Hyde Park Sheffield - streets in the sky

Park Hill and Hyde Park Flats, Sheffield, March 1988

‘Streets in the Sky’

A photographic exhibition of the last residents at Hyde Park Flats, Sheffield 1988.

Park Hill flats was the largest social housing estates of its type in Europe, built on one of Sheffield’s seven hills. The development was divided into two distinct areas: they were the low rise Park Hill flats and the high rise tower blocks called Hyde Park. My project was concerned with photographing the last residents of Hyde Park, a development that had dominated Sheffield’s skyline for over thirty years.

Influenced by new modernist architectural theories, architects Jack Lynn and Ivor Smith began design work in 1953 on the Park Hill development. Inspired by the ‘brutalist’ style and philosophy of French architect Le Corbusier. Construction started in 1957, Park Hill was completed in 1961 and Hyde Park in 1966.

This scheme was considered revolutionary at the time, as access to the flats was made through walkways or decks that were open to the elements, yet wide enough to allow small electric vehicles such as milk floats to service the flats. Both estates were highly praised at the time in the belief that community life could be maintained by following ‘street’ principles.The term ‘streets in the sky’ was the style of architecture derived from these wide open decks.

‘Streets in the sky’ was an attempt to develop new social housing architecture, however, after being initially popular and successful, it was marred by inadequate maintenance, the decaying fabric of the building, the allocation of flats to unsuitable tenants, poor noise insulation and security.

By the mid 1980’s Sheffield City Council considered Hyde Park flats to be a failed experiment in social housing and was now unviable. The last community to live in Hyde Park flats was in 1988, it was vacated during 1989-90, some flats were refurbished to provide accommodation for the World Student Games in 1991, finally, the flats were demolished between 1992-3. The Park Hill estate is currently undergoing refurbishment and was granted Grade II* in 1998, making it the largest listed building in Europe.

Despite the neglected condition of the building and increasing anti-social behaviour at that time, I found a close community reluctant to be broken up and dispersed throughout other council housing estates in Sheffield. I did not meet a single resident who wanted to be rehoused, despite the current condition of the flats. They considered Hyde Park to be their home, but also a significant land mark building and were proud to be tenants in such a prominent building overlooking Sheffield. Many believed that Hyde Park despite its short comings, represented a vision for social housing that was both optimistic and outward looking and that the council had made ill judged and short sighted decisions that had contributed the decline, deterioration and the eventual demolition of the building.

The process of photographing at Hyde Park initially proved difficult, I started photographing in May but it was not until June that I had made contact with a small network of residents who understood and supported this project, introductions and accessibility was then made possible. There was resistance to anyone ‘official’, so establishing relationships with ‘personalities’ on the estate was key to being able to work closely with residents. I kept my camera out of sight in a plastic carrier bag in order to lessen my impact when walking around the estate. Talking to people, looking for introductions and visiting the various facilities helped residents become familiar with my purpose.

These large scale colour photographs (24″x24″) were exhibited together with 35mm B/W photographs by Roger Mayne (1929-2014), who photographed the first tenants in 1961 and later in 1966. The work of other well known photographers who had produced photographs at Hyde Park and Park Hill was also represented in this exhibition. Past and present tenants were also invited to contribute their own photographs, share their stories and memories were part of the exhibition.

‘Streets in the Sky’ was exhibited at The Untitled Galley, Sheffield during October 1988 and toured nationally. I was nominated for the Fox Talbot Award organised by the National Media Museum, Bradford for this work. The exhibition was co-ordinated by Mathew Conduit, manager of the Untitled Gallery and was financially supported by Yorkshire Arts, Sheffield Insulations Ltd and photographic processors Masterlab.

These photographs were taken using a Hasselblad 500 C/M camera with 80mm and 50mm lenses.

All images are Strictly Copyright © Bill Stephenson All Rights Reserved.

