We didn’t think we’d still be here did we? Working from home (or not working because lockdown has made us redundant) with cinemas, shops and cafes closed, not seeing our family or friends, life as we knew it pretty much on hold…when we looked ahead this time last year, this certainly wasn’t in the plan.
For me, the trick to keeping anxiety at bay involves getting outdoors and into nature as much as possible, making or producing something creative every day, however small (like these pretty peppermint creams) and keeping brain and body active. I signed up to a WEA course on the history of Sheffield activism which is more fascinating than I could possibly have imagined, taking us deep into the history that shaped this city and adding new dimension to my lockdown walks.
For centuries, Sheffield was remarkable for the equality between artisan and business owner, resisting the feudal rule of other similar centres like Manchester or Leeds and encouraging the education of its working people. Many of these belonged to “Non-conformist” faith groups, rejecting the hierarchies of the Church of England in favour of more socially conscious ideas. Religion and politics went hand in hand, with a strong leaning towards dissent. I knew that John Wesley had famously preached in the city centre in the 1700s but hadn’t realised the extent of the Non-Conformist movement of diverse religious groups or the strong links between faith, artisan design and radical thinking.
Reading up on the players in these histories, I’ve been looking them up in my wonderful architectural Guide to Sheffield and now, with restricted movement around town, I’m seeing familiar street names and buildings with new eyes. How places I pass most days have hosted the people and events that I’m reading about. Here is one of them, and a favourite local landmark, the “Samuel Worth chapel” (named after the architect) in the General Cemetery, with its Egyptian style doorway.
He was also the architect for the much beloved Upper Chapel in the city centre, where we once saw a film projected onto the facade as part of the city’s Ruskin centenary celebrations. Watch this clip (I’m in the crowd there – remember crowds?!) and feel nostalgic for the ease with which we used to do these things.