Category Archives: Uncategorized

Folking You Up (No Festive Fiascos!)

As we wade through the swirling eddies of claustrophobic Christmas crowds, lost and suffocated, pawing at shop fronts and lusting at the plump bags of others as  if trapped in the midst of a zombie Lowry painting, the merits of Swift’s ‘Modest Proposal’ become increasingly convincing:

I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, that a young healthy child well nursed, is, at a year old, a most delicious nourishing and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricasie, or a ragoust.

Though replacing turkeys with children as our seasonal foodstuff of choice does offer a long term solution to Christmas crowds, here at FreeSheffield we believe that children are the future.  So if you can’t beat ’em, run away as fast as possible.

We offer today a choice of alternative expeditions that will give you a breather from Fargate, the Moor and Meadowhall, and should the zombie apocalypse actually commence, a good head start.

Robin Hood’s Stride

A set of gritstone rocks.  Bear with us.  It’s a peculiarly beautiful hiccup of nature, huge enough to give good views (avoid climbing on frosty days) and covered in several era’s worth of graffiti.   The Stride also has historical significance as the site of an early example of ASBO culture in Derbyshire oral legend:

‘Robin Hood’ in the form of a giant, stood astride the rocks, with one foot on each of the pillars, and passed water onto the valley below, where seven maidens upon witnessing this, were all turned to stone.’ *

*Nicked from Westwood and Simpson in ”The Lore of the Land’, who nicked it from David Clarke.

How do I get there without wings?: You can walk to the site either from Cratcliffe Tor or Elton village. Or you can catch the 172 bus from Bakewell to Matlock, via Yougrave and ask the driver where to get off. In my experience it is the eternal dichotomy of our age that no one is as helpful/helpless as a northern bus driver, so hedge your bets with the universe.

Magpie Mine

A vast if ghoulish playground to explore, made up of queer grassed over shapes and lots of old machinery that we couldn’t identify.  Should you be more knowledge driven than we evidently were, there are usually a couple of volunteers in the house who can help.

It’s been around since at least 1739.  There’s a really grim story surrounding it that I’ll try to break down for you:

–  There was a vein of lead running through several different mines, and competing groups of miners kept digging into each others’ tunnels.

– As a deterrent, they’d often set fires to try to smoke each other out, until ‘in 1833, three Red Soil miners were suffocated to death by a fire lit by the Magpie miners’ (all of this info is courtesy of Peak District View).

–  Five Magpie miners were let off for the murders.  Naturally, the three widows of the dead blokes cursed the mine.

– Cue a series of deaths, flood, fire and other disasters.

On the 26th of December there’s a guided tour that starts at 10.30am if any of you guys are around.  Probably best to get in touch with them first.

How do I get there without dying through hunger, starvation or witch’s curse?: I can’t guarantee you’re not going to turn up without a toad permanently soldered to your elbow because you insulted that old woman; you’re in the country now. But with a little determination you can make it there by foot once you’ve caught the bus to Bakewell (number 214/215 from Ecclesall Road/the interchange).  These guys have a detailed account of the walk.

The Nine Ladies

Nine stones on Stanton Moor which are a bit like Stone Henge – no one’s sure how they got there.  It’s interesting in that it’s been the site of a big protest against a quarry in recent years.  There’s an eco-camp and lots of tree houses, and a social centre of sorts.  You’ve missed the winter solstice, but it’s worth an explore, for sure.

How do I get there without following a trail of naked pagans?:  Either get the train to Matlock Station and follow the signs, or catch the 214/215 as above. Should take about an hour and a bit. More details ici.

Mayfield Alpaca Farm

The conversation went something like this.

‘Pete, I’m doing a blog on free stuff to do in the country.  Any ideas?’

‘Erm.  How about the llama farm?’

‘The llama farm? Ok, how do you get to the llama farm?’

‘Walk through Porter Valley park and at some point you find yourself in the peaks.  Then it’s pretty much at straight line.’

‘Ok..what do you do there?’

‘Well, if you have an iphone, you stand next to a llama and read llama facts to your friends.  Then I went to the pub.’

Apparently it’s an opportunity to stand next to a llama for free.   Upon further investigation, this is actually an alpaca farm.  Nevertheless, the visitor centre looks to have the potential for hilarity.  Did you know that Alpacas make remarkably effective guards for new born lambs and poultry?  And that Alpacas are the only animal in the world that come in 22 natural colours?  True facts.

Anyway, it’s open every day except Mondays and Tuesday, 10.00-16.00.

What do I do if Pete’s instructions aren’t quite specific enough for me?: Get the 84 from Ecclesall Road and get off at Ringinglow, opposite Norfolk Arms.

