I was asked to interview Sheffield based author and poet Helen Mort for the Off the Shelf festival. It is my second year working for the literary festival and was an honour to speak to an award winning writer. Helen’s latest book is called Never Leave the dog behind and is an exploration of our love of dogs and of mountains.
The event was at the Crucible in Sheffield, a world renowned theatre that I have visited all my life in the audience. So it was such a thrill to be able to be on stage. Due to the pandemic, there were only a few tickets allowed to be sold though there were many more watching online at home.
Helen’s book is a beautiful mix of poetry, personal stories and the history of the relationship between human and dog in the setting of nature. She read a section of the book talking about her first ‘dog companion’ Bell. In a room of dog lovers, you could feel the passion, joy and heartfelt reactions as we all could understand the special relationships we have with our dogs.
We had a chat about everything from the loss of a dog through to the way becoming a parent changes our interaction with adventure and nature. There were some great questions from the audience especially one asking about how Donald Trump is the first American president in over 100 years to not be a dog owner and what that said about him.
The evening ended with Helen reading a poem from her book, called The Dogs.
Some mornings, waking up between the sandy whippet
and the black – their breathing as slow as mine,
their eyes more sorrowful – I remind myself I’m not a dog.
It’s not acceptable to taste the grass or roll in moss until
I’m musked with it. There are deer in the woods I’ll never see.
My thirst discriminates. It does not have me bend
my grateful head to puddles, gutters, hollows
in the rock. I don’t track rabbits in my sleep.
I’ll not know love like theirs, observed in mute proximity
and if I sometimes sit bolt upright after dark, sensing
a movement in the yard, it’s only that I’ve learned
a little of their vigilance. I’m not like them:
one night I’ll set off past the meadow, down
behind the beck, beyond the blunt profile of Silver Howe
If you would like to work with me for your event, you can use my contact page here. I have done live interviews at events, presented a Saturday morning show on BBC Radio Sheffield, taken part as a participant in radio and TV shows and done public speaking at events all over the UK and Europe. To discuss your requirements, please do get in touch.
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The Art of Disruption; a manifesto for real change is a book by Sheffield legend Magid Magid. “A Somali born, working class black muslim immigrant” who became the youngest ever Lord Mayor of Sheffield. A man who banned Donald Trump from the city and famously called him a wasteman… This book shares his commandments for living the best life and making the change in society you want to see.
When I first heard about Magid, I couldn’t help but smile. Seeing him as the Lord Mayor of Sheffield felt like a real change and an amazing representation of Sheffield, the city of Sanctuary.
I met Magid a few times, mainly through Tramlines, the festival that my husband was director for. The cover of his book was a huge billboard that was displayed in the festival site. It was such a clear and brilliant message that was so far away from the usual work of past Lord Mayors and I watched hundreds, if not thousands of festival goers get their selfie with the poster and heard so many stories of personal connections to Magid. That he had attended their events, met him in the street, that people had been inspired by him and the difference he had made to their lives, and I knew this was someone special.
I bought the book as soon as I saw it was on pre-order (this isn’t a sponsored post, I bought the book and wasn’t asked to review it) and devoured it in a couple of days. Each of Magid’s commandments starts a chapter in the book where he goes into an explanation of his thoughts along with anecdotes of his life. From stories of hanging out on buses with elderly ladies in Doc Martin boots, to battles with council members, Magid shares intimate details of his life and how Sheffield has shaped him as a man.
His commandments are;
Don’t be a prick
Do epic shit
See the good
Don’t lose hope
Do it differently
Always buy your round
Don’t kiss a tory
Tell your ma you love her
You’ve got this!
It is a book filled with positivity, heart and a desire to change things for the good. I cried by page 20, felt sheer anger at the racism and hate filled messages that he received during his term as Lord Mayor and laughed till my belly hurt at some hilarious commentary (“People accuse me of tearing up tradition, but what is tradition, apart from peer pressure from dead people?”
But mainly, I finished the book feeling hope.
2020 is a year like no other, it is easy to feel that everything has gone to shit and that we are doomed. Between the news and social media, we are bombarded by negativity, fear and division. Yet Magid’s book brought out a hopeful and brighter side of me, it made me remember that there is so much good out there and the good need to work together for change through kindness.
He shares this quote.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
Martin Luther King
And in reading about the discrimination and outright racism he has faced and the way he dealt with this was a moment that made me sit back and take a moment. It is easy to react to bad situations with an equal force of anger or hurt, but Magid’s words of hope reminded me of the importance of compassion. Of how a positive reaction to the bad can change not only other people’s mindsets but changes how we unpack and deal with that difficult time.
