Photographs capture pivotal decade in Sheffields history

Photographs capture pivotal decade in Sheffields history

A new exhibition of photographs capturing a “pivotal” decade in Sheffield’s history has opened.

Taken in the 1980s, the pictures show the contrast between the demise of the city’s industrial past and the “new hope” of major building projects.

Curator Matthew Conduit said the images documented Sheffield’s fight for a new identity against a backdrop of unemployment and dereliction.

The exhibition runs until 3 May at Sheffield’s Weston Park Museum.

Among the images, taken by photographers including John Davies, John Kippin, and Anna Fox, are pictures of former city landmarks, such as Hadfield’s Steel Works, the “Hole in the Road” and the Don Valley Stadium – all three of which have since been demolished.

Mr Conduit, a former director of the Untitled Gallery, now the Site Gallery in Brown Street, said the images were the result of a series of commissions “to document the city at a pivotal moment in its history”.

“It was a very strange period in Sheffield, and when I first started pulling this show together, it did occur to me that there’s a whole generation of people in Sheffield who just do not know it used to be like that,” he said.

“I remember photographing Don Valley from Wincobank at that time and it was just a sea of sheds, you couldn’t see the ground at all, it was full of steel foundries. But all that changed very swiftly towards the end of the 80s and now most of it is gone.

“It was odd in that at the time the miners’ strike had been and gone, there was massive redundancy in the steel industry and generally Sheffield was facing a lot of negative job numbers and was fighting for its life in many ways.

“So there was this strange contrast at the time between this sort of new hope that was starting to emerge out of the ground and the people really struggling and questioning what the city’s future was going to be.”

Photographer Tim Smith, whose work is featured in the exhibition, moved to Sheffield in 1984 to take photos for the government’s 1986 “Industry Year” promotion.

“You could smell Sheffield and hear Sheffield as you drove towards it but you could not see very much of it because it all happened in these great cavernous steel mills or dusty little mesters’ workshops,” he said.

“I left the city [a few years later] when everything was being knocked down and before it was rebuilt.

“Personally for me it felt like I was witnessing the end of an era.

“Seeing something like Hadfield’s, once the biggest steelworks in the world, being demolished made me feel really sad.”

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