Category: Sheffield Salon Events

Event postponed: Personalising the apocalypse: Indignant identities in a post-political era.

Unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstances, we have had to postpone the event scheduled for Wednesday, 1st May 2013 until further notice. Please accept our apologies for any inconvenience.


Event report: Our House? – Park Hill flats and the housing crisis 17/10/12

Our House was a ‘community event’ within the 2012 Off the Shelf literary festival. It was also an experiment, offering a walk as well as a talk. And the experiment seems to have worked. Certainly it was popular, with registrations having to be closed a week before-hand. And it was lively too, with a frank exchange of views around difficult themes. But more than anything else it was a constructive engagement with an idea – about housing – an invitation to reconsider the meaning and import of a seemingly self-evident concept.

The evening began with groups of 10-15 walking through Park Hill flats. Time and numbers precluded all but the briefest introduction to this iconic structure. Our aim was to catalyse opinion in advance of a discussion about housing more broadly. With the help of former residents of Park Hill and others with local knowledge, groups followed a set route through those public areas that remain, for the time being, unaffected by the Urban Splash redevelopment at the North end.

Excellent home-made cakes and tea and coffee were available at the Park Centre (on Duke Street), an old Victorian swimming pool (floored-over) that comfortably accommodated the 86 attendees. A short film started proceedings – Streets in the sky – an avant-garde collage about the flats, for which we are most grateful to Leon Seth, the award-winning young film-maker who made this possible. There could have been no better way of setting the scene for the two speakers that followed.

First-up was Satwinder Samra, Senior Lecturer in the School of Architecture at the University of Sheffield. Satwinder considered some of the various meanings and functions of housing and pointed to the changing ways in which we think about and use our homes. Modernism hasn’t always delivered, he said, which is why we need a discursive architecture, alive to the needs of ordinary people. Legislation would help; new homes now being built in the UK are, on average, the smallest in Western Europe, and tend to be considerably smaller than those built in Britain in the early-twentieth century. The old Parker Morris (1961) minimum space standards, such as informed the design of Park Hill, are no longer legally binding and are widely ignored.

James Heartfield, author of Let’s Build! Why we need five million homes in the next 10 years, began with reference to an enterprising landlord in London renting-out below-street-level rooms, and went on to show images of the many and various ways by which people address their housing predicament, from inhabiting garden sheds and buses to the Dale Farm gypsy camp. James argued that in order merely to maintain its existing stock, the UK needs to build 240,000 new homes each year. But even this is not happening. Instead, piecemeal brownfield development constitutes the horizon of contemporary ambition, underscored by antipathy to any encroachment upon a Green Belt that is itself expanding

Both speakers talked for less than fifteen minutes, leaving lots of time for discussion. Informed opinion was plentiful, including senior officers from local government, who resisted the suggestion that the City Council was somehow negligent in its management of housing. The point was made that the North block of Park Hill was 40% unoccupied at the time it was closed. The problem was deprivation and unemployment, rather than poor management.

A theme attracting much attention was ‘densification’. James Heartfield argued that densification, as currently articulated, was problematic. Housing need is simply too great to be solved by densification in the context of a market wherein demand massively outstrips supply. The densification that flows from a defence of the status quo leads directly to box-rooms beneath the London pavement and brings down standards in general. What drives the price of housing today is the lack of housing more broadly, a situation engendered by policy makers who have for years restricted the availability of land on which to build new homes, whilst extending legislation deifying our ‘green and pleasant land.’

James’ view was hotly contested, with some pointing to developers as villains of the peace, others to the property bubble in terms of speculative activity and an overextended mortgage market. In the main, though, the consensus inclined toward densification as urbanism in action, and toward the privileging of brownfield development. Key workers may indeed be priced out of the metropolis, but could be offered special provision in order to maintain services. A balance was achievable, was a widely held view.

Surprisingly little was said about Park Hill itself, perhaps reflecting the view that the flats were the product of an era now firmly in the past. Certainly, Satwinder’s concluding points stressed the merits of going with the grain of local housing need, eschewing the sort of massive social engineering implied in the Park Hill project. James Heartfield also looked more to the energies and interests of those at the sharp end of the housing crisis. Which begs the question as to the meaning and status of Park Hill today? But that’s another discussion for another day. This one had run out of time.

The information leaflets for the event can be downloaded here:
Park Hill leaflet front

Park Hill leaflet back 


Don’t mention the war? History, mythology and a new construction of British identity

Basil Fawlty demonstrates a previous incarnation of
British ‘inclusivity’ to his German guests.

Wednesday 28th November 2012, 7pm to 9pm at the Exhibition Space, Jessop West, University of Sheffield, 1 Upper Hanover Street, Sheffield S3 7RA (opp. Henderson’s Relish building, map here).
 £5 / £3(concessions), all welcome. Doors open 6.30pm.

Tickets are available on the door, but a secure box office with tickets for this event is available in advance here.