Kindness is bold, brave and politically radical; in both small gestures and wider structural policies, it has the power to change someone’s life – and to change the world.
I have a couple of sayings here on my blog, I say ‘be kind, yo’ and sign off with the phrase ‘peace and love’. I truly believe that kindness will be the thing that changes the world. And it has been a journey to get here and a journey I still travel. I grew up believing you had to be the toughest, you had to show your worth through shouting the loudest and winning the argument. My go to state is often anger and the desire to show I am not weak. But I have learnt through my life that this isn’t the person I want to be. I don’t want to be the toughest or the alpha, I want to be the kindest, I want to be the person who others know is loyal and caring, I want to be someone who helps others, who makes a difference, who is open and warm and loving. This book reminded me that being the best isn’t about being the toughest, it is about being the kindest.
Seeing the good
It is fair to say that I loved this book. This is a book that is about community, change and making a difference, no matter how small. It isn’t too wordy or pretentious, it is written in a gentle, first person voice of a man who has done some extraordinary things yet feels like he could be your best mate. The Art of Disruption is inspiring and exciting and makes you want to be a better person.
Seeing the good encourages others to do the same – optimism is contagious, after all. You may even start a chain reaction of positivity and kindness, and who knows how far this will go or which mind you might spark.
‘The Art of Disruption, A manifesto for real change’ is widely available now. If you can, have a search of your local, independent book stores. If you are in Sheffield, I recommend La Biblioteka. Or you can buy it from Hive here. Hive supports independent book stores and is a British tax paying company. If you would like to find out more about Magid Magid, you can follow him on facebook, twitter and find his website here.
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Henderson’s Relish is a Sheffield staple. It is a vinegary relish that goes on pretty much any foodstuff and beloved to the Steel City. They have just released their second cookbook – Strong and Northern and they asked lots of people who love Sheffield to be a part of it by sharing a little anecdote about Hendo’s. And I was proper chuffed that they asked me!
The launch was last night and it was great to meet some of the Sheffield heroes in the book and hear speeches by Steve Edwards and Joe Scarborough.
Sheffield is my birthplace and home and I am immensely proud of my city. To be a part of this book with so many amazing people is truly brilliant and I feel really honoured.
On Thursday 26th September, it was Sheffield Makes Music, an event by the University of Sheffield and BBC Music Day. I was invited to host the main stage and help celebrate the amazingly talented and passionate artists of Sheffield.
They say “The reasons we participate in music are endless, varied, sometimes mysterious, often confusing, always rewarding. But we do it. We love it. We are it. And once again we celebrate it on BBC Music Day.”
There were some wonderful artists performing all over Sheffield. It was an honour to be a small part of the day. Sheffield’s poet laureate Otis Mensah also hosted his hand picked artists in his Mash Up House in Orchard Square. Seeing him perform with Sheffield’s finest Steve Edwards was the highlight of my summer.
Though I present on the radio and have done talks all over the UK and Europe, it was very different to be on a stage all day introducing the acts. But I loved it and was so chuffed to be asked to be part of the day.
It was tons of fun and though I was pretty scared beforehand, it was a great day and I would love to do more stuff like this!
I have done talks all over the UK and Europe and it was great to do some live stage work, I have really pulled back on doing talks over the past year due to my health. But I hope I will be able to pick up a little more in 2020. You can take a look at some the past events and talks I have done here.
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So, I have some crazy exciting news that I can finally share with you all, you are now looking at (well, reading from) the newest presenter on BBC Radio Sheffield!!!!
I have a new show starting on Wednesdays from 7-9pm each week, I’m copresenting with a super cool queen called Leesh and we will be chatting life, families, challenges, disability and more and bringing in the most interesting folk in Sheffield and South Yorkshire to share their stories!
I couldn’t be more excited or chuffed to get this opportunity, I bloody love radio and have appeared as a guest on so many shows but now I have the opportunity to be on the other side of the desk!
Around 5 years ago, BBC Sheffield presenter Paulette Edwards came and did a talk at my WI (Seven Hills Women’s Institute), she talked about how everyone has a story, something interesting and unique about them and I was so inspired by her.
I feel like I’ve come full circle to get to be a part of the radio station she presents on and totally honoured to become part of the BBC family.
I hope you’ll all listen in, the first show is 15th August, the second 29th August and then we’ll be weekly from the 5th September.
Ill share links and be asking your opinions, so do stay in touch.
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I was over the moon to be asked to join an Independent Advisory Group for South Yorkshire Police recently.
It is a chance to offer input on how they police our communities and how they can better meet their needs.
