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A Magazine for Sheffield

Keeping It Real

These words are written in order to explain things which can't be summed up in a simple slogan. It's more complicated and I need to explain. Please read on.

Activists from Sheffield and elsewhere attended a recent conference in Manchester, announcing the launch in April of a new UK news service, Real Media, which aims to challenge mainstream outlets. With honourable exceptions like Now Then, media ownership is very concentrated. Three quarters of the UK press is owned by just five billionaires who influence the public discourse with selected agendas. This matters, because people develop attitudes based on media messages. Much of what we read originates in sources ranging from right-wing 'think tanks' through to Hollywood advertisers. Information is deliberately left out, distorted and biased, aimed at selling, persuading, shocking, or simply obscuring the truth. Many people don't know we face a potential crisis combining deadly climate change, resource shortages, mass refugee movements, economic collapse, military aggression, and powerful elite takeovers through covert trade agreements. Interested in the latest celebrity gossip? Me neither.

Look out for Real Media. It will include grassroots and independent writing from all over Britain, Sheffield included. Ordinary people explaining how life is affecting them, in their own words. Perhaps you could do this too. What's your perspective? Words are important to explain facts and ideas. You're reading some now. Will they change your life? Perhaps not, but there's always that possibility.

For example, on 16 May the annual Sheffield Anarchist Bookfair sets up its stall in the Showroom Workstation. Visitors, sellers and speakers from around Britain roll up for one of the city's friendliest political events. Forget whatever you may think about the spiky name 'anarchist'. There's a whole evolving growth of libertarian understandings - politics based on freedom beyond the capitalist version of 'freedom of choice', without a greasy politician in sight. Instead, it's books explaining ideas through words. There are usually film showings, meetings and an after party too.

Meanwhile, another outlet for publications is under attack. Rare and Racy bookshop is a Sheffield alternative institution. It's one of the unique places that brought me to the city. As well as masses of second-hand books, they sell radical and self-published works. You don't get that in Waterstones.

Now there's a battle raging over the future of Devonshire Street. Primesite UK want to demolish three of the oldest shops in the city. In their place a characterless new building, proportioned for profit, would see Rare and Racy and two other independent businesses priced out of the area. Despite a 19,000 signature petition and over 800 written objections, the Council approved the application last month. Hopes now hang on goodwill from the owner or a legal challenge which could encourage the owner to sell.

Independent and locally-owned, non-corporate organisations are the lifeblood of a place. They're worth fighting for. Paying attention to the mass media can feel like watching non-stop adverts, without any meaningful or trustworthy content. It's like walking around Meadowhall, depressed, thinking: What's it all for? On the other hand, giving your time and attention to real grassroots events, organisations and publications like Now Then is massively important to them, and to your mental health and sense of belonging. Support and value what you've got before it gets crushed.

Sharrow Lantern Carnival

12 April | 7.30pm | Mount Pleasant Park

This beautiful mini-festival of creative action returns to Planet Sheffield with ‘Life on Earth’ as this year's theme. It starts as dusk gathers in Mount Pleasant Park for a procession of homemade lanterns towards a sparkling celebration in the General Cemetery.

Sheffield Environment Weeks

Ongoing | Across Sheffield and North Derbyshire

Sheffield is ahead of the curve in celebrating the environment. For over three decades, the annual Environment Weeks have invited people to learn and experience nature close up, whether with sleeves rolled up or just enjoying the fresh air. A full calendar of events is online. )

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