Adios, intrepid explorers!


I’m Not Being Seedy, I Just Want to Give You an Apple

Fruity Giveaway- Saturday 26th November

The Free Sheffield lot have been thumping the streets with the soles of

their feet once more.  As autumn dozes off, we’ve been celebrating the season’s pickings with the urban harvesters of Abundance.

On Saturday morning, the Abundance mobile was spread with the last crates of Russets, Bramleys, Coxes, cookers and eaters, ready to be handed out on Fargate for free.

I’ve come to realise that for most of us, ‘free’ as a monetary concept has become about as convincing as a Robbie Rotten alter-ego. We all know that every freebie is a poorly disguised imposter:

  • Ernst and Young will give you ten pocket calculators and a squidgy frog stress ball at a Careers fair.  And then you’ll be on their mailing list forever and ever, amen.
  • This hot-pink lipstick will make you look like a babe-atron, for sure, but you have to buy a copy of J17 to get past the cellophane.
  • Travelodge adorn your room with complimentary digestives and several Lenny Henry action figures.  Somewhere along the fiscal line they will be discreetly factored into the bill. Fact.

Naturally then, as one lady hurried away from my invite she voiced a suspicion that we were going to try and make her do a survey.  This was a pretty typical reaction, made worse by the fact that Saturday in town is always a battle between those with clipboards and those without. More often than not, people wouldn’t take an apple for fear of being conned out of something.

So what I think Abundance is doing when they give away fruit is to help reclaim the definition of ‘free’.  They give it a hearty meal and some warm clothes until it’s back to its old textbook self again.

Offering someone something for nothing is almost always a moral act, a gesture of defiance towards society’s priorities and a challenge to the belief that everything of worth has to have a price. When ‘free’ is fighting fit it is a useful tool in provoking the rough and tumble of an intellectual exchange.

As such, when you ask ‘Would you like a free apple?’, you’re actually posing a number of implicit questions. ‘How willing are you to talk to a stranger?’ ‘How open are you to new ideas?’ ‘Do you want something even if it isn’t worth money?’

Given this, it seems fitting that Abundance invited apple-grabbers to share a story, an anecdote, joke or song with them.  My favourite was from a bloke involved in Love Music Hate Racism.  It went something like this:

“I was on the bus yesterday, and a guy got on and didn’t have quite enough change for a ticket.  It was only a few pence but the bus driver wouldn’t let him on.  There was a child in front of me, and he turned to his mum and asked why he couldn’t just get on.  The mum responded that wouldn’t be fair.  He replied that there should just be one bus ticket that we all could share.”

I’ll keep that story in my pocket for far longer than he’ll have that apple.

Disclaimer: I’m not expressing opinions that are necessarily held by the Abundance crew.  This is just my experience.  The best place to keep up with their new ands views is here.


Occupy Sheffield

I overheard a couple of cooks at work the other day discussing the occupation outside of the Cathedral.

‘Well it’s not going to change government policy is it?’

Well. We’ll see.

At present, they’re a disparate group composed of everybody from anarchists, to Christians. They don’t always agree but together they’re looking at a complicated machine and trying to decide the best way to fix it.

They’re getting organised though there isn’t a plan yet. It’s fair to say they’re all pretty definite on the policies below:


High profile feminist Naomi Wolf has publicly shown support for the occupation here, and word is that they’re hoping to stay until at least the new year.

I think public discussion of how we can improve our society is a more powerful force for democratic change than the vote itself.  Sharing our experience gives us a clearer idea of where we want to head together in the future.

Head down, and chat, even if you disagree with what they’re doing.  If you’re not happy, the least you can do is make yourself heard.

You’ve Got the F.E.A.R – Free Expression as Revolution

P A N D E M I C.

Right kids, get your chops around this:

P A N D E M I C is a socially inclusive art event based on the Situationist International and it’s political ethos. Particularly “The Society of the Spectacle” by Guy Debord, and the ideas of reclaiming space, reappropriating images and the concept that in an advanced capitalist society we experience life through a representation of reality in the form of advertising, prescribed gender and social roles via media manipulation which leads to the population living in a substitute for reality instead of living reality itself.

‘Bullshit!’ Pete screams.  ‘What the hell?’ says I.

‘At least they’re doing something’ says the bloke on the National Express Coach, at the end our extended and somewhat confused discussion.

My admittedly rather wet attempts at investigative journalism elicited the following response:

 What do YOU think it is? all text – and links to other sources are on the Facebook page.  It is not for us to define any longer!

And so, I present a sum up of whatever the devil I can make out about the P A N D E M I C phenomenon  below.

What’s ‘so-progressive-that-it-makes-me-want-to-dig-up-Orwell-and-do-a-celebratory-dance-with-him-because-we’re-not-in-1984’ about it?

