Sheffield FridayNightRide

we have nothing to lose but our chains

2012/09/21 This is Gleadless

This is Gleadless Ride Report
So, we entered the fifth year of Sheffield FridayNightRides with the compliment, “What a bunch of oddballs”.
Chris, a neophyte nightrider but experienced roadrider, was chatting to me in the Sheaf View after the ride.
He said, “I knew it was going to be different when we were all gathering together at the start”
“How come”, I replied
“Well what a bunch of oddballs, and don’t get me wrong, I mean that in a nice way”
“In what way”
“Well I do a lot of riding and when we get together its all about the riding and getting your head down but you lot: there’s some in lycra. others in T-shirt and jeans, there’s men and there’s women, there’s young and old, and there’s road bikes, hybrid bikes, Bromptons, all kinds of bikes … I knew this was not going to be like my usual rides. It were great”
“You dig it the most, you’ve got what its about”, I said, really pleased

And I am still trying to articulate what it is about for me let alone anyone of you. But I like being an oddball; “bohemians on bikes” would be ideal. Maybe its not exhausted in meanings and new opportunities and experiences will evolve for SFNR. Last Friday’s SFNR, This is Gleadless, was tremendous fun for me; I had a good night out.

Somebody did a head count and there were approx 40 of us at the start on a gloomy chilly autumnal evening with dark grey clouds wetting themselves all over us. A good mix of new and experienced with several from the University of Sheffield’s Architecture dept as we splashed out from the Festival of the Mind’s Arrivals Zone on Sheaf Sq and headed off along Sheaf St cycle path to Castle Market, a location from This is England (TiE) 88 and the first one we were to visit.

From there to Sipelia Works (Woody’s workplace in TiE 86) on the canal and then up into Park Hill flats where Stacey Sampson (Jennifer in TiE 88) and her boyfriend joined us as we finished admiring the late 50s/early 60s mosaic tiled turquoise, bottle green, orange, beige and black patterns and images on the outside walls of the mothballed Tap Room pub. Then through the flats and out onto Talbot St past the site of a gang fight scene in TiE 86, along Norfolk Rd and up Norfolk Park into Arbourthorne, through the Manor to the west of City Rd and then plummet down Gleadless Common to get to Gleadless Townend. We took a shortcut through allotments to avoid the outer ring-road Ridgeway Rd and we all (except Stacey who got an asthma attack, ret’d hurt and joined us in the pub later) got to the top of Leighton Rd and the Gleadless estate proper. [For an extreme view of Gleadless as the 4th most dodgy neighbourhood in England see Later on Simon recounted a story that he had heard that Gleadless (in olden times being across the county boundary of Meers Brook) was where Sheffielders used to banish paupers and a word for dosh was glead or glede (or geld?) so the area became known as Gleadless (I’ve since looked it up; another origin may be that glead or glede was a word for a kite and ley or lees is a word for a wooded area so Gleadless: a wooded area where there are kites)]

By this time all we were getting were very light, short showers, thanks goodness. On entering the Gleadless Valley Karlos took over; some of you may know Karlos from ReCycleBikes, where he works as a mechanic. (He’s also a powerful cyclist having done the entire ride on his fixie). Karlos was brought up and schooled on the Gleadless Estate and saw a lot of the filming. He also knows the estate and its people like the back of his hand; which is true judging by the banter with the regulars at the John O’Gaunt and elsewhere as we pedalled about. So guided by Karlos’s knowledge and protected by his presence, we were conducted through the estate. We could appreciate the views, the housing, the planning and attention to aesthetic that are evident in the layout of the estate – and we all stood in a line on Raeburn Rd bus terminus looking down on lamp-lit Sheffield: one of the best high viewpoints of Sheffield. We saw Lol’s Mum’s house (TiE 88), the pub where they watched the World Cup and the karaoke took place (TiE 86), Woody and Lol’s flat (TiE 86), the church where their wedding did not take place (TiE 86) and Combo’s Mum’s flat (TiE 86). It was all brill. The church is on an isolated knoll which allowed us to look forward over the estate lit in orange and white falling away below us to the dark Callow tower blocks near the junction of Blackstock Rd and Gleadless Rd. then we could turn round to the sweep of the orange dotted roads and housing with white lit windows going back up the hill to our left and our right – all with the magnificent church’s back-lit stained-glass windows with 60s designed figures shining down on us in the car park. Wonderful.

