Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Three days completed in Sheffield

It feels like about six.
Early morning rises – it's light at 4.00am.
Little bits of fine tuning of the program.
Making sure that the arrangements for next day are right.
Starting to get into the swing of it...still the emails and questions come from the students.

The faculty policy of only one staff member per 20 students works for us, because we have 42 so three staff...if we had 39 we would only have 2 staff !!! 
It's a 16 hour day – but I'm not complaining.
To see how much the students are getting out of it already is reward enough.
Having Emma's knowledge and contacts has been invaluable.
Great that the students have banded and bonded together so well – they are looking out for each other.

What to make of Sheffield?
It's fascinating to see a city going about its daily business in the 21st century with in some respects barely a hint of what has gone before. Sure you can see the derelict factories and those apartments and offices which have used recycled materials– but you can see that (particularly the latter)  in many places.
But there is (other then the knowledge of the locals) barely a hint of how great and important and inventive this place was.
To hear Emma recount the list of 'things' that were invented here (stainless steel for instance) – the north was much maligned because of coal and factories making textiles and other things, but steel was Sheffield and steel was a creative industry in its day.
You have to go to the museums or have a lecture to get that now.
And while its a mistake to assume that steel is not present, its demise has been dramatic.

The city appears to be searching for a new identity – we forget in Australia how tough the competition in Britain is to have an identity when you are a middle rung city, especially when your past is to some extent a chain that you carry. To celebrate the glory of leading the world in something as is the case of Sheffield, and then  to be constantly reminded of what you have lost and that you struggle for any new identity.While the central core of Sheffield is a pleasant place to be (a major factor has been getting most of the traffic out of the core ) the reality is that it doesn't have the centuries old buildings of a York or the Cathedral towns of the south, its not on major river, it doesn't have a castle or Roman relics and while its landscape setting is great it lacks the drama of an Edinburgh and it lacks a vantage point to appreciate it.
A reminder of an industrial past - steel sculpture outside Sheffield railway station
The location of Sheffield Hallam University is one of its bonuses – right on the edge of city core, between the bustling railway station and the central retail and commercial area, which means that those that come by train walk through or on the edge of the campus  its presence and the students are the visible evidence of one of the new directions of the new Sheffield.
Our students at Sheffield Hallam University
The folly of the campus location of Bundoora and Bendigo on the fringes away from the thoroughfares of urban living are starkly brought home. What were they thinking when they conceived campuses on the fringe?But the lessons go both ways – how poorly RMIT uses the space around it, the whole precinct should be reworked. We need long terms plans for Bundoora and Bendigo that make the university and the residential a seamless transition.
A change of pace, tomorrow we study the rural setting – we hear from one of the Sheffield Hallam lecturers as our search for the rural idyll takes us to Chatsworth (the grandest mansion (Darcy's home)  in the latest film version of Pride and Prejudice) and then to Bakewell the quintessential south Yorkshire village and the home of the aptly named Bakewell Tart.
- Trevor Budge (Associate Professor, Community Planning and Development Program)


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