Don’t mention the war! It is ironic that Basil Fawlty’s memorable line sums up much about the British attitude to the Second World War. For over 60 years we have been constantly reminded of the conflict and its legacy. The war is now the central plank of the British story. How Britain thinks of itself, and projects itself to the wider world, has been deeply influenced by the nation’s remembered experience of the war. The war remains a perennially popular subject of history books, movies and TV programmes, and recent years have seen the further development of the idea of the 1939-1945 conflict as a ‘People’s War’ and becoming increasingly inclusive in its scope.

Initially popularised by left-wing writers such as George Orwell and JB Priestley, the ‘People’s War’ represents the struggle of a popular alliance of folk, from all walks of life. Its genesis was at the British defeat at Dunkirk and during the Blitz, when Britain ‘stood alone’. It strongly incorporates the idea that the victory over the Axis powers in 1945 was only achievable through this all-class alliance. And, that this led, directly, to the post-war settlement of the Attlee government, the NHS, the welfare state and the transformation of the old Empire to a progressive Commonwealth. The ‘People’s War’ embodies the virtues of a people stoically looking forward, through adversity and suffering, to the building of new, more equitable foundations for society in a post-war world. The inherent sense of fairness and decency of the British, combined with an implacable moral opposition to the kind of oppression and genocide witnessed during those dark years of the war, are often cited as fundamental components of the ‘national character’ that was forged during the war.

Popular histories now inform us that men and women of all classes, creeds and colours, from the four corners of the Empire, put aside their differences to combat a uniquely evil foe. Utilising elements of the same motif such as the remembrance poppy and the NHS, Danny Boyle’s 2012 Olympic opening ceremony managed to creatively repackage the entire national story – and what it means to be British – for a new era of inclusivity and diversity. Ed Balls attempted to weave the ‘People’s War’ motif and its association with the Attlee government into his speech at this year’s Labour Party conference. Chiding those who had suggested that 2012 had been ‘Britain’s greatest summer’ he reminded his audience of ‘an even greater summer still: the summer of 1945 – the end of six hard years of war – when our nation welcomed its heroes home from the battlefields of Europe, Asia and the Atlantic, and celebrated together the defeat of fascism’.

But does this idea of an inclusive and righteous ‘People’s War’ stand up to closer scrutiny? Are we projecting our current preoccupations and anxieties onto the past when we suggest that all elements of society came together with the explicit and self-conscious aim of slaying the dragon of fascism? And, does this narrative play down the deeply divided nature of British society and its Empire during the 1930s and 1940s? James Heartfield, whose new book ‘Unpatriotic History of the Second World War’ thinks so, and he aims to debunk what he sees as the many myths that have been constructed around the war. He argues that if we choose to dig below the surface of the ‘People’s War’ we might discover that the national unity it celebrates was, actually, rather illusory, and that a ‘People’s War’ in which 60 million perished – including the victims of the Holocaust – would be better understood as ‘a war against the people’.

The development of a new popular history of the Second World War, as a battle of many peoples, fighting side by side against the evils of fascism and militarism may be attractive, especially as part of a general project to establish shared values within a multicultural nation, but it may also be misleading. In these anxious times, the ‘People’s War’ narrative provides a degree of certainty not available to us elsewhere. The Nazis of yore may have been morally repugnant, but is that precisely their attractiveness to us today? Do they provide us with a welcome respite from the uncertainties and difficulties presented by contemporary moral relativism?

In the company of our panel of speakers, all recognised authorities in their field, this Salon hopes to examine the important contemporary issues of national identity that now rest on the idea of the ‘People’s War’. Join us in a wide-ranging conversation that hopes to explore our contemporary preoccupation with the Second World War and what this might mean in a society searching for a coherent national identity.

Our Panel:
James Heartfield
James is a founding director of the think-tank Audacity. He writes, lectures, and broadcasts on development and regeneration. He got his Ph.D from the Centre for the Study of Democracy at University of Westminster in 2010 and has worked as a journalist, for a television company, as a lecturer and editor. He enjoys public debate, and speaks widely. His many publications include ‘Death of the Subject’ Explained (2002),  The Aborigines’ Protection Society: Humanitarian Imperialism in Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Canada, South Africa, and the Congo, 1837-1909 (2011), and his latest book is Unpatriotic History of the Second World War (2012).

Dr Peter Thompson
Peter has been teaching at the University of Sheffield since 1990, when he was appointed to build up the provision of politics and history options within the Department. His background is a somewhat unusual one: he left school at 16, joined the army for 5 years and then worked as a lorry driver, before commencing undergraduate study as a mature student in 1983 at Portsmouth Polytechnic. His interests have always been in the post-war history of the GDR and German unification.

Peter is also the Director of The Centre for Ernst Bloch Studies, which was established at Sheffield in 2008. In 2013, Duke University Press will publish, in association with Slavoj Žižek, his edited volume  – The Privatisation of Hope: Ernst Bloch and the Future of Utopia. He is a media commentator on German affairs, having appeared in several Radio 4 programmes and a Channel 4 documentary on British attitudes to the Third Reich. Peter publishes regular columns in the Guardian and in its ‘Comment is Free’ section on a variety of issues related to Germany and the philosophy of religion. 

