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On-line Premier – “We were never derelict” a film by Martin Gray featuring the poetry of Otis Mensah at Park Hill

At the beginning of this year a new short film on Park Hill was made by artist/photographer Martin Gray. Park Hill itself is well documented but this is the first film for some years and it includes real stories of real people that is full of heart and of Sheffield character. Martin approached Alumno as we are completing Béton House; Phase 3 of the Park Hill regeneration, with his idea and secured funding for the film.  ‘We Were Never Derelict’ is being released online and available to view from 10pm Sunday 26 July via the YouTube link:  

Martin Gray says: “Like much of my work, the Park Hill film project reflects a fascination with the relationships we have with our physical and cultural environment. For many people, this is probably rooted in childhood, my own being a mix of places, nationalities, dialects and languages. A strong connection to place and shared space exists for most of us, however that evolves. The three-month Coronavirus lockdown, which began just after the film was made, put this into sharp relief.

“There is something very powerful about places with personal and cultural significance. This is what drew me to making portraits and interviews with construction workers who grew up in and around the Park Hill Estate in Sheffield only to find themselves, decades later, rebuilding and regenerating it.

“The project led me to meet Sheffield’s poet laureate Otis Mensah, who has written poems for Park Hill that will sit as permanent public art within the fabric of the building. It seemed interesting to intertwine some of the construction workers’ stories with Otis’s personal associations with the site. It was also fitting to title the film We Were Never Derelict after one of Otis’s poems. I hope the film conveys how the process of rebuilding Park Hill has caused workers to revisit their previous relationships with this iconic place.”

David Campbell, MD of Alumno said: “This documentary offers a glimpse of the history and the many memories of Sheffield through the voices of those who are involved in piecing Park Hill back together. Their work and their views are a vital part of this amazing rebuilding project and integral to the Park Hill journey. The film offers a way to look back and listen to funny and poignant personal anecdotes. It’s not architecture or design that will bring Park Hill back to life for future generations but the preservation of its spirit – and Martin Gray’s film encapsulates just that.

“This is the most far reaching project Alumno has undertaken – five years in and nearing completion we are honoured to be part of the Park Hill story and its legacy.”

Donna Howard, CSR manager at Kier Regional Building North & Scotland, who is interviewed in the film said: “The film is great and I was very happy to be involved with this project as it showcases not only what a fantastic project Park Hill flats has been to work on, but also what a great city my hometown of Sheffield is and I’m very proud to have been part of this.”

Tom Bloxham, Chair of Urban Splash said: “I loved the film. Sheffield can once again be very proud of the beautiful, brutal, masterpiece that is Park Hill. This film captures Park Hill and the Sheffield spirit through some of its great characters.

“It has been a real joy to watch the redevelopment of Park Hill. After a decade of hard work from Urban Splash, Alumno and all our partners we feel both a great responsibility and pride in seeing its community renewed. It’s so brilliant to see that we can see this happening.”

Rob Hastie, Artistic Directors Sheffield Theatres: “Just like the building itself: beautiful to look at, and full of the voices that tell our city’s story. What a wonderful tribute to the lives that animate and illuminate Park Hill.”

Nick Bax, MD Human Studio based at Park Hill: “I really like it. It’s a very honest film and doesn’t try to paper over the cracks. The combination of youth and experience works really well – being in the latter camp I found the ending quite emotional!”

Kim Streets, CEO of Museums Sheffield said: ‘It’s a very tender portrait of PH and the city.”

Lord Bob Kerslake said it was “authentically Sheffield.”

The film will be available via Martin Gray’s website ( ) and through online channels via supporting organisations including: Alumno, Urban Splash and Welcome to Sheffield

See press coverage here :