“Now then?” This familiar greeting is all it takes to get into a cheerful chat with a stranger at any bus stop in Sheffield. Our city doesn’t boast the enormity of London, the brashness of Manchester or the laughter of Liverpool. Instead, it scores highest on friendliness. Forget manufacturing, sporting glory or past histories – it’s the people here and now who make this place special.

If someone says the best thing about Sheffield is getting out, they’re probably talking about the Peak District, the parks and green spaces. They might even love its countless community events: the rattling Tramlines festival, beautiful little Diversity Festival, the uplifting Peace in the Park (which was solidly rounded off with smiles in the rain this year). Doc/Fest, Sensoria and Festival of the Mind should also get honourable mentions.

From further afield, maybe we’re seen as the city of The Crucible, The Showroom and The Leadmill. But below these premier league high spots, the good sporting side of Sheffield is shown in the fact that it kicked off the City of Sanctuary movement. As mass migration sweeps our planet, beyond the luring wealth of the capital, Sheffield becomes a welcoming home to many. Countless local people help out, donate, accommodate or just chat with asylum seekers and refugees, overseas students and visitors alike. Further symbolising the city’s open-heartedness are its food banks, junk food cafes, charities and pressure groups for all aspects of justice, peace, equality and positivity.

This song of praise to Sheffield isn’t the place to delve into the many criticisms – from pollution to tree felling, from Meadowhall to bus service fails. We can complain. But actually the city’s reasonable. The tram’s not bad, and we’re chilling out with more 20mph speed limits being added. Even cycling’s slowly getting better.

It’s a good place to live. It’s quirky. It’s different. It’s amazingly mixed. It’s got a green-wigged wandering charity record breaker. And one particular thing that adds to the spice is the magazine you’re reading. This is the 100th issue. Now Then champions art, independence and alternativeness, committed to local, sustainable and socially useful stuff. A gentle side-swipe against corporate city clone-culture. A top quality not-for-profit magazine that’s free. You don’t get that everywhere.

Opus Independents, the hard-working team which co-operates to publish Now Then, also deserves respect for putting on the Festival of Debate. This is a multi-event marathon, transforming Sheffield into the talking shop of the North, in a good way, and it will return to the city this September.

Our small collective got together to start Alt-Sheff, the alternative Sheffield website, in 2008, the same year that Now Then began. We didn’t know each other. We were just another group starting another project in this city of creativity. An anniversary like this makes us all proud of what’s being done here, of every good organisation doing its part in making Sheffield great. So this is a big thank you to the Now Then people for being a great team.

To end with, a quote from Opus’s website: “There is always more to be gained by working together than apart.”

alt-sheff.org

SHARROW FESTIVAL
Sat 16 July | 12-6pm | Mount Pleasant Park
Friendly annual community festival run by the people of Sharrow, bursting with creativity and fun. Performances include Gwenyarimba, Black Thorn, Early Cartographers, Angelina Abel/Senza Capoeira, Satnam Singh and Chanel Yates. Drumming and street dance workshops, sports, food from all over the world, stalls and kids’ activities.
sharrowfestival.btck.co.uk  

SHEFFIELD PRIDE
Sat 30 July | Endcliffe Park
The uplifting day of celebration and support for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and non-binary community and all their friends, families and allies. March and free daytime festival with live music, DJs, beer tent, stalls and lots of entertainment for all ages. Evening events at various venues and prices.
pridesheffield.org 

Artist: Caz Haigh

Hosted by Alt-Sheff