Park Hill: Looking Back, Moving Forward

Mariah Louca, ex-resident who moved from Cyprus to Park Hill during the 80s

How did you find yourself moving from Cyprus to Park Hill?
I was born in Sheffield but my dad’s from Cyprus, so we moved to London and later lived in Cyprus. My parents separated when I was seven-years-old and we moved back to Sheffield, which was a huge culture shock. Everything hit me – the British way of life, the Yorkshire way of life, the Sheffield way of life – and it was a very specific culture which I wasn’t used to. We moved to Park Hill in 1986, 358 Long Henry Row.

What was it like living there as a kid?
I made really good friends at school. I befriended a girl and a lad on Long Henry Row and we’d just run about a lot. Like, if your block went in a straight line, the minute it started curving and you went to a different end of the complex it was literally like the nether. Sometimes you would start to freak out and get in the lift, which always smelt of piss, and it felt like you were in a big maze.

It is so complicated and loaded, but there comes a point where you have to engage.

It was during the time you lived there that the estate started to develop a notorious reputation for crime and drugs. Were you aware of the problems back then? 
I was too young but I found out later that my mum wanted to move. I recall there was a single mum with two young kids who was stabbed to death on the bottom floor of our block, and I think that was a bit of a trigger point for my mum to get us out.

It must have been strange for family to adapt to the contrasts between a seaside town in Cyprus and 80s Sheffield.
Sometimes as a kid you just remember Sheffield feeling grey. It was Thatcher’s 80s: unemployment was really high and industry low. Because the building was always grey and monolithic as a kid, everything is magnified and contrasted hugely with the colours of Cyprus and the Mediterranean Sea.

How do you feel when you return today?
The city has gone through a massive regeneration, so it’s not the one I grew up in in a lot of ways. And there’s good and bad in that. I’ve got a lot of pride and respect for it because I think it’s a hardy and malleable place; the city adapts well and that’s down to the people that live here. I’d come back and look up at Park Hill – which used to be this big reminder to keep moving on – but now it signifies something very different through what Urban Splash have done. It’s a hard one, though, because part of me goes “Brilliant! It looks amazing!” – but then I remember I once lived under a social housing situation and there are families who absolutely deserve to have a great space to live in. It is so complicated and loaded, but there comes a point where you have to engage. It’s kind of like the analogy that the train’s moving whether you like it or not – so jump on, let’s have the conversation and create something together that everyone can love, something that the city can be truly proud of.

Next: Richard Fletcher, artist (TowerBlockMetal) and Urban Regeneration Advocate

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