Richard Hawley writes musical ode to Sheffield’s Park Hill estate

Pitsmoor-born singer-songwriter Richard Hawley has written a musical to encapsulate the turbulent history of Sheffield’s Park Hill estate.

Hawley, who has toured with Sheffield rock band Pulp and collaborated with the likes of the Arctic Monkeys and the Manic Street Preachers, said the musical was an attempt to express the “history of postwar Britain through the housing that they built.”

The musical, Standing At The Sky’s Edge, is named after Hawley’s Mercury Prize-nominated album and also plays on the name of another Sheffield community, Skye Edge.

It contains both old and new compositions by Hawley to explore the estate’s 50-year history.

The original building has become derelict and abandoned.

Park Hill resident Kate Foxon said: “It will be brilliant because it will cover its original building and the excitement of it being built, then its decline and renovation.

“It’s always been a controversial subject, people either love it or hate it. I think it’s lovely. And Richard Hawley has a great reputation, he’ll do a good job of it.”

The estate’s construction, completed in 1961, was one of the most ambitious architectural projects of its time and typified the then-popular brutalist design, with exposed concrete and brick curtain walling.

Part of the estate has now been renovated.

The flats, described as ‘streets in the sky’ with decks wide enough to fit milk floats, fell into disrepair and became a hotspot for criminal activity.

The building was given Grade II* listed building status in 1998, meaning it was classed by English Heritage as an important building of particularly special interest. This was a controversial move for a building that many considered to be an eyesore associated with drugs and gangs.

Following further decline, the building is now being renovated by Manchester-based developers Urban Splash and was shortlisted in 2013 for the RIBA Stirling Prize for excellence in architecture.

People are now living in the renovated part of the estate and Urban Splash announced in 2016 that the regeneration would be fully completed by 2022, with the new development including residential flats, student accommodation and commercial space.

Richard Hawley’s show will debut at the Crucible next Spring. Tickets will go on general sale on 24 March.