, but there wasn’t enough money remaining for the adjoining flats.

Increasing demand

Roundabout’s funding model has had to change in response to reduced Government assistance through the Supporting People programme, and demand for its services is increasing. It currently has to turn away 25 people a week.

Casbolt says this is driving the move towards new and less traditional forms of investment, like the crowdfund.

“I don’t think people realise what’s happening on their own doorstep. We support 150 young people every single day in Sheffield.

“We can’t do it without the support of local people. We desperately need people to donate – even £5 or whatever people can spare.

“Everyone who donates is helping to provide a safe place for young homeless people in Sheffield.”

Dave Jones ready for ‘hard fight’ as sorry Wednesday lose again


Sheffield Wednesday boss Dave Jones was defiant about his future after a dreadful performance from his side in a 2-1 home defeat to Yorkshire rivals Huddersfield Town left them rooted in 22nd place in the Championship.

“I’ve said many times before I don’t see why I should keep bringing up what I’ve done and my record. You can’t shoot at it.

“This season is a hard fight, it’s not a nice situation to be in.

“Are you gonna give it up and walk away? Of course you’re not, I’m made of sterner stuff than that.”

The result condemned the Owls to a second consecutive league defeat and means they have now won only once in 15 outings.

Chairman Milan Mandaric has come out with his support for Jones, saying that he still wants to give him more time to improve results.

Mandaric told Sky Sports: “I just want a bit more patience; give the manager support and hopefully he’ll pull us out of this trouble. It’s got to stop.”

But with their next three fixtures against sides in the Championship’s top half, it’s difficult to see where their next points are going to come from.

Huddersfield controlled the game from the outset, benefiting from an extra man in the centre of midfield which allowed them to dominate possession and dictate the tempo of the game.


But even Huddersfield’s tactical superiority couldn’t account for their first goal after ten minutes. Following a throw-in, Wednesday’s backline inexplicably stepped up, allowing Adam Clayton to pick out Martin Paterson, who, despite suspicions of offside, was unmarked and slotted home easily.

Town’s second came 20 minutes into the second half after a spell of decent Wednesday pressure, their only such spell of the game. James Vaughan won a cheap corner when he appeared to have little support deep in the right corner of the pitch, and a clever Huddersfield routine saw the ball fall to Clayton to pick his spot through a crowded penalty area.

Jones was keen to stress it was these individual mistakes made by his players which made the difference, highlighting a perceived mental block which was inhibiting his players when playing in front of the Hillsborough crowd.

“The last time we played here we were outstanding, and then we’re not. And that must be frustrating for everybody, the chairman, the fans, me, the coaches, maybe even one or two of the players.

“I think they need to take more responsibility and stand up and be counted, just as much as I will and my staff will.”

A Connor Wickham free-kick deep into injury time brought the game back to 2-1, but by then it was too late for Wednesday to threaten for an equaliser.

It would have been undeserved after such an insipid performance. After Huddersfield’s second goal, audible chants of “you’re getting sacked in the morning” echoed around Hillsborough.

When questioned about whether the club would be wrong to let him go after the game, Jones grew tetchy.

“Why should I have to answer that? Why should I get embroiled in things like that? I think you already know the answer to that.

“We want to get it right. But you’ve also got to remember that I didn’t kick a ball today and I didn’t make a pass.

“I have a responsibility because I pick the team but then I expect them to go out and perform and that’s what you have to rely on.”

4000 wins for A.P McCoy: but is he really the greatest sportsman of his age?

a.p mccoy

Image courtesy of Paul.

A piece for Forge Sport’s regular Matchdebating feature, arguing that A.P McCoy can’t be judged the greatest sportsman of his generation, even after 4000 race wins. Must be mad.

There is no doubting the enormity of A.P McCoy’s achievement, his 4,000th win this month merely allows people to celebrate what we all already know, that he is one of the the greatest race jockeys of all time.

But anointing him as the greatest sportsperson of his generation, let alone of all time, is much more problematic. For starters, to make a rather obvious and blunt point, McCoy’s successes are never truly just his own. His skill of powering horses towards victory is undoubted, but he is blessed with being the main jockey of the most illustrious stable in British hunt racing.

The horses on which he rides are the best of their kind, bred to race and trained by the incredible Jonjo O’Neill. Just as Sebastian Vettel would struggle in a moderately sized hatchback, McCoy couldn’t have won the Grand National on a tired old nag.

So is it not true that the winner of all of those 4,000 races has been the horse, the trainer and the owner, just as much as McCoy?

