The Inspiring Women of Sheffield

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The Women of Steel statue in Sheffield City Centre

At the end of June 2018, I paid two consecutive visits to Sheffield, both triggerd by invitations to events at my old school. Now I’m living not too far away, I tend to visit around twice a year, especially when art or outdoor events are promised. My first visit, on Friday the 29th, however, took place indoors and involved no art whatsoever, being more sports orientated. I did manage to fit in a fair bit of walking on both days and spotted an array of statues and other, more temporary, decorations around Sheffield City Centre itself.

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Post Box painted gold to mark Sheffielder Jessica Ennis’ Olympic Triumph

The occasion was the opening of the ‘new’ Trinity Building, actually the amalgamation of two buildings, incorporating three main areas for learning and interacting, that have been part of the school since well before my time. The school celebrated its 140th aniversary in 2018, and the main part of the Trinity Building, the former Trinity Congregational Church, is almost as old. The building wasn’t a church for long, and has spent much of its life as the school’s gym; by the time I was a pupil, it was in serious need of some TLC, although we continued to use all the old equipment – something more recent students have been prevented from doing. The gym was also used for exams, and a number of those who sat A Levels, O Levels and, more recently, GCSEs, recalled being distracted by pigeons roosting in the ceiling beams.

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Trinity Building, photographed on an earlier visit to the school

Almost three years ago, the new cookery department was opened, in response to requests from the current pupils, and the gym refurbishment was one of their next suggested projects. The two buildings are now linked, and the third part of the trinity is a cafe and socialising area at the lower front of the building (facing out towards the wider world, rather than inwards to the main school). The building was opened by Sheffield resident and Olympic Trampolining Silver Medal winner Bryony Page (Sheffield seems to be a good place for women in sport). As part of the ceremony we also got to watch the school’s competition-winning gymnastics and trampolining teams and listened to talks from nutritionist (and former pupil) Emma Hillit, as well as the school’s head Val Dunsford.

Val was the centre of attention at the following day’s event, a garden party to celebrate her retirement at which she was presented with two paintings: a portrait of herself by A Level student Anna Eason, and a city panorama chronicles painting by well-known Sheffield artist Joe Scarborough. Although Val joined the school some years after I left (and indeed after I graduated from university), I’ve met her at any number of events over the years and she’s never failed to inspire me with all the projects and targets she’s initiated at the school. The garden party featured entertainment by current pupils and some other notable personages such as the soprano Andrea Ryder as well as some very fancy fast food, provided in the main by catering businesses run by former pupils.

Sheffield 300618 05As I mentioned at the start, my walks to and from the school on both days took in sculptures and less permanent features around the city centre. One such was the relatively recent Women of Steel a bronze sculpture to commemorate the women of Sheffield who worked in the city’s steel industry during the two World Wars. Not far away, but less obvious, are the cat and bird statues by Vega Bermejo which sit in the tiny garden of Balm Green in front of the Fountain Precinct office building. After my disappointment at learning the Women of Steel were created by a man, it’s good to see a female sculptor being recognised too (and some of her other works are dotted around the city for me to find on other occasions).

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Flamingos and other pink things in the Winter Garden

On the second day, I discovered that the Winter Garden had been taken over by various recruitment events, including one by Pretty Little Thing. I was slightly disappointed not to have a better view of some of the regular plants and installations I’d hoped to photograph, but I was rather charmed by the flamingos they’d scattered around the place. Not to mention the mirror ball they’d given to one of the regular snake sculptures.

There are inspiring women everywhere, if one only cares to look, including the not so well known former pupils of my school who left before and after I did, and never cease to astound me with tales of their adventures.

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