New Park Hill documentary film launches

New Park Hill documentary film launches

27 July 2020

As Europe’s largest listed building and an iconic part of the Sheffield skyline, Park Hill is already well documented, but artist/photographer Martin Gray’s new short film is the first to be released about the brutalist landmark for some years.

A "tender portrait", featuring stories of real people and named after a poem by Otis Mensah, ‘We Were Never Derelict’, is now available to watch online here: https://youtu.be/Z03WzvIHduQ

The film was completed earlier this year, after Martin took his idea to Alumno Developments, who are currently completing student accommodation Béton House as part of Park Hill’s regeneration development, who kindly agreed to help fund it.  

On making the film, 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.”

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."    

The film is available via Martin Gray’s website at: https://www.martin-gray.com/index.php/2020/07/21/we-were-never-derelict/