Sheffield Cablevision: the original local TV

Sheffield’s 1970s community cable TV station

There’s been a lot of talk in the last few months about the government’s idea for a network of local TV stations, with plans for 10-20 services in operation by 2015. Sheffield isn’t on this initial list but we’ve been earmarked for the second phase of licensing – assuming the first stations are a success and culture secretary Jeremy Hunt is still in a job to see it through.

What I didn’t realise was that the idea of citywide TV services is not a new one. In fact, Sheffield had its own cable TV station for three-and-a-half years in the 1970s. I found this out via Sheffield sport journalist Alan Biggs’ book, which incidentally is well worth a read if you’re interested in local football or media and is available now from the publishers and Amazon.

Our cable TV station was known as Sheffield Cablevision. It was one of five authorised by the UK’s Minister for Posts and Telecommunications and ran from August 1973 to January 1977. For a couple of hours each evening (plus daytime repeats) Sheffield Cablevision broadcast shows made by the public with help from a professional staff of six from its Matilda Street studios.

Sheffield Cablevision ident

TV Ark has posted a video of the station’s ident, which shows the Sheffield Cablevision logo – presumably the inspiration for the Sheffield Publicity Department visual identity:

Sheffield Cablevision ident

Sheffield Cablevision: watch the ident

Recollections of Sheffield Cablevision

I’m not old enough to personally remember the station, but if you search the internet there is some good stuff to be found. A thread on Sheffield Forum throws up memories of the station, with gerryuk and A.B.Yaffle commenting:

During the daytime you would get a Sheffield city council logo on the screen with Radio Hallam playing in the background. Every hour or so you would get a local news programme aired from some studio centre near Sheffield’s railway station. Can’t remember if they did a 30 minute news programme in the evening. On Saturday morning I can remember them doing some live programmes from the now defunct ABC cinema on Angel Street. It was for kids. I think you had to live in a council house to be able to receive this channel.

The flats on the Hanover estate still have the old sockets on the wall with about 10 holes in which someone told me was for the old cable tv system.

In his book, Alan Biggs recalls the few months he worked for the channel:

I would race off to Sheffield early on a Friday evening to present a weekend sports preview for the 30,000 households subscribing to an experimental piped TV channel. The pioneers who ran it…believed in what was a community project and, on reflection, it wasn’t a world away from today’s so-called reality stuff in that volunteers could come in off the street to help us make programmes.

It does sound like it was run on a shoestring and as a result, relied heavily on the volunteers. Another Sheffield Forumer, Jabberwocky, recalls:

I remember watching it to see if they showed any film of the city and I sat there for an hour one day while a bloke showed how to change a plug.

Videos and photos

I’ve found a couple of videos of possible Sheffield Cablevision output, although I don’t think they were produced by the Sheffield production team and aren’t really proper Sheffield content. This public information film about playing safe when camping and fishing was shown on the channel:

There’s talk on Sheffield Forum of a VHS compilation tape of the best of Sheffield Cablevision. It’d be great to see this online.

Photo wise, there’s a picture of one of the original Sheffield Cablevision cameras on the Museum of Broadcast TV Camera website. But the best place for photos is on the new Sheffield Cablevision Facebook page, where you’ll find a treasure trove of nearly 300 images, including these:

TV Ark says that despite good local viewing figures, politics and the costs were to blame for the closure of Sheffield Cablevision in 1977.

The future of local TV in Sheffield

We’ll have to see what comes of the government’s new plans for community television stations and whether the change in broadcast regulations really does increase their chance of success. Cities in the US which are much smaller than Sheffield run successful local TV stations, so there may be a way of making them work. Certainly there are interested parties intending to bid on the initial new licenses.

But at the same time other community TV experiments in the UK continue to bite the dust, with a Manchester station closing earlier this month, the owners criticising the government’s new plans for not providing the framework they need to deliver a quality service.

Given that more people are buying smart TVs with fully-integrated internet, I can’t help think that using an online platform to distribute local TV content might be a lower cost approach to local TV, with less risk. There was talk of something along these lines being set up in Sheffield a couple of years ago – TV Sheffield – but with the website now offline there doesn’t seem to be much happening with this.

What are your memories of Sheffield Cablevision? Does a city the size of Sheffield need its own TV station? If so, what would you want from it?

Shane Meadows’ new Robinsons ad, filmed in Sheffield

This is Sheffield

There are plenty of Sheffield locations to spot in this advert from This is England director Shane Meadows and Warp films. Keep your eye out for – I think – High storrs road, Ecclesall parish hall, the hardware shop at Bents green shops and Bingham park.

Robinsons have also uploaded making-of video, which they say was made by the children in the advert:

Sheffield – the forgotten blitz

Memories of the Sheffield blitz on TV

You have probably seen some of the coverage to commemmorate 70 years since Sheffield was bombed in the second world war.

