Saturday 6th May 2017 was the launch of the Sheffield Green Spaces Forum at the Town Hall. After many months of preparation and tireless organisation, the Forum had a launch event that did the team proud!
Our Master of Ceremonies throughout the morning (and most excellent ‘compere’!) was SGSF Chair Paul Campbell, from Friends of High Hazels Park who did a fine job of keeping everyone in order. The Lord Mayor of Sheffield, Denise Fox, opened the proceedings with a warm welcome and thanks to the packed house of over 115 volunteers from Friends groups, allotment societies and bowling clubs around the city, as well as other attendees from Keep Britain Tidy, walking groups and of course, me and Mel from the university.
This was followed by a short presentation by Annice Fuller and Rose Tomson from the SGSF Committee about what SGSF has been doing over the last couple of years. They made no bones about the fact that SGSF emerged from the swingeing cuts that have hit Sheffield City Council: so, instead of 90-odd Friends Groups across the city, the Council now has one group they can deal with in SGSF. But something else is happening in SGSF, beyond just being a convenient collective! It is becoming an active and important stakeholder group in the city.
Annice highlighted how SGSF had been growing in momentum as a really useful network across the city, with a range of thing on offer for Friends Groups such as sharing knowledge and tips, social media training and future links across the south Yorkshire region. As an observer, I must say that it has been fascinating to watch how the Forum has been growing slowly as more and more Friends Groups become aware of it and how it links up with the National Federation of Parks. SGSF contributed to the recent Select Committee on the Future of Parks and is a collective voice representing Sheffield’s parks and green spaces.
Stephen Bull from Sheffield City Council shared some important tips about insurance and some hilarious stories of people who had tried to make insurance claims against the Council for conkers dropping from a tree, and someone walking into a skip they didn’t see and someone else claiming that a slide was too slippery! You couldn’t make it up!
Penny Rea from Friends of Wincobank Hill talked about some of the activities and events going on there including dog shows, egg rolling, and the regular Wombles of Wincobank litter pick every fortnight which links up with the North Sheffield Conservation Group.
Our very own Mel Burton talked a lot of sense about place-keeping (!) while Andy Jackson from Heeley Development Trust explained the park subscription model that is being applied in Heeley People’s Park and covers 20% of the £45,000 annual maintenance costs. This is a really interesting funding model that we will explore in a future blog.
And what a coup for the Forum. Clive Betts was the next speaker, who is not only MP for Sheffield South East but also was the Chair of the House of Commons Communities and Local Government Select Committee and the subsequent “Parks” report. He outlined the mammoth job that the Select Committee had because of the sheer volume of evidence submitted by experts, communities and Friends groups (including SGSF). He asked us to consider important and difficult questions such as ‘if you stop spending money on parks, how much will that cost us in the long term?’
Our last speakers were Jon Dallow and Jen Rickard talking about The Outdoor City, Sheffield’s collective of organisations and people who are passionate about the city and its outdoors. Without any funding – just a strong network of stakeholder organisations – achievements to date include 23 new run routes around the city, walking routes such as the Gallery Crawl, and Cycling 4 All sessions in parks around the city. It is a one-stop shop for all things outdoors, not just in the Peaks, but lots of things to celebrate the great outdoors in the city itself.
Over a spot of lunch, the SGSF launch attendees shared the challenges they faced in their own groups, what they want from SGSF and their ideas for the future. I’ll be heading to the upcoming AGM and look forward to hearing how the SGSF develops with a growing network of tirelessly enthusiastic and motivated Sheffield folk. Well done everyone for one of the best Saturday mornings we’ve had for a while!