The Independent Advisory Group (IAG) aims to discuss the impacts of policing on different communities and look at ways in which we can improve the policing service to the diverse communities within Sheffield.
A/Chief Inspector Shak Ahmed, said: “As a member of the IAG you’ll offer us helpful and constructive criticism, helping us to build and develop an insight into the needs and wants of communities who may be under-represented in Sheffield.
“This is a chance for you to challenge the way we think and share your beliefs on how we work, to ensure our work meets the requirements of members of the community as we are keen to ensure the group reflects Sheffield’s diverse communities.”
As someone born and bred in Sheffield I care about my community and it’s important to me for the police to be held to account and ensure that underrepresented groups’ needs are met.
I have lived experience of disability and chronic illness as well as my professional experience of working with disabled people every day. Disabled people are notoriously underrepresented in society and often the needs of disabled people are not appreciated and so I hope I can make a difference.
As well as this my background is ethnically diverse and it’s important to me that we consider the diverse groups of people in South Yorkshire.
I love Sheffield and I care massively about the disabled community and so I just hope that I can do something good for people in South Yorkshire. I know I’ll get told off for fitting another thing into my already hectic life but it means so much to me to give something back and to help others.
My first meeting is later this month and I am so excited! Wish me luck and if you have any thoughts on how the police can be more inclusive to disabled people, please do let me know!
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We put on coffee mornings, attend events and put on our own and everyone is welcome.
Our next event is this Saturday at the medical education centre at Northern General hospital in Sheffield from 1-4pm. I will be doing a talk about the emotional and mental health aspects of IBD and there will also be talks by my wonderful surgeon Mr Brown and an IBD nurse.
Everyone is welcome, please do share the event and come along if you can.
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Tramlines festival in Sheffield is an award winning, city wide festival of live music taking place on 22nd – 24th July this year and is the perfect antidote to festival tent face. Forget glamping, it’s all about music, glitter and ridiculousness and then getting in your own lovely bed at night!
Seriously, it’s a great idea for those of us who have disabilities or illnesses where the very idea of a festival sends chills. Camping can be tough, camping at a festival with few facilities and acres of mud between you and your toilet can be a fucking nightmare.
Tramlines is a cracking deal for a weekend of music, at just £32 for a weekend ticket, it’s a full on bargain when you look at the cost of other festivals. You can pay that for one gig!
Photo: Tierney Photography
Sheffield is an amazing city for culture, music and nights out, and the awesome thing about Tramlines is that it is city wide. With a main stage at Ponderosa and second stage on Devonshire Green, you get the big festival feel and a cracking line up. But what’s even better is the loads of little venues around the city showcasing bands, artists, film and culture.
Be sure to check out the Folk Forest in Endcliffe Park and the beautiful Sheffield Cathedral, as well as all the fringe venues around the city.
Your ticket gets you a wristband that allows you into a ton of venues and you can wander around the city and soak up the brilliant atmosphere and see bands and artists you would usually not know about.
This is a real bonus for those of us with accessibility needs. Festival sites are notoriously shit for accessibility, which can really put off people with illnesses or disabilities where they gave extra needs. Being city wide means you have a wider scope of places to visit and it’s a bit easier to check them out beforehand.
Tramlines has accessible viewing platforms on the main stages and if you have a carer, they can get in for free! There are a few Changing Places in Sheffield meaning if you or your pal needs a full access toilet, you have a choice. Check out the website here.
The line up this year is fab, I’d highly recommend it for a weekend out whether you’re a regular festival goer or a festival virgin. Get tickets now before they sell out. And if you want to see my lovely son playing loud guitars, head over to see Goathead at the Leadmill on the Saturday!
I’ll see you there bad asses!!!!
Love Sam xxx
Disclaimer: This is not a paid post, I’ve not received any remuneration for writing about Tramlines, but my brill hubby Timm is a festival director and so I suppose I do indirectly benefit from the festival. Even if I didn’t though, I’d still highly recommend it. Cos it’s wicked. So buy a ticket.
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Last year, The Plug nightclub in Sheffield got in touch with me, they’d seen my blog and the work I do and wanted to help.
They choose charities and donate the income from their guest list donations. So basically, if you are put on the guest list to see a band at The Plug, you are asked on the door for a small donation. Seems fair if you’re blagging your way in for nothing!
I would like to thank The Plug for an astounding £732.62! This money will make a big difference and I am super proud of being part of this.
If you live in South Yorkshire and either have Crohns or Ulcerative Colitis, or if you have a close family member or friend who does and you want support and information, then please do get in touch, attend the coffee mornings and get involved!
CCUK are a charity so close to my heart, it is well worth joining the national charity for support and info and then getting involved in the group in your area.