Steel City’s softer side: how Sheffield found its vegan voice

Sheffield has a long and illustrious history of industry, and a strong heritage of working class roots, something that has shaped the landscape of the city.

Yet the Steel City is becoming known for more than just its past contributions to the economy of the North; it is increasingly defined by an upsurge in interest in ‘green’ issues, and a greater environmental awareness.

Over the past five years, the city has gained a voice which expresses a greater social awareness; be it the long campaign to save Sheffield’s trees, or the spate of community litter picks that have been organised to keep the streets cleaner.

If the composition of the city council is meant to be a microcosm of political and social feeling, then it would certainly suggest a more leftward-leaning ideology.

Headed by mayor Magid Magid, as the first ever Green party councillor to take up the mantle, the council has only three members of UKIP and no Conservative representation.

Environment is clearly something at the forefront of of public consciousness, and this demand for greener alternatives is reflected in the recent boom in vegan and vegetarian eateries.

Dubbed ‘The Vegan Capital of the North’ in both 2017 and 2018, over the past few years the city has created a name for itself in its promotion and support of independent eco-friendly businesses and organisations.

There are currently nine fully vegan restaurants in Sheffield.

Jordan Heart, owner of the Heartcure Collective, the UK’s first ever vegan centre, said that he made the move to the city three years ago, and fell in love with the community. He said he has seen a boom in vegan businesses opening, even in the time period that he has been a resident.

“Sheffield is quite a conscious city environmentally already, but it sort of just exploded. Everyone has grown with the community and the scene.”

Sheffield Vegans and Vegetarians Facebook group boasts over 6,257 members, gaining 141 new members over the last 30 days alone.

As a forum in which local shops interact with residents, promoting their businesses, it personifies the community’s interest in a greener lifestyle, and is an integral part of spreading the word about new shops and events, city-wide.

Sarah Shooter, owner of Baked, a vegan and gluten-free bakery, didn’t think it would have been possible to pursue opening her shop in her native Essex. She felt that the demand for such a venture wasn’t high enough to support her business in the South.

She said: “There’s definitely a more open-minded approach to vegan-orientated businesses here in Sheffield, and the demand is high.

“I’ve probably receive 50 or 60 messages a day, asking me when I’m going to open. Everybody has been really sweet, and I feel like I’m well supported.”