Horse racing is also undoubtedly an exciting and dramatic sport with fans all over the world. But, really, McCoy is only well-known in Europe, not in America or Australia, where racing is a game governed by different rules and with its own fans. He is only really a hero in Britain and Ireland.

Which really raises the issue of what makes a great sportsperson anyway. There are those, like McCoy, who stand head and shoulders above their competitors – literally in the case of Usain Bolt, figuratively for Lionel Messi.

But these two men transcend the sport in which they are so accomplished and are recognised globally simply for their excellence.

Big companies fall over themselves to associate their brand with Messi and Bolt, and most importantly, kids aspire to emulate them.

Their stories are so well known across the globe – Messi overcame a growth hormone deficiency to become one of the greatest footballers of all-time; Bolt had to be persuaded away from playing cricket to concentrate on his sprinting.

They are not simply great with a ball at their feet or with 100m of track in front of them, they are role-models to children from Buenos Aires to Kingston and beyond. McCoy may well be great, but his reach is somewhat more limited.

But of all of this begs a good question. Does the fact that more people know who Messi, Bolt or Floyd Mayweather are mean they are any better at their sport than McCoy is at his? Not really.

A truly great cricketer in Sachin Tendulkar retired this week, and rather than reflecting on his immensity as a player and a man, the debate has already begun on where he sits in the mythical rankings of all-time greats. Debasing the Little Master’s career to mere numbers is perhaps just as much a zero-sum game as comparing jockeys with footballers, sprinters or boxers.

To watch a mazy run from Messi, a booming overhand right from Mayweather or a sumptuous cover drive from Tendulkar is a joy in its own right. Watching Usain Bolt and AP McCoy roar free from a tight crowd to take glory in the last few seconds similarly. To begin comparing them is almost impossible, as to do so detracts from their unique, one-off brilliance. Let’s just enjoy them while we can.

‘It was that really that got me here and saved my life’: Play set in busy Sheffield station marks 75th anniversary of Kindertransport

The cast of Suitcase
The cast of Suitcase

It almost could have been just any average day at Sheffield railway station, with hordes of confused passengers anxiously checking the departures board to see when they would be on their way. It was only the short trousers and German accents that gave it away. Rather than embark to another city in the UK, on 16th November bewildered Sheffield commuters were instead transported back to 1938 for a theatre production to mark the 75th anniversary of the Kindertransport.

In November of that year, Britain allowed 10,000 unaccompanied children, mainly Jewish, to arrive from areas of Nazi-occupied Europe as their antisemitic policies began to be take hold.

The Kinder, who were told to arrive with just one suitcase, travelled by train from Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia and Poland to the Hook of Holland, where they got on boats to Harwich.

From there, children were sent to homes all over the country.


One of these Kinder was Johanna Hacker, who arrived from Vienna with her two younger sisters in December 1938, before settling in Sunderland. Her 9 month-old baby brother Max was too young to travel, and was lost his life in the Holocaust with Johanna’s parents.

70 years on, Johanna’s daughters Ros and Jane Merkin, with their cousin, musical director Max Reinhardt, created the play Suitcase to commemorate the journey that their mother and thousands of other children made.

Jane said: “Kindertransport has been a really important part of our lives. Our mum, who died in 1994, didn’t talk about it a lot, but we grew up knowing that story.”

Originally devised as a one-off show at Liverpool Street Station in 2008, the play is now touring ten railway stations across the country to mark the 75th anniversary.

Suitcase is performed as a piece of on-site promenade theatre. Audience members are led around the station by volunteers – or ‘organisers’, taking the role of members of the Refugee Children’s Movement who helped to facilitate the arrivals.

Amidst the din of a busy station and constant announcements over the loudspeaker, the audience take the role of the Kinder. Along their journey they are confronted by angry foster parents sent a girl rather than the boy they’d hoped for, a patriotic railway worker inspired by a political speech and a bigoted woman who worries the children will spread diseases.

Ros said: “We wanted to look at what’s the closest we could get to the experience that the Kinder might have had when they arrived.

“What does it feel like when the woman who doesn’t want the kids here talks to you as though you’re that person?”

The cast of Suitcase entertaining the audience at Sheffield railway station (image courtesy of Suitcase)

One member of the audience didn’t have to try too hard to imagine what that must have been like.


Susanne Pearson, nee Ehrmann was born in 1928 in a small town near Ostrava in then Czechoslovakia, before moving to Prague at the age of four.

Sue is now 85, and lives in a bungalow in Hunters Bar with her husband of 67 years, Harry. Speaking with a strong Sheffield accent, there are few clues to her past, although she remembers it vividly.

“I was an only child and had quite a privileged childhood with a lot of sport and a lot of music.”