Karlos and I chatted as we cycled around and he appreciated being able to show off his neighbourhood and said., “You can go on holiday and see other places and so on but you never think of your own place in that way” and that is something SFNR is about; be a tourist or a traveller in your own ‘backyard’. Thank you Karlos; you were a star and as one nightrider said, “It’s been great to have a guide that sounds like Joe Gilgun” (Joe Gilgun was Woody in TiE, and he is also now in Misfits – although he is from Chorley).

Finally having left the estate, we steered off parallel to Gleadless Rd to look at Derby Terrace where Combo in TiE 86 returned from prison to his dead Mum’s flat, and then to the chippie and the pub, where many stayed and chatted with each other until late. Stacey came back to meet up and it was fascinating to hear how Shane Meadows got them to play the scene outside Castle Market in TiE 88. Its a v powerful scene where Woody and Milky finally meet up after Milky’s return and Woody expresses his hurt and feeling of betrayal upon finding at the birth that Lol’s child is not his but Milky’s. Woody and Jenifer hadn’t been told that Milky et al would be coming out of the Market and Milky et al hadn’t been told that Woody and Jenifer were outside coming down Exchange St so the encounter was about as spontaneous as it could be – and I think shot in one take – amazing.

A good ride, really interesting, great mix of folks, good laughs, it felt good to start up again and now looking forward to another one. What else you going to do on a wet Friday night?
Thanks to all for their mod touches – a lot of Fred Perrys and even some braces on view in the pub.

There may be opportunity for more ‘dressing’ up over the next season – anybody up for dressing up as a Phlegm character? – have a look at the ride titles October: Phlegm characters. November: national costumes. December: 60s fashion. January: Sex(?), June: dress like you’re a character from Downton Abbey (upstairs or downstairs). July: Richard Hawley look alikes. Oh what fun!

With Deep Joy


Next Sheffield FridayNightRide
This is Gleadless!
Fri 21 September 2012 (NB not the 14th as originally planned)
Start: 6.30 pm Sheaf Sq, in front of the station

STOP PRESS!! The actress, Stacey Sampson, who artfully played Jennifer, Woody’s (eventually abandoned) girlfriend in This is England 88, is up for coming to the pub and joining us for a drink at the end of the ride and chatting with us about the series – and probably anything else for that matter. [Thanks to nightrider Stacey Almond for being her friend]

For an insightful and witty appreciation of Stacey’s acting and costume in This is England 88 see Superqueen’s blog
(One of the wonderful things about planning and researching a SFNR is where it leads me – this blog is great writing)

Heads up! The top end of Gleadless Valley is up on Ridgeway Rd and the ride is quite short but involves some steady climbing up some high hills on your bike. It also involves precipitous descents. All on roads and metalled paths but would test a fixie! Work off the summer excesses.
Bring lock, lights, a spare inner tube and check your brakes.

Route: About 10 miles. Starting at Sheaf Sq we eventually ride up the South cycle route out of town climbing up past Park Hill flats and through Norfolk Park to the heights of Arbourthorne and then through Gleadless Common to approach Gleadless from the top end and by and large descend through the Gleadless Valley to end at either the Sheaf View or back in town – see how we get on. Precise route through Gleadless Valley not worked out but indicative route on this map

View This is Gleadless ( in a larger map

What to wear: Two of the main characters in the This is England saga are the lovers Woody and Lol – both of whom are dressed and styled in the fashions of the mod/skinhead 80s revival. The ride badge is a homage to mod culture and Bradley Wiggins. So get into it and wear something mod, think button-down shirt, Fred Perry, sharp jackets, Harringtons, sta-prests, levis,, Doc Martens, braces (not in hi-viz). If you’ve got hair then style accordingly. (I’m hoping my Bradley Wiggin’s ‘mod’ Fred Perry cycling jersey has turned up by then!)

