Story by Tim Neal
About 30 people gathered at the Firth Park working men’s club on Wednesday evening 31st May for the ‘Festival of Debate’ discussion on the subject of ‘What is it to be a good neighbour?’.
Local councillor Mark Jones and Page Hall neighbourhood watch coordinator, Marion Gipson introduced the theme. They both framed the discussion around understanding the needs of others, being courteous, caring and having a good attitude. The subject was opened up to the floor and an animated discussion followed.
Mick Daniels (Chair of the Brushes Tenants and Residents Association) spoke about the changes he’d seen in the area. He referred to increases in littering and issues with noise. Responding to Mick’s criticism of the lack of action by the council, Mark Jones noted that this discussion was “part of the process of moving forward itself”.
Dean Brissett, a local resident also raised issues of litter and noise. He felt that stronger regulation was needed, with stronger punishments if necessary. He recounted a positive story about how he’d seen some kids kicking a road sign on Earl Marshall Road. He’d stopped to talk to them and tell them not to do it and as he told everyone at the meeting: “the kids stopped and they listened to me”.
It was difficult to keep to the theme of the debate, being a good neighbour, as an abstract idea. Many of the people present were too frustrated by what they described as a lack of action by the council, by continual debates rather than actions. Others were anxious to avoid community stereotyping.
It was acknowledged by all present that there are severe funding restrictions limiting what the council can do. In this context it was hoped that new funding available for Sheffield Community Investment Deal’s community work in Page Halll led by Colin Harvard, who was present himself, might help address this.
The ideas developed around being a good neighbour were overwhelmed by some of the harsher realities of a variety of environmental issues: litter, noise and air pollution. Finding ways to manage these are signs of neighbourliness but also signs of a working local authority.