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Lower Pitsmoor: Signs of the Times

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Yes, it was me.

I can explain. But before I do, let me say that for the most part I think the continued development of Kelham Island is a good thing, benefiting all surrounding areas and many of the businesses within. The pubs are good, there are many nice places to grab a coffee or see a band, and all are very welcome.

But I do think the media coverage of the area is in stark contrast to its nearest neighbour, Pitsmoor. Look for yourself. There are plenty of pictures promoting Kelham Island and Neepsend, acres of promotional text listing its many advantages and amenities. There is apparently no crime, no litter and no social problems of any kind.

Now try to find something positive written about Pitsmoor. Nothing leaps out, does it? Crime, drugs and poverty are all anybody wants to write about, ignoring the great cultural happenings and family-friendly atmosphere. There is an underlying assumption that areas occupied predominantly by the relatively wealthy are in some way more worthy than those occupied predominantly by the relatively poor.

Of course, Kelham Island has been recently developed and there are many more apartments left to be sold, so this disparity has a strong financial incentive. It has to be said that this is not the case with Pitsmoor.

Kelham Islanders, welcome to the neighbourhood

Pitsmoor has provided a haven for the dispossessed, new immigrants and those who wouldn't otherwise be able to afford their own home. It has a cohesive community made up of many other communities. People, on the whole, treat each other with respect and tolerance. If the character of Pitsmoor was in any way like the image portrayed by the media, the place would be in constant uproar. Instead, I and many others choose to remain here and bring up our children here, because we know we live in a place that we can take pride in. Pitsmoor demands that you engage with it. You have to talk to your neighbours and the people around you. The area is all about inclusivity, whereas Kelham Island is about exclusivity. But with no parks or gardens, no corner shop, surgery, pharmacy or post office in Kelham, one questions which is the more deprived area.

I worry about Kelham Island's monoculture. It seemed to me they needed an injection of diversity and inclusivity, so I included them - by renaming Kelham Island and Neepsend to 'Lower Pitsmoor'.

Crowdfunding was easy to organise and street sign companies apparently ask no questions. I spent a happy morning putting up three signs - which in all particulars conformed to highway regulations - saying 'Welcome to Lower Pitsmoor'.

How you regard the signs will say a lot about you. Personally I think they are entirely in-keeping with Pitsmoor's spirit of inclusivity and getting along with its neighbours.

I was not without my critics. One note I received read: "What I don't like is that it flips us from celebrating Pitsmoor, our creative, diverse, friendly community, to looking like we're wanting to undermine or attack (rather than tease) another community. They've formed a community association, started to campaign around improvements needed [...] There aren't wildly expensive houses there, and before the new stuff not really any housing at all [...] It's better to build solidarity - even with some teasing (!) - than to do what feels like attacking individuals, rather than criticising the systems and values that create differences in wealth and privilege."

I can't really argue with that, apart from to say that characterising my actions as an attack is a little dramatic, and that certainly no individuals were targeted.

A week after the signs had gone up, I had a look around and found they had all been efficiently removed. It would seem that associating Kelham Island with Pitsmoor is seen as unwelcome or threatening to someone. I'm sure those who took down the signs do not represent all citizens of Kelham Island and that together we can win the argument against 'Kexit'.

So Kelham Islanders, welcome to the neighbourhood. Just don't start believing your own publicity or our reputation too much. And remember: Pitsmoor is no more of a pit than those below it - and no Kelham is an island.

Please return signs to Martin Currie

STOP PRESS - After this piece was published The Sheffield Star published a positive item about community spirit in Pitsmoor, under the below headline. Could be a coincidence...?

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