On Friday 12th April, FURD’s new home at the U-Mix Centre was officially opened.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com🏢office" />
The U-Mix youth and community centre is built into a hillside on Lowfield Open Space, Asline Road, next to Bramall Lane. It boasts floodlit 5-a-side pitches, a dance studio, recording studio, music rehearsal space, gym, outdoor play equipment, youth club facilities, FURD’s library including the new Arthur Wharton Archive, a digital media suite, training room and meeting rooms. The facilities are all available to hire.
Friday’s launch event was attended by relatives of local sporting celebrities Kyle Walker and Jessica Ennis, who have both backed FURD and the U-Mix Centre. Kyle’s Mum and Grandma attended along with Jessica’s parents, who can be heard in conversation with BBC Radio Sheffield’s Dan Green at the link below. Sheffield United players Mark Howard and Shaun Miller were among several representatives of our new neighbours - The Blades!
Speeches were kicked off by Saudat Adinani, who has been involved with FURD as a volunteer over the last 3 years. She took part in FURD’s ‘Untold Stories’ promotional film and was a member of the Urban Mixtures young people’s group which worked with the architects and the local community to ensure young people’s needs would be met by the new building. She said,
“What I like most about FURD is that however busy the staff are, they always find time to help young people”.
FURD founder Howard Holmes then gave a potted history of the project which began in the late 1990s with discussions about the need for more recreational space for young people in the area. In 2004 funding was earmarked for the Porter Project, to be based by the Porter Brook off Ecclesall Road, but this failed to secure funding. The concept was revived when the Labour government set up the Myplace programme to build a new generation of youth facilities. Funding was agreed for the centre on Lowfield Open Space in 2009, then put on hold in 2010 whilst the new Coalition government carried out its comprehensive spending review. After lobbying by Paul Blomfield MP and the Urban Mixtures group, the government agreed to go ahead in December 2010. Howard commented,
“It’s really strange to be opening a building like this while other youth services are being closed down. As a society, I think we’ll regret the fact that we stopped investing in young people. This place is a fantastic example of what can be achieved when government and local authorities work together with voluntary sector organisations”.
Sheffield Central MP Paul Blomfield spoke next, saying,
“FURD is a fantastic project, not only in providing resources for young people, but in the way they go about it, by involving young people and making sure their views are heard”.
Piara Powar, Director of FARE (Football Against Racism in Europe), spoke of his pride in also being the Chair of FURD’s Board of Trustees. He stressed the importance of the “human capital” needed to go alongside the bricks and mortar to make the connections that will make the concept work. “We know, with our partnership with the local authority, that we can exceed expectations”.
Finally, former Sheffield Central MP and Sports Minister Richard Caborn spoke in his capacity as Trustee of the Football Foundation, which funded the football facilities at the U-Mix Centre. He described the opening of the centre as “heart-warming”, adding,
“I was always proud to represent Sheffield Central because of the way the community came together to try to address issues such as racism, to say ‘we’re not going to let people divide us’. Organisations such as churches, trade unions, Sheffield United and FURD, the very social fabric of the city, have been at the forefront of this work. The U-Mix Centre symbolises what Sheffield stands for – you can all be very proud of it”.