Although conditions didn’t at home deteriorate whilst Sue was there, people’s attitudes started to change as the Nazis advanced on Prague.

“I can remember being told not to talk to strangers and, being Jewish, people started to restrict their own activity.”

‘Saved my life’

Sue was a member of the Red Falcons, a left-wing youth organisation that had links with the Woodcraft Folk in England. Although Susanne was too young, other members of the Red Falcons had attended a summer camp in England in 1938.

“Quite a few of the Red Falcons were Jews…so when Prague became occupied [in 1939], the Woodcraft Folk people here realised that quite a number of the people they had got to know at this camp were in danger.

“So they wrote letters to its members saying, what can we do?”

Around 20 families offered homes to these young children, so the head of the Woodcraft Folk approached Nicholas Winton, a British businessman and humanitarian who was organising the rescue of Jewish children from Czechoslovakia. Winton agreed that the organisation could choose which children it wanted to offer homes to.

“It was that really that got me here and saved my life.”

Sue travelled with around 15 other children from Czechoslovakia, and she was sent to Beauchief in Sheffield, where she lived with her foster family for five years.

Initially, Sue communicated with her adopted family in German, as she spoke little English. But she was keen to fit in with local children.

“I didn’t want to be different. I learnt to speak English very quickly, and I learnt it with a Sheffield accent which I’ve still got. By the New Year you couldn’t have picked me out.”

Sue briefly attended primary school, before being sent to the local “sink school” until leaving at 14. She was 17 by the time the war ended, and had began working as a nurse.

Despite adapting quickly, she was often homesick.

“Oh yes, horrendously. The bit they got so right in Suitcase was the parents telling the children ‘you’ll go and we’ll follow’.”

But she never saw her parents again.

“They were taken to Lodz ghetto in 1942. My Dad died there the following year.

“I do not know what happened to my mother.

“I think, because there is no trace of her, that she must have lived for quite a long time after. The Germans were very meticulous in keeping records.

“The date of death of my father is quite clear.”

Sue’s experience was not uncommon. 63% of the Kinder never saw their parents again, murdered in the Nazi ghettos and concentration camps.

The cast of Suitcase entertaining the audience at Sheffield railway station (image courtesy of Suitcase)

Ros Merkin said: “A lot of the Kinder never spoke about what happened to them.

“For a lot of them there’s a trauma that’s been hidden, but as they’ve got older there’s a sense that you can…or you need to or you want to tell that story.

“There’s also a sense of running out of time.”

Sue has stayed in Sheffield. She and Harry had two children, adopted another and also fostered, and she is now a great-grandmother to three young children. She later went back to school to study O-levels, and became a teacher, rising to head before going on to lecture in Early Years Learning at Sheffield Polytechnic.

But it took her until 1970, 25 years after the end of the war to be able to travel back to Czechoslovakia. She also got back in touch with one remaining cousin, who had moved to live in Palestine. Like many of the other Kinder, it took a long time for her to speak about her experiences.

“We had the Anne Frank exhibition come to Sheffield in 1984, and after that I got permission to go give talks in schools. And the number of people who said, ‘Sue, I didn’t know that about you.’”

“It’s not an easy subject to bring up.”

And in recent years, one of the group of 15 Czech Kinder who travelled with Sue made contact, and many of the group have since met up in London, Prague and Israel. She has also got back in touch with an old friend from home who now lives in Chicago, and they speak regularly.

Shared experiences

For Sue and others, it is clear that significant anniversaries and public events like Suitcase are important for bringing Kinder together and helping them begin to talk about their shared experiences. As each big anniversary of the Kindertransport arrives, there is a growing urgency in sharing their stories.

But Ros and Jane Merkin also think Suitcase has a contemporary relevance, both to the families of Kinder and to child refugees today.

Jane said: “A guy in Hull came up to us who was desperate to get a ticket, because his mother came [on the Kindertransport]. He took out an envelope and produced a photograph of this group of Kinder lined up at Hull station who had just arrived from London. And there was his mother, aged about five, in this amazing big thick fur coat.

“This guy looked at me and just started to cry. It was extraordinary.”

But Suitcase is not simply a piece of historical drama. Some of the individual scenes, such as the lady who tells the audience that Britain is full and can’t cope with any more refugee are clearly written with a nod to the modern world. Why do the writers think that the Kindertransport story is so relevant today?

“Finding out things like 1100 unaccompanied kids still arrive in Britain each year,” Ros explained.

Jane said: “Now it’s even harder for kids to make their way from a country where things are so bad they can’t stay there any longer.

“We need to be aware of what’s going on and look after them and protect them.”

Trainee journalist. Football, politics and more.