Bill Stephenson Photographer
m. 07831787709
e: info@billstephenson.co.uk

Love Among the Ruins: A Romance of the Near Future’

 In 2018 a re-interpretation of the 1988 exhibition ‘Streets in Sky’ originally shown at the Untitled Gallery, Sheffield was selected as the inaugural exhibition at the newly constructed S1 Artspace, Park Hill, Sheffield. ‘Love Among the Ruins’ was curated by Laura Clarke and featured previously unseen work from myself and the late Roger Mayne.

The exhibition takes its title from Evelyn Waugh’s satirical short story which imagines a dystopian future Britain as the result of an overbearing welfare state. Written in 1953 Waugh’s story foreshadowed some of the concerns about the possible social consequences of the government’s progressive post-war approach to rebuilding the country.

‘Love Among the Ruins’ ran from 20th July -15th September 2018. The exhibition was both popular and critically successful with over 450 guests attending the preview, additionally the gallery welcomed 4041 visitors during its 28 exhibition days.

press coverage

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streets in the sky poster

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‘The People of Park Hill’ 

The original 1988 ‘Streets in Sky’ exhibition was again reinterpreted and exhibited at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield, between 14th March – 6th April 2019, supporting Richard Hawley’s new musical ‘Standing At The Sky’s Edge’.

‘Standing At The Sky’s Edge’ written by Chris Bush, documents three generations of tenants; from the flats optimistic utopian beginnings, their dilapidation and later gentrification. Richard Hawley’s soundtrack reflects social change, nostalgia, faded dreams and new beginnings. The musical was a sellout for The Crucible, generating huge public interest and great reviews, extra performances having to be added to cope with demand.

The 35 photographs were presented as a slide loop on 5 4k 50″ monitors located in the theatre foyer and bar areas. Two large scale vinyl posters promoted the exhibition and musical, located at the theatre entrance.

This exhibition was supported by Urban Splash and vinyl posters design by MM Design Ltd.

love among the ruins

Streets in the Sky

[HP 001] Tony ‘the ton’ Greaves and Martin age 8, outside the ‘Pop In’ centre. The young kids at Hyde Park looked up to Tony as a roll model and was nick named ‘the ton’ as they believed he could lift a ton weight.

Streets in the Sky

[HP 002]  Roller skating paper delivery girls Anita Cutts and Emma Guirham.

Streets in the Sky

[HP 003]  Jean, Eric Maybury and granddaughter Naomi age 6. Jean is the Secretary and Publicity Officer for the Hyde Park Tenants Association.

Streets in the Sky

[HP 004]  Donna Hargreaves and Carmen Bello both age 14, sit on a 4th story concrete parapet. It was usual to see young people sunbathing on these balconies catching the last of the days sunshine.

Streets in the Sky

[HP 005]  Shirley Edwards, Sonja Marples both aged 17 and Kenneth Brissit age 14, near Manor Oaks Road at the rear of Hyde Park. The girls are posing as models. To the girls annoyance they being ‘trailed’ around the estate by Kenneth.

Streets in the Sky

[HP 006]  Kenneth Brisset age 14 and sister age 3, on a 4th story parapet.

Streets in the Sky

[HP 007]  Couple on their way to the nearby canal basin carrying fishing nets, sandwiches, and pop  for a picnic. Their three children cannot wait and are playing ahead of them.

Streets in the Sky

[HP 008]  Boys playing football during the summer holidays in St John’s C of E primary school playground.

Streets in the Sky

[HP 009]  Leroy Edwards age 14 and friend in the children’s play area.

Streets in the Sky

[HP 010]  Sue, the owner of Sue’s shop. Despite the shop being regularly pilfered, she provided a life line to many tenants by providing ‘strap’ (derived from ‘strapped for cash’). Strap was a short term loan made to customers who cannot pay immediately. Defaulters names and their debt were eventually written on cards and placed in the shop window.

Streets in the Sky

[HP 011]  Sun burnt Nicky McQuillian age 4, buys a Cornetto at Sue’s shop.

Streets in the Sky

[HP 012]  Peter Marples on his BMX bike en route to Sue’s shop.

Streets in the Sky

[HP 013]  Peter Marples near Sue’s Shop.

