20 years of the Burngreave Messenger

Story by Richard Belbin | Photos of covers by Jamie Marriott

July 1999 Issue 1
The very first issue published in July 1999.

How it all started

The Messenger was founded in 1999, but it wasn’t the first attempt to at a local news sheet for the area. ‘BAD News’ (Burngreave Action and Development) ran for eight issues from 1995 to 1998, before organisational pressures forced it to close.

The following year, a small group met in Abbeyfield Park House. With support from the Community Health team they produced the first two issues and started to pull a larger team together. “Those first issues record the spirit of those moments,” said Drew Dallen, one of that original team. “Anthony Green became big news because of the attitude of the police towards all in Pitsmoor and the bias of The Star. Such was the timing of that injustice that we had a good story to champion for the first issue.”

“We wanted to improve communication in the area so that people could know about and take advantage of opportunities,” said Aisha Special K. The efforts required to produce the paper were larger than expected. “We even had to make the plates to print the sheets ourselves.” Aisha added.

At the same time, the then Labour government was setting up the New Deal for Communities programme, which gave £50 million to local communities to spend over a ten year period. With one of the schemes being set up in Burngreave, the Messenger quickly took advantage of the opportunity.

“It was a steep learning curve back then, with a lot of late night editing and deadline stress and lots of getting to know the community, it’s make up and issues.” Mark Lankshear, secretary and treasurer in the early days, told us. And no matter what else has, that is something that has never changed!

Ian Clifford, another of our early volunteers now working in Burma, told us:

“I think the Messenger was set up to bring the people of Burngreave together, to help us all feel part of Burngreave and to get a better deal for Burngreave. It’s great that the Messenger is still going and that it’s done so much to achieve those aims.”

Issue 122 - Man of steel
Issue 122:Man of steel When our local residents do well, we do like to show them off! Especially when they can take a photo as good as this. Paul Smith became the youngest ever England’s Strongest Man back in 2016.
Issue 33 - Abbeyfield Festival
Issue 33: Abbeyfield Park Multicultural Festival – It was always a delight supporting our friends and colleagues in Green City Action to bring the community together to celebrate and dance at a dozen Multicultural Festivals. Let’s hope we can get it back again!

Messenger milestones

  • Copies distributed: 1,212,000
  • Words written: 1,584,000 (that’s all seven Harry Potter’s AND the complete Lord of the Rings. Or the bible twice)
  • Volunteers enrolled: 317
  • Contributors: 638
  • Projects supported: 274
  • Distributors: 121 Miles walked distributing: 23,040 (had they been walking around the world, they’d now be at the northern tip of Iceland, or Malaga)
Issue 58 - Honoured with an mbe
Issue 58 – Honoured with an MBE: Certain community activists have featured more often than others in our pages, and none more so than Mr Iqbal. As an educator and then as Chair of Burngreave Community Action Forum and then Burngreave New Deal he has played a key role in building strong links and bonds between all Burngreave’s communities. He was awarded an MBE in 2006.
Issue 72 - Jesse Jackson
Issue 72 – Jesse Jackson: One of America’s most famous civil rights activists visited the area in 2007. Rev. Jesse Jackson came as part of a tour demanding economic equality for BME communities, and left us with words we always try to echo: “Keep hope alive”
Issue 69 - A senseless killing
Issue 69: – A senseless killing: Violence comes all too often to Burngreave. Whilst we always try to stress the positive aspects of our community, we must also recognise the problems we face, and pay tribute to those from the area whose lives have been devastated by that violence.
Issue 81 - £52million all gone
Issue 81: £52million all gone: New Deal for Communities was vital not just to the Messenger but to many community organisations across the area. It ended early after apparent overspending, and it’s legacy today is open to debate. To be held in the Vestry Hall perhaps?


  • July 1999: Our first issue is published
  • March 2000: A special edition is issued to mark the beginnings of Burngreave New Deal for Communities
  • October 2000: The Messenger goes online for the first time
  • 2002: Production is expanded to ten issues a year
  • January 2003: The Messenger becomes a limited company
  • June 2007: Distribution expands to cover Fir Vale
  • July 2009: The Messenger becomes a charity
  • October 2011: Big Lottery Fund first supports the paper
  • 2014: Further support comes from the Foyle Foundation, Garfield Weston Foundation and Trusthouse Charitable Foundation
  • October 2014: End of BLF funding, all staff are made redundant
  • January 2015: Kathleen Hannay Memorial Trust allows us to print two editions and develop future funding plans
  • November 2015: A new BLF project is approved for three years
  • April 2016: The first of our Community Journalism courses is delivered
  • February 2017: We return to publishing eight issues a year
  • March 2019: BLF project comes to an end, but the Messenger continues…