There is a TV programme on BBC1 North this Friday 17 December that looks back at the devastating events that destroyed many buildings and left over 660 people dead, 1,500 injured and 40,000 homeless – but left the steel works untouched.

Sheffield – the forgotten blitz

Radio Times listing

Made in Sheffield week on Sky

Sheffield’s music legacy

Starting tomorrow on Sky arts is Made in Sheffield week.

At 9pm each night a TV programme relating to Sheffield’s musical legacy will be shown:

The documentaries, made by Sheffield vision film maker Eve Wood, are getting their UK TV premieres. They tell the story of the Sheffield music scene from the late 70s through to Pulp’s legendary appearance headlining Glastonbury in 1995.

Made in Sheffield focuses on the early electronic scene while the Beat is the law covers the 80s and 90s, including how Thatcher’s Britain influenced music from the city.

If you haven’t got Sky then you can also buy copies of the documentaries from, Rare and racy and Record collector.

Made in Sheffield week on Sky arts


Sheffield, as devastated by a nuclear attack

A few weeks ago I finally got round to watching Threads. If, like me, you are too young to remember it from when originally broadcast, it is a 1984 TV play that depicts the effect of a nuclear attack on the country, and in particular Sheffield.

Given the subject matter it is unsurprising that Threads makes for as grim viewing today as I expect it did 25 years ago when cold war paranoia was perhaps at its greatest. The extended synopsis is on Wikipedia.

If you can see past the bleak story, then the fact that it is set in Sheffield also adds a level of interest. There are plenty of landmarks to pick out including the eggbox town hall extension, the city hall, the Moor, Finningly in its days as a RAF base and the Nottingham house pub in Broomhill.

After the explosion hits Sheffield, there are shots of a devastated city centre that don’t look too dissimilar to the Moor in recent times.

However, it would be a mistake to watch the film and expect to come away warmed by the rose-tinted glow of nostalgia. Judging by the reviews on Amazon, it seems that Threads had quite an effect on the people watching it back then.

Memories of Threads and its association with Sheffield seem to live on. In the recent edition of Fighting talk recorded down at Ponds forge, one of presenter Colin Murray’s opening quips was ‘I thought I’d driven through the post-nuclear set of Threads 2 last night until somebody told me it was Manor council estate’.

Someone has uploaded the whole thing to Google video, so you can watch Threads online now. Be warned that parts of it are quite harrowing though and may not be suitable for young children.

Do you remember watching it on TV in the mid-80s, or have you watched it since? How shocked were you?

The big freeze from the air

Aerial shots of Sheffield and beyond

This ITN video of  the current snowy conditions includes shots of Sheffield Wednesday’s Hillsborough stadium the Cadbury factory, as well as the Emmerdale set and Harewood house.

MTV Canada’s tour of Sheffield

…including a trip to Crookes with the Crookes

Over the last few days, MTV Canada reporter Sharlene Chiu has been visiting Sheffield.

At some stage I expect that her visit will be made into a programme and hopefully be posted online, but in the meantime you can see photos and information about her three days in Sheffield on the MTV Canada website.

Her itinerary included Sheffield FC, the Greedy Greek, the bear pit in the Botanical gardens, Granelli’s sweet shop, Yellow arch studios, the Boardwalk and a couple of pubs. Up-and-coming band the Crookes showed her round on one day – which of course included a trip to Crookes.

MTV Canada tour of Sheffield day one

MTV Canada tour of Sheffield day two

MTV Canada tour of Sheffield day three

The Old Grindstone, Crookes, Sheffield photo by jhcrawshaw and used under the Creative commons licence

The Old Grindstone, Crookes, Sheffield photo by jhcrawshaw and used under the Creative Commons license

Sheffield on Twitter – September 2009 update

Who is new?

Here are this month’s additions to the list of Sheffield people and organisations of interest on  Twitter. The full directory can be found on the Sheffield Twitter users page.

Notable additions this month include an official feed for Sheffield Wednesday, Football heaven and the Toby Foster show on BBC Sheffield shows and Sheffield forum.