Streets in the Sky

[HP 014]  Janet Casey age 18 and baby son Liam Kyle Perkins return from town.

Streets in the Sky

[HP 015]  Rachel Davies with bruised face after fighting with her sister.

Streets in the Sky

[HP 016]  Man with fighting dog.

Streets in the Sky

[HP 017] Woman on her way across ‘the bridge’ between tower blocks. She is carrying sweets, pop and biscuits to a children’s party.

Streets in the Sky

[HP 018]  Mrs Penny Dingley with her son Paul. Paul has lived his entire life at Hyde Park, he has special needs and is anxious having to leave his home.

Streets in the Sky

[HP 019]  Faisal and Sarah find romance by a service lift.

Streets in the Sky

[HP 020]  Manual Bello playing with his dog near the ‘Pop In Centre’. Dogs are banned from the flats. Tenants faced being evicted if they did not give up their pets.

Streets in the Sky

[HP 021]  Sisters Nola and Noel near the Samuel Plimsoll pub.

Streets in the Sky

[HP 022]  Nola and Noel outside the Samuel Plimsol pub.

Streets in the Sky

[HP 023]  Tracy heads into Sheffield for a Saturday night out.

Streets in the Sky

[HP 024]  Girl playing out on a warm summer evening beneath a tower block.

Streets in the Sky

[HP 025]  Boy wearing his mothers makeup and wedding dress. He is on his way to a fancy dress contest being held at the youth club.

Streets in the Sky

[HP 026]  Dave Darbyshire is a redundant silver smith. Since losing his job he has suffered with depression, his German Shepherd dogs are his sole companions. He manages to keep them hidden from the authorities as dogs are banned from the estate, he faces eviction if they are discovered.

Streets in the Sky

[HP 027]  Mr Ackforth on his way to a pensioners’ lunch at the Community Centre.

Streets in the Sky

[HP 028]  Pam Stewart and her baby son Nathan Lee. Pam’s parents lived next door to her flat on Dacre Row, she can bang on the wall if she needs them.

Streets in the Sky

[HP 029]  Boys playing pool in the ‘unemployed club’ section of the youth club.

Streets in the Sky

[HP 030]  Simon Fairhurst weight training in the youth club. His trousers have been re-tailored to fit him. Simon’s shoulder tattoo say’s ‘Sheffield’.

Streets in the Sky

[HP 031]  Dean Haigh and David Jules both age 19, play fighting with a plastic knife in the youth club.

Streets in the Sky

[HP 032]  Tom, Anne, Pete Savage and Dean O’Brien in the cafe.

Streets in the Sky

[HP 033]  Girl returning home to her flat after shopping in town.

Streets in the Sky

[HP 034]  Pensioner on her balcony.

Streets in the Sky

[HP 035]  Best friends beneath a poster of their favourite pop star Nick Heywood.

Streets in the Sky

[HP 036]  Gavin Maybury age 9 and sister Alison age 14.

Streets in the Sky

[HP 001] Tony ‘the ton’ Greaves and Martin age 8, outside the ‘Pop In’ centre. The young kids at Hyde Park looked up to Tony as a roll model and was nick named ‘the ton’ as they believed he could lift a ton weight.

Streets in the Sky

[HP 002]  Roller skating paper delivery girls Anita Cutts and Emma Guirham.

Streets in the Sky

[HP 003]  Jean, Eric Maybury and granddaughter Naomi age 6. Jean is the Secretary and Publicity Officer for the Hyde Park Tenants Association.

Streets in the Sky

[HP 004]  Donna Hargreaves and Carmen Bello both age 14, sit on a 4th story concrete parapet. It was usual to see young people sunbathing on these balconies catching the last of the days sunshine.

Streets in the Sky

[HP 005]  Shirley Edwards, Sonja Marples both aged 17 and Kenneth Brissit age 14, near Manor Oaks Road at the rear of Hyde Park. The girls are posing as models. To the girls annoyance they being ‘trailed’ around the estate by Kenneth.

Streets in the Sky

[HP 006]  Kenneth Brisset age 14 and sister age 3, on a 4th story parapet.