Note This ride has been put back from 14 to 21 September so it can be included as part of Sheffield Publicity Department’s contribution to Sheffield’s Festival of the Mind and they are providing ‘alternative’ tours everyday of this Festival. We start at Sheffield Publicity Department’s Arrivals Zone (in Sheaf Square) for this festival.

Background to the ride
We’ll celebrates our city in several ways. Gleadless Valley is the site of a large social housing estate interspersed and divided up by ancient woodland. It is now known as Gleadless although I think the original Gleadless would have been a small village up where Ridgeway Rd is – Gleadless Townend being on the other side of the road. So we continue a tradition of starting a SFNR season by exploring an area of Sheffield.
The Gleadless housing estate was used (as well as other sites, the Lowedges estate and elsewhere) for the external locations of Shane Meadows’ TV series This is England 86 and This is England 88. The series were produced and backed by Sheffield’s Warp Films (as was Chris Morris’s Four Lions) and all of these productions have used Sheffield for its external locations.
So this ride allows us to explore and ruminate about Gleadless, the This is England saga, mods, skinheads, suedeheads, Warp and what it does for Sheffield, cycling and living in Sheffield and the meaning of life; all amongst the pleasant company of other FridayNightRiders.

Background references to Gleadless
Gleadless Valley was transformed from marginal farmland and ancient woodlands to an award winning social housing estate from 1955 to 1962. The new housing estate was praised for the way that land difficult to build upon, with its steep slopes and lack of infrastructure, was developed with low and high rise housing, and modernist public buildings that were viewed as sculptures on the landscape, so that the views across and outside of the estate had their own aesthetic. The height and positioning of housing was determined by the rise and fall of the land and the rise and fall of the sun casts changing colour, light and shade across the buildings.
The road system provided key arterial roads (Gleadless Rd, Leighton Rd and Blackstock Rd) with residential roads branching off like returnless capillaries discouraging rat runs and creating open spaces. Ancient woodlands still exist within the estate and they are part of the public green space and along with the arterial roads help divide the Gleadless Valley into distinct areas of Herdings, Rollestone and Hemsworth.

Harman, R. & Minnis, J. (2004) Sheffield, Pevsner Architectural Guides London and New Haven, Yale University Press
Background to the modern social housing in Sheffield
History of ancient woodlands in Gleadless
Jonathan Wilkinson’s print of Gleadless that, for me, shows its aesthetic – I’ve got one up in my living room!

Catch up with the This is England saga
The saga currently has three parts, This is England (2006),

This is England 86 (2010)

and This is England 88 (2011).

The first time I saw This is England I was dumbstruck. A heartrending story, played with tremendous passion and authenticity, of a young boy coping with the death of his soldier Dad in the Falklands and coming of age through being adopted by and becoming a member of a local gang who tear themselves apart with racism.. All set in 1983 against the background of early Thatcherism. The 86 series catches up with the same characters and is set in middle Thatcherism and the 86 World Cup. The 88 series is a coda to the traumas and threads of the 86 series.
I think they are a powerful, shocking, and grim tour de force but also truthful, funny and affectionate about ordinary lives which become extraordinary when rendered into film.
There are good plot synopses of each one on Wikipedia. Search by title.
This is England (2006)- set in 82 get it on Love Film/Netflix etc or buy the DVD
The two follow ups This is England 86 (2010)and This is England 88 (2011) are on 4OD here

and here is something to play whilst you get snazzed up ready for the ride – this is what I was dancing to in the 60s!

and this is the soundtrack from the Channel 4 trailer for This is England 86 – total rasta druggie stuff