The premise is good.

This is an everybody-in event.  All submissions are welcome.  There’s no art snobbery here. The inherent worth of a piece of work seems to be in its individuality.

The Riverside, Bank Street Arts et al. could potentially turn into a graffiti ridden lav’ wall, and I love this as an idea.  I clean toilets for a living and I can tell you, in the privacy of the cubicle, the truth outs.  Free expression is splashed all over them, be it sad, lowly, angry, or inspired scrawls.  It’s unrestricted by the terms of what we can usually say in public.

I resent having to scrub them out because I see things there that I don’t usually see.

P A N D E M I C will at best create a space for voices usually unheard, and in turn open up the public’s imagination about the other people around them – their wants, needs, prerogatives and deserts – which isn’t created by a media that has an agenda in keeping up the stereotypes.

Empathising with your fellow wo(man) is the first step in being able to collectively challenge a societal status-quo that frankly isn’t working for many of us.  It’s a long shot, but it’s a damn good idea.

What’s ‘so-frustratingly-alienating-that-it makes-me-want-to-do-a-Virginia-Woolf’ about it?

Let’s get to the bare bones of the business – Typhoid Mary only spread typhoid to the people she cooked for.  By which I mean, P A N D E M IC won’t hit every demographic.  It just hasn’t been close up and personal enough with most of them for infection to take hold.

The facebook group is full of students; no bad thing.  But I’d hazard a guess that the majority of people who haven’t been in higher education wouldn’t have a clue about half the political terms and academic theory that are being hurled around.  Not that they couldn’t understand the concept, they just wouldn’t understand  it when it’s being put that way.

If the spiel could be put in plain English, it’d be great for these activities to get going in schools, Sure Starts, community centres.  The Old Junior School in Sharrow has refugees passing through constantly.  They experience a side of Sheffield that as a citizen I feel I should know about.  I teach an English class full of people who can’t vote.  Shouldn’t they express themselves as part of this?

Some innovative stuff has come out of P A N D E M I C already.  John Ledger is already tugging at the media blindfold with his work here:

I can’t wait to see what happens with P A N D E M I C.  I hope it’s as contagious as it’s name.

Finally, my suggested anthem for this eye-opener of a movement? The terrific Ian Brown’s F.E.A.R

A Very Sheffield Halloween

Well, because we’re nice, we thought we’d bring you a selection of fine Sheffieldian characters as costume inspiration during this most ghoulish time of the year.  Free to make, and most importantly, horrid –  Northern Halloween-goers, enjoy.

Zombie Jarvis Cocker

Costume Requirements:

  • One for the indie boys amongst us.  Wear your normal clothes and make sure you’ve had a heavy one the night before.
  • Pop on some Eau de Henderson’s. Because That’s What Jarvis Would Do.

Handy Catchphrase:

  • “You’ve got to understand. She’s not really breathing no not at all”
  • “The mark of the devil is upon you”
  • “You’re a nightmare”
  • “I want to live like undead people”

All actual Pulp lyrics.  Except that last one.

The Ghost of Nick Clegg’s Reputation

Costume Requirements: 

  • Yellow tie.
  • Ability to cross your fingers behind your back.

Handy Catchphrase:

  • “I should have been more careful perhaps in signing that pledge”

Your Creepy First Boyfriend

Costume Requirements

  • A willingness to emulate this upstanding gent.
  • The quiet acceptance that you won’t be taking anyone home with you from the soirée.

Handy Catchphrase

  • ” I still have a bit of your hair…”

Bad Bertie

Costume Requirements:

  • One of those black and white t-shirts from them soft-goth days (or your art-Française days if you’re a little older)
  •  A ruddier than average complexion.

Handy Catchphrase:

  • “I’ve been watching you and your family.”

Enjoy Halloween you crazy cats.

That’s all folks!

Allotment Soup – The Plot Thickens

Allotment Soup- Sunday 23rd October

A trip to Norwood Allotments would require a £4.30 Day Saver and a 40 minute bus journey.

Pete wasn’t convinced.

“I said I’d go so Ill go.  But I think we should just get chips.” he sulked.

Sometimes it’s like being best friends with Holden Caulfield.

Serendipity offered Polly emerging like a sunbeam from Primark as a welcome tonic to Pete’s reticence.  We cuffed, bound and bundled her onto the number 76  and rode off in search of Allotment Soup.

(†) Polly once advised me that even if a blog is terrible, she’ll still scan through it if there are pretty pictures.    In honour of this sentiment, I present to you a photo-journal that whilst largely temporally inaccurate, will hopefully offer some Tumblresque eye candy regardless.