Streets in the Sky

[HP 007]  Couple on their way to the nearby canal basin carrying fishing nets, sandwiches, and pop  for a picnic. Their three children cannot wait and are playing ahead of them.

Streets in the Sky

[HP 008]  Boys playing football during the summer holidays in St John’s C of E primary school playground.

Streets in the Sky

[HP 009]  Leroy Edwards age 14 and friend in the children’s play area.

Streets in the Sky

[HP 010]  Sue, the owner of Sue’s shop. Despite the shop being regularly pilfered, she provided a life line to many tenants by providing ‘strap’ (derived from ‘strapped for cash’). Strap was a short term loan made to customers who cannot pay immediately. Defaulters names and their debt were eventually written on cards and placed in the shop window.

Streets in the Sky

[HP 011]  Sun burnt Nicky McQuillian age 4, buys a Cornetto at Sue’s shop.

Streets in the Sky

[HP 012]  Peter Marples on his BMX bike en route to Sue’s shop.

Streets in the Sky

[HP 013]  Peter Marples near Sue’s Shop.

Streets in the Sky

[HP 014]  Janet Casey age 18 and baby son Liam Kyle Perkins return from town.

Streets in the Sky

[HP 015]  Rachel Davies with bruised face after fighting with her sister.

Streets in the Sky

[HP 016]  Man with fighting dog.

Streets in the Sky

[HP 017] Woman on her way across ‘the bridge’ between tower blocks. She is carrying sweets, pop and biscuits to a children’s party.

Streets in the Sky

[HP 018]  Mrs Penny Dingley with her son Paul. Paul has lived his entire life at Hyde Park, he has special needs and is anxious having to leave his home.

Streets in the Sky

[HP 019]  Faisal and Sarah find romance by a service lift.

Streets in the Sky

[HP 020]  Manual Bello playing with his dog near the ‘Pop In Centre’. Dogs are banned from the flats. Tenants faced being evicted if they did not give up their pets.

Streets in the Sky

[HP 021]  Sisters Nola and Noel near the Samuel Plimsoll pub.

Streets in the Sky

[HP 022]  Nola and Noel outside the Samuel Plimsol pub.

Streets in the Sky

[HP 023]  Tracy heads into Sheffield for a Saturday night out.

Streets in the Sky

[HP 024]  Girl playing out on a warm summer evening beneath a tower block.

Streets in the Sky

[HP 025]  Boy wearing his mothers makeup and wedding dress. He is on his way to a fancy dress contest being held at the youth club.

Streets in the Sky

[HP 026]  Dave Darbyshire is a redundant silver smith. Since losing his job he has suffered with depression, his German Shepherd dogs are his sole companions. He manages to keep them hidden from the authorities as dogs are banned from the estate, he faces eviction if they are discovered.

Streets in the Sky

[HP 027]  Mr Ackforth on his way to a pensioners’ lunch at the Community Centre.

Streets in the Sky

[HP 028]  Pam Stewart and her baby son Nathan Lee. Pam’s parents lived next door to her flat on Dacre Row, she can bang on the wall if she needs them.

Streets in the Sky

[HP 029]  Boys playing pool in the ‘unemployed club’ section of the youth club.

Streets in the Sky

[HP 030]  Simon Fairhurst weight training in the youth club. His trousers have been re-tailored to fit him. Simon’s shoulder tattoo say’s ‘Sheffield’.

Streets in the Sky

[HP 031]  Dean Haigh and David Jules both age 19, play fighting with a plastic knife in the youth club.

Streets in the Sky

[HP 032]  Tom, Anne, Pete Savage and Dean O’Brien in the cafe.

Streets in the Sky

[HP 033]  Girl returning home to her flat after shopping in town.

Streets in the Sky

[HP 034]  Pensioner on her balcony.

Streets in the Sky

[HP 035]  Best friends beneath a poster of their favourite pop star Nick Heywood.

Streets in the Sky

[HP 036]  Gavin Maybury age 9 and sister Alison age 14.