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A Magazine for Sheffield
The lost, the forgotten, the neglected and the rejected. We have all seen buildings that correspond to these criteria in and around our city, but how much do we know about them and the reasons behind their decline? Some of them may seem to be average and even unremarkable, but there are many disused edifices that possess a wealth of historical, cultural, industrial and political significance. This article is born out of our inquisitive desire to go beyond the fencing and overgrown shrubbery to discover the stories behind these crumbling creations. We hope to inspire constructive debates on the fate and future of these forlorn buildings. The centre of Sheffield is place of architectural contrasts. There is a varying mix of modern buildings with a few older buildings scattered among them. We have the blitzkrieg raids to thank for this. The post-war reconstruction programme that followed replaced the destroyed building stock with modestly designed structures to serve the city's commercial activities. The result is the mélange that we see before us, in which some buildings are mid to late 20th century erections and others are products of the different periods of Sheffield's early industrial evolution. This leads us to a particular structure that you may have noticed before - the former National Union Mineworkers (NUM) headquarters on Holly Street, adjacent to Sheffield City Hall. Some readers might not be concerned about the fate of the NUM headquarters, but we believe that in its current state it is a waste of a prime location and a fairly sound building which could be put to a number of uses that would enrich the local community. In 1988, NUM leader Arthur Scargill relocated the headquarters from London in an effort to be closer to the heart of the mining community. There was much controversy surrounding Scargill's grand proposal. This owes much to the fact that the NUM was going through the most fractious period in its history and that the new headquarters were to be built on the site of Cambridge House, a grade II listed Victorian building which they wanted to demolish. The NUM headquarters, or Camelot as it was dubbed by the members, fits squarely in the late 20th century bracket of city centre buildings. Standing on Holly Street facing the main, east elevation, you can see its clear attempts to reflect its surroundings. Its presence, almost fortress like, is very much felt yet sympathetic; something the New Labour council hasn't managed too well since, the brash new town hall they are housed in being a prime example. Malcolm Lister's NUM headquarters is more than a play on symmetry and dynamic form. You don't have to look hard to see his concept for the facade. It depicts a miner's pick through its top-heavy shape and stepped design; the central, jutting spine acting as the handle and the wings either side representing the bores. This core element of the design had conflicts arising from a funding dispute between the contractors and the NUM which meant that the building's entrance was never fully completed. The main entrance during the building's use was through Cambridge House, what is now Lloyds bar on Division Street. The building never fulfilled its potential because after the miners lost the fight against pit closures, NUM membership fell rapidly. This decline was so severe that the NUM were forced to vacate the building in 1994. The headquarters have stood empty ever since. In 2002 it was lined up for demolition under the city's retail quarter plans that never materialised. Most recently it has been the subject of proposals to turn it into a leisure complex for the casino industry, but these proposals have never got beyond the planning stage. This leads us to a few questions. Does Sheffield really need another casino at a time like this? Who will it actually benefit? Not our future generations. Not the cash-stricken. Could it not be used in a simpler, more cost effective way for the people of Sheffield? There is a claim, according to the Lost Arts Council, that outside of London, Sheffield has one of the largest amounts of art in storage. Could buildings like this not be reclaimed as art space, performance space, and accessible exhibition space, or even for small local artisan boutiques? It might lend itself well to being a bigger version of the Forum shops at the other end of Division Street. Maybe a museum dedicated to Sheffield's left wing industrial heritage or a central museum aimed at the youth of today. There might even be scope to engage local businesses to sponsor the refurbishment and promote the sustainability of the scheme. Although it has already been granted planning for the casino scheme, it is such a shame that we will lose another historically significant building to big developers. With a modest, sustainable approach this building could be opened up and reused in the interest of the Sheffield people. This article only attempts to highlight the issues, but if you have any comment or opinions about the matter please leave your views at Photo by Blatant Photography )

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