For those of you in Sheffield and into parks, you will probably have come across Brett Nuttall who died suddenly and far too young in July (he was 41). This came as a massive shock. Brett was a do-er and he was passionate about green spaces in Sheffield and was a really inspiring person.
I met Brett when I first arrived in Sheffield in 2009. I was a wet-behind-the-ears researcher who didn't really get out much. I was much more comfortable with a pile of books and a good window to look out of, without having to get out into the real world. But in my first week as a research associate in the Department of Landscape, I was introduced to Green Estate, and something changed.
For those of you who don’t know, Green Estate is a social enterprise based in the Manor and Castle ward of Sheffield – a ward which ranks in the bottom deciles of the government’s Index of Deprivation. Green Estate is one of the few projects funded by the then New Labour government at the turn of the millennium that is still going – and going strong. Green Estate manages and improves urban green spaces that were once liabilities to develop them into real assets for the community. This includes the creation of Manor Fields Park which at one point was a haven for joy-riding, fly-tipping and anti-social behaviour in the 1980-90s as the surrounding housing was demolished. Now lots of new housing is being built around this Green Flag park which is testament to the great work that Green Estate and local partners have achieved in the area.
I shadowed Brett for a week when I first arrived in Sheffield and what a wake-up call it was for me. He showed me the sights and the sores of the Manor. He showed me where joyriders had left burnt-out cars which had sunk into the earth over many years. He showed me where motorbikes had taken the place of the cars as Brett and colleagues had put in bunds to block their way. He took me to all sorts of meetings – I remember one between the police, schools, the Manor and Castle Development Trust, residents and tenants. Together they shared their knowledge about kids bunking off school, where they could be found (often in the local green spaces), and helped wherever possible.
I was simply blown away by Brett’s knowledge and experience of how landscape and people come together. He made that networking you need to make anything happen look so easy because he knew everyone. That first week in Sheffield changed how I approach research and made me want to make it relevant and mean something for people like Brett, Green Estate and the communities he worked with. I hadn’t realised how much that one week up at Green Estate had made such a difference to me, but it really did.
Brett was so generous with his time and at the drop of a hat he would help me out at the university teaching in the studio with students or taking visitors round the Manor. And that’s when I last saw him – in June, he snuck out early of a Green Estate board meeting to show round some visiting students and staff from CEPT University in India. He had them climbing the rocks and looking at wildflowers- they loved the way Brett was so passionate and proud of the park. My CEPT colleagues Manvita and Mercy told me later how it was the absolute highlight of their trip to London and Sheffield.
I could not attend his funeral on 29th July so I just wanted to share some thoughts on how I remember Brett and how grateful I am to have known him, albeit in a really small way. My thoughts are with his family, friends and colleagues including Sue France at Green Estate. Brett - you are so fondly remembered and so badly missed.