Sheffield Wednesday FC

Sheffield FC, the oldest football club in the world

Martin Bedford – artist behind the iconic Leadmill poster artwork of the 1980s and 1990s

Toby Foster show – BBC Sheffield’s breakfast show

Football heaven BBC Sheffield’s football show

Sheffield forum

Sheffield Anglican cathedral

Sheffield Arduino hackers network

Jack Scott, Labour’s Parliamentary candidate for Sheffield Hallam

The Bohemian cafe on Chesterfield road

Remix creative graphic designer

Sheffield United headline news from

University of Sheffield history department

Gripple, manufacturer of wire joiners

All the damn kids – Sheffield-based band

Sheffield teaching hospitals NHS foundation trust

Sheffield arena hospitality

Matter magazine – annual fiction anthology from Sheffield Hallam university’s mews press

Royal Victoria hotel

School of education at Sheffield university

Sheffield ensemble – arts organisation looking for actors and writers

Super 8 Yorkshire film production team

Sheffield university aerospace engineers

Sheffield Hallam university student officers

Hansley beard weddings and events

University of Sheffield Enterprise

Sheffield 50+ – the voice of older people in Sheffield

The design studio – Ecclesall road shop

Pillow fight on 26 September 2009

Sheffield university student communities

Sheffield university student union president Paul Tobin

Forge Media – paper and website at Sheffield university’s students’ union

Evoluted new media – web design

If you want to be listed on it then follow @sheffieldblog, get in touch or comment below.

Sheffield on Twitter – update nine

August 2009 update

Here are this month’s additions to the list of Sheffield people and organisations of interest on  Twitter. The full directory can be found on the Sheffield Twitter users page.

Paul Scriven – leader of Sheffield city council

Jon McClure – Reverend and the Makers front man

Cocoa  – chocolate shop on Eccy Road

Our Cow Molly – locally-made ice cream

Seth Bennet – BBC Sheffield sport presenter

Oktoberfest Sheffield – beer festival

Popolo – restaurant in Leopold square

Eliot Kennedy – songwriter who has worked with the Spice girls, Bryan Adams, S Club 7 and 5ive

Robin hood airport – Doncaster-Sheffield international

Graduates Sheffield

Oxjam – music festival

Sheffield unsigned – music directory for artists in and around Sheffield

Crookes forum – community group

Hillsborough forum – community group

South Yorkshire fire and rescue

Apple admin – professional virtual admin services

Benchmark recruitment – recruitment agency

Sheffield university real ale society

C21 creative – web and graphic designers

VT music – music publisher

Sheffield big – support programme to help residents set up in business

Roundabout – homeless youth charity

South Yorkshire music – local music news

Little white book – wedding planners

Wath festival – music festival

Sheffield law society – supporting and representing Sheffield’s legal profession

3 squared – web, print and software

Sorby nano – leaders in micro and nano scale investigation

SYPTE – South Yorkshire passenger transport executive

City church – local church

Sheffield craft collective

LCPU – NAVCA’s local commissioning and procurement unit

Mookau – gift boutique

Abbey joinery

Training foundry – computer trainers

Platinum blind – band

Dead world leaders – band

Sheffield liberal youth

Sheffield Labour students

Extension match – brick and stone supplier

Atweb – band

Geeks in the peaks – rural getaway for geeks, 4-6 September 2009

Harry Gration – veteran Look north presenter

Sheffield latest – automated news

If you want to be listed on it then follow @sheffieldblog, get in touch or comment below.

Snooker in Sheffield

Why the tournament needs to stay in the city

As the annual snooker world championship in Sheffield continues, speculation rumbles on over whether the event will remain here after the 2010 tournament.

Sir Rodney Walker, the head of snooker’s governing body, was quoted earlier this month saying that he is hopeful discussions with the council will result in ‘a positive outcome that will see the event stay at Sheffield’.

That sounds quite promising, but it is anybody’s guess what will happen. While it is likely that China or Dubai would outbid us, moving the event overseas would be a controversial move, upsetting both fans and players alike.

It would also obviously be a massive blow to Sheffield. Financially, the tournament brings in £2.5m to the city economy, not to mention the value of the spin-off exposure and coverage that is also generated.

What’s more, it would be heartbreaking to lose the tournament so soon after the Crucible’s £15.3m renovation is completed. The redevelopment work will further enhance facilities at the theatre, improving its reputation as the natural home of snooker and an iconic venue that is recognised all over the world.

Seven times champion Stephen Hendry has suggested the compromise of rotating the tournament host city so that it returns to Sheffield every few years. But as the Yorkshire Post points out, as well as stopping many UK fans from attending the matches, taking the game abroad would also cause problems for people watching from home on television due to the eight-hour time difference in China.

And even if commercial pressures force the tournament to move from the intimate Crucible theatre there is still the option of further exploring the idea of a purpose-built Billiardrome in Sheffield, first mooted back in 2005 as one way of keeping the snooker in the city.

While we wait to find out the outcome of the discussions, there is still another week of the 2009 tournament to enjoy, as well as the various snooker-related events around the city. The part-redeveloped Tudor square is once again playing host to the Cue zone marquee and there are snooker-themed exhibitions from Pete McKee (in the foyer of the St Paul’s hotel) and Tom Walker (in the Winter garden).

Welcome to The Cue Zone by zawtowers on Flickr, used under the Creative Commons license

Welcome to The Cue Zone by zawtowers on Flickr, used under the Creative Commons license

World Snooker Championship 2009 – full set on Flickr