An Ode to the Citizen Spirit of Sheffield

Sheffield has proud history of combining diverse peoples and communities into a greater whole, with a commitment to justice and equality.

Author: Shahida Siddique

Communities are rich sources of expertise and talent. Whether as individuals, informal associations or formal community organisations, our communities can work to support every person to be supported and made welcome. But we need to respect the real fabric of community life and the need for real agency. Chief Executive of FaithStar, Shahida Siddique explores the power of community and the conditions it needs to thrive.

Shahida spoke at the It's Our Community event organised by the Centre, in partnership with the Socialist Health Association and Opus Independents. The event is part of the Centre's work to outline a detailed progressive vision for social care in Sheffield alongside disability leaders in the city. 

Let me take you on a journey through my city, from the Manor Estate to the ‘John O Gaunt’ pub at Gleadless Valley, to the playing field of Westfield, and the vibrant intersection of Pitsmoor and Burngreave and the greenery of Shirebrook. 

To the stream running through Endcliffe Park and the Wickers Archers with the smell of world foods and the façade of SADACCA with heritage, music, and food for steel generations from the world over. 

To Firvale and Firth Park with international roads of love, family and strife buttressed up against locals sharing a space of vibrancy and all the ups and downs that it entails and let us not forget Hillsborough up in the hills and Stocksbridge for local honey and farming friends. 

Lowedges for the Terminus initiative and Jordan Thorpe for the community library to flit across to Darnall for the families it kept connected and supported to Parkhill and Norfolk park and the city in the sky. 

Just some of the places that will give you a flavour of the people who live in these connected villages. My people, this daughter of the steel city clan made of steel here in Sheffield.

A maverick walking fearless, carried on the shoulders of the pioneers of this city, whose heritage is in the fabric of its streets and behind the walls the hidden history of the first mosque. The fight for civil rights, equality and freedoms in the late 50 to early 60s from the PMC, to the FCH, to AAWHG, ISRAAC, ACT, CCC to name but a few. Trying to save the legacy they built for us, mere shadows of their former structures and glory, pride having turned to disdain, trying to restore that internationalists vision of solidarity and hope for future generations. 

The daughter of a man who always believed in the best of people, despite evidence to the contrary.

Schooled by the faith leaders past and present, radicals and heretics of peace, in the art of transformational ministry and social justice. Seeing the beauty in people and place, before seeing the suffering, poverty, hopelessness, hunger, and despair. To walk along side, to be present to know and understand the weight of debt, the shame of the ask for help, the humbling experience of kindness from those with even less. Carrying the burden of my city for those who feel crippled by the weights on its relentless journey of progression into the future but feeling left behind falling through the cracks without a safety net.

Finding beauty in the spark of hope, the light of empowerment behind the glow in the eyes and the gentle caress of a hand that understand your pain and you know you are no longer alone. The splash of Henderson on a cheese toastie sat on the bench at the side of the church facing the graveyards of ancestor long forgotten.

With the sun dipping at Sky Edge and caressing the city in an embrace of hues in red, peach, and blue diluting into inky navy and aubergine from the right of the sky. The lights catching the last sheen on the cheese grater, reflecting from the Diamond building and the turning to dusky red the National Emergency Services Museum.
Walking the Cathedral Quarter breaking bread with the homeless and breaking laughter with the homefound.

My city full of contradictions and complexities, compassion, and comfort.

Post-Covid I want to bind the knots that tie us together with the eye of a steel needle carried under my arms. Bringing together the desire for recovery, healing the bodies and minds, for a sigh of relief. Breathing the crisp air and nourishing the trees whist feeling the earth between my toes as it roots me deep, holding me tight as the River Don flows by.

Ode to a city that has nurtured me in its experiences, sights and sounds, I have been forged to be the leader it needs.

Find out more about FaithStar's work at:

The publisher is the Centre for Welfare Reform.

An Ode to the Citizen Spirit of Sheffield © Shahida Siddique 2021

All Rights Reserved. No part of this paper may be reproduced in any form without permission from the publisher except for the quotation of brief passages in reviews.

Article | 25.05.21

community, faith & creativity, It's Our Community, social justice, England, Article

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