15.30pm It wasn't the easiest place to find on a whim but the sweat of the hill was worth the vista. These few acres felt like the last remaining rags of pre-industrial Sheffield, lovingly held captive by the plot owners. Pinned to the 21st century by wicker arches and canes, and weighted down by an assortment of raggedy greenhouses, it made for a patchwork of happily chaotic construction.

15.35pm Newly built Eco-Loos inspected. Good to know that by shaking your lettuce, you can help cabbages grow.

15.50pm Whittled apples + gnarled tree trunks + bunting = strong possibility that you've stumbled into an Enid Blyton novel. That's maths.

15.55pm Appropriately, there was a liquid ton of soup available. I stuck with the 50p apple pie.

16.20pm This is a lady making a bike-powered smoothie with Abundance's foraged fruit. A fantastic idea. Turns out it makes quite lumpy smoothie though.

16.30pm Fortune smiled at us once again. Typically we'd arrived too late to take a guided tour. Nancy heroically stepped in to give us an endearing and impromptu run-around

This is a scarecrow. A more hellish scarecrow you're unlikely to meet. Apparently he's intended to deter young'uns up to no good. High-vis is, afterall, the hoodie's kryptonite. Incidentally this was the 'her' of a 'his and hers' pair of allotments. Having several intervening allotments is the key to a happy marriage.

This is a close-up of Barnaby the scarecrow. Not, as previously suggested, your author.

18.00 Night began to fall. With the twilight and a tremble of the earth, Madame Zucchini hauled herself from beneath a nearby patch of brambles into the performance clearing; a temperamental though awe-inspiring creature of the plot.

18.10pm Best described as a tyrannical entertainer, Zucchini led us through 'the vegetable alphabet' with an iron first (kudos Polly, for very adamantly shouting 'Zuchini'). In an iconic move destined to cement Zucchinni in the collective Norwood mindset, she at one point threw a paper bag at a disruptive child.

Contrary to popular opinion, it's not often that I see a woman up to her elbow in an anthropomorphic marrow. I swiftly succumbed to Stockholme Syndrome. The show culminated in 'Harry Potter and the Cabbage of Doom', a Pinter-esque reintepretation wherein each vegetable puppet gradually lost their eyes. Pete mused that it was possibly one of the best pieces of post-alternative comedy that he has ever had the pleasure of witnessing.

This is Polly about to throw a sprout at Madame Zucchini.

This is what we did with Madame Zucchini after her act... Not true. Or is it? No, we didn't. They're jacket potatoes.

Cabaret Fantastiques

Tonight the crew of Cabaret Fantastiques hit the shores of The Riverside.  We catch up with mindreader and most excellent friend of freesheffield, Peter Antoniou to find out what to expect from this eclectic extravaganza.

First off, I’ve invited a friend who is concerned that because this event is free, it must be a bit rubbish. Can you confirm or deny this?
I’d like to deny it!

Maybe that makes me sound big headed, but the cost it certainly no reflection on quality.

The event is the final event in Mental Health week. They wanted people not normally engaged with mental health issues to come along to the events, and there would be information available. It’s not a preaching session though! It’s all fun all the time. After all what’s better for your mental health than a good giggle?!

What I’ll say is this: you’ll lose nothing by coming along as it’s free. So come along and try it.

Can you describe each Cabaret Fantastiques star as an animal please. Feel free to give reasons.

Well we have only announced one other act at the Cabaret. We hope to have a surprise for those of you who turn up.

The other act is Glenn Moore, who is officially the second funniest student comedian in the UK. He is no longer a student though, now working as a full time comedian and broadcaster. If Glenn was an animal he’d be a Panda. I don’t wish to elaborate for legal reasons.

As far as what animal I’d be? Well I’d like to say something cool like a tiger, but realistically I’d be something disappointing like a marmot.

What’s The Riverside like as a venue? I hear it’s actually a massive boat straddling the shores of the Donne.

I don’t understand the words that comprise the question. The Riverside is a cracking place. It is Sheffield’s only ‘not-for-profit’ bar, which means it is a bar with a social conscience.

That means you can go, have a few drinks and not feel bad as you are technically helping a charity. They have great food, so I’s recommend you get down there early and have dinner before the show. Or even dinner during the show.

I’ll be there early so if you read this, and then get there early come and say hello! But I should warn you, I don’t share my chips…
Peter Antoniou, it’s well known that you are allergic to chocolate. Given a chance to eat chocolate again at the expense of your psychic powers, would you take it up or turn it down?

I’d keep my psychic powers I am afraid. It’s how I make my living, so even IF i could eat chocolate again, I’d have no actual money to buy the chocolate thus making the sacrifice ultimately pointless.