Professor Bob Moore
Bob Moore joined the University of Sheffield in 1999 and is Professor of 20th Century European History. His research is in the field of twentieth century European history and in addition to his post at Sheffield he has held visiting fellowships at the Department of War Studies, Kings College London, the Center for Advanced Holocaust Study at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Université Libre de Bruxelles and the Institut d´Etudes Politique (Sciences Po) in Paris. He is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and the Dutch Koninklijk Nederlands Historisch Genootschap.

Bob’s publications include Crises of Empire. Decolonization and Europe´s Imperial States, 1918-1975 (with Martin Thomas and Larry Butler) (2008), Prisoners of War, Prisoners of Peace: Captivity, Homecoming and Memory in World War II, (edited with Barbara Hately-Broad) (2005), and Colonial Empires Compared, edited with Henk van Nierop (2003).

Dr Adrian Bingham
Adrian read history at Merton College, Oxford, and stayed there to study for his D.Phil. He is currently a Senior Lecturer in Modern History at the University of Sheffield and his main research interests are in the political, social and cultural history of twentieth-century Britain. He has worked extensively on the national popular press in the decades after 1918, examining the ways in which newspapers both reflected and shaped attitudes to gender, sexuality and class. Adrian’s publications include – Family Newspapers? Sex, Private Life, and the British Popular Press 1918-1978 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), and Gender, Modernity, and the Popular Press in Inter-War Britain (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).

Surviving Madness: The pros and cons of the ‘survivor’ identity

In association with Off The Shelf Festival of Words.
Part of a strand of events on Writing and Wellbeing

25 October 2012, 7pm to 9pm at the Exhibition Space in Jessop West, University of Sheffield, 1 Upper Hanover Street, Sheffield S3 7RA (opp. Henderson’s Relish building, map here).
Free admission, all welcome. Doors open 6.30pm. No need to book.

The user/survivor movement within mental health challenges the medicalisation of mental distress. But in recent years the survivor identity has expanded, to include an increasingly wide range of experience, from severe emotional trauma to redundancy and homelessness. In this discussion, Pete Bullimore and Ken McLaughlin discuss the ‘survivor identity’; how it aids understanding but can also become institutionalised within politics and social policy.

Ken McLaughlin
is a senior lecturer in social work at Manchester Metropolitan University. His latest book Surviving Identity: Vulnerability and the psychology of recognition charts the rise of the ‘survivor phenomenon’ in contemporary society.

Peter Bullimore went from running a successful business to spending 10 years in and out of psychiatric institutions. His recovery came via the ‘Hearing Voices Network’. He is no longer on medication and has learnt how to deal with his voices in his head.Read more about Pete’s experience here.

Dr Frankie Anderson
is a doctor  working at Sheffield’s Northern General Hospital.

Our House? Park Hill flats and the housing crisis.

In association with Off The Shelf Festival of Words.

Wednesday 17 October 2012.
Walking tour starts 6pm.
Discussion at Park Hill Community Centre begins 7pm
Doors open 6.30pm for tea and buns. 

Due to high demand, the walking tour is now closed for new registrations. If you have registered for walking tour we will contact you by email shortly with details of the meeting point and itinerary.

The talk and discussion at the Park Hill Community Centre afterwards is still open to all and does not require registration. Just turn up on the evening. Doors are open at 6.30pm for tea and cake and a lively public discussion led by the panel will begin at 7pm. The event finishes at 9pm.

The event is free of charge but there is a £3 suggested donation to support the future work of the Sheffield Salon. Donations can be made here:

We desperately need more and better housing. Park Hill once showed the way. Come see why that was, in public discussion with architect Satwinder Samra, Senior Lecturer from the University of Sheffield and Sauce Architecture, and James Heartfield, author of Let’s Build!: Why We Need Five Million New Homes in the Next 10 Years about where we go from here. More details to follow shortly.

Leading architectural and historic buildings expert Dan Cruickshank shows us the structure and explains the history of Park Hill in this Real Player video clip or Flash video clip courtesy of the BBC:

Online ticketing now available for Sheffield Salon events

We have now added ticketing functionality to the Sheffield Salon website and a ‘Tickets’ link has been added to the menu and within the ‘Forthcoming Events’ page. You can now securely buy tickets for our events via your Paypal account or your credit or debit card. At this stage, the system simply takes payment and your name and address and we can check you on the list at the door, so no physical ticket is needed. Now we have this facility we also plan to introduce introduce early-bird discounts on event tickets too.

You may have noticed that a Paypal ‘donate’ button has appeared in the left-hand side bar so if you like what we are about, and wish to give the Sheffield Salon (which is a not for profit organisation) some financial support… however modest or extravagant, the opportunity is now available!