Park Hill: Looking Back, Moving Forward

I think it’s hard to be a Sheffielder and not have an opinion on Park Hill. Something so vast, so distinctive, overshadowing the city centre and constantly stood on the periphery as life rumbles on below is going to have an impact on any general populace.

It’s usually the first thing people see when arriving by train into the city, and the last thing they glance up at before boarding to go elsewhere. I’ve seen mention of Park Hill regularly bring out  conflicting attitudes in locals: pride from those who have links to the estate, and scornfulness from others who have long seen it as a blight on the landscape, both aesthetically and culturally. Controversy is etched into its very framework – a large concrete reference point for recurring debates on politics, class, history, architecture and much else besides.

Personally, I’ve been fascinated by it for as long as I can recall. Even gazing up as a nipper, with all political and social relevance stripped away, there was something about the place which commanded scrutiny; it challenged you head-on to form an opinion. I later learned that my mum – then a toddler – and most of her siblings lived in the flats on Bard Street directly behind the complex for a time. I’d try and pry information from family about life there, but tended to get the somewhat obligatory hardy Sheffield response of a shrug of the shoulders and something along the lines of “Ah, it were oreyt. What more do you expect?”

‘A large concrete reference point for recurring debates on politics, class, history, architecture and much else besides.’

In the years to come, I’d get to know the place a bit better through working in local journalism – photoshoots with bands, interviewing artists on-site, exploring the abandoned pubs, and more recently speaking with new business owners and residents who’ve decided to make Park Hill their home. For me, there’s simply no other building in the city with such an interesting and topical past, present and future.

So: following on from announcements regarding the final phases of the Urban Splash redevelopment, which will see them partnering with Alumno Developments to create accomodation for circa 350 students plus new shops and facilities; and the news that Phase 4 and 5 will see the relocation of S1 Artspace to larger premises, as well as adding open market and affordable housing, we thought we’d garner opinion from residents, artists, photographers, business owners and developers to pay something of a homage to one of the city’s most recognisable landmarks.

Here’s just a snippet of what they had to say.

Next: Mariah’s story

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