FURD is extremely sad to learn of the death of Ann Wilson. Ann was a key factor in bringing Sheffield United and the local community together, and was chair of both the Sharrow Partnership and the influential national Federation of Stadium Communities.
FURD trustee Jean Cromar has written this fitting tribute to Ann:
Tribute to Ann Wilson
Ann Wilson was the first Chair of the Sharrow Community Forum and sadly died on 18th January. Ann lived on the Thorp Estate and was chair of their TARA for many years. She was a great champion for the area and was particularly interested in bringing local community groups together. She really understood the community and their needs.
Ann was also a member of the Shoreham Street Action Group, who campaigned for years to get the roundabout on Shoreham Street/John Street junction and the bollards on John Street. Traffic used this as a rat run and used excessive speed. Unfortunately there were regular changes in the police and fire service personnel and the Council planning department which caused the consultations to run over many years.
Ann was a long term member of the Labour Party and was overjoyed when she was selected as a delegate to the Party Conference. She always supported people who suffered disadvantages regardless of their background.
I have a copy of the Sharrow Community Forum Newsletter from early 1998 in which there is a report of a meeting organised by the Forum at The Hub (next to the former Mount Pleasant Community Centre). This meeting was ‘about sharing ideas and making connections’ and was attended by 19 local groups.
The first Sharrow Festival was held on 12 July 1997 and emerged from the Children and Young Persons Group within the Community Forum. A small group of volunteers, including Ann as Chair, organised the event which was attended by over 2,000 people. At the time it was a rare opportunity to come together in the park and celebrate our culturally rich and diverse community. Performers included Chicken Legs Weaver, a Caribbean Steel Band, African Drums, Chinese Lion Dancers, Football Unites – Racism Divides and food stalls. It was only held on the top field. How it has grown!
Ann played a prominent part in the forming of the Sharrow Partnership. This was a partnership with Sheffield United Football Club and Sharrow Community Forum following their planning application for the planned Blades Leisure Park proposals which represented the most significant development to take place in Sharrow Ward for at least twenty years. The Forum felt this afforded opportunities to offer some additional benefits to local residents as well as compensating them for the provision of this facility on their doorstep.
I quote from the Blades Football Programme of 23 August 1997:
‘The Blades have recently established the Sharrow Partnership with Sharrow Community Forum, the intention being that both organisations will work closely together to promote harmony between the Club and the local community.’ The Agreement was signed by Kevin McCabe, chairman of Sheffield United and Ann Wilson, chair of Sharrow Community Forum.
The Club also supported the Sharrow Festival for many years allowing us to hold a collection each season, which raised between £400 - £600, and it included an article in the Football Programme at the end of the season advertising the next festival, but unfortunately this sponsorship ended when they decided to only sponsor a few larger charities.
Another involvement with the Blades was the development of the Enterprise Centre and the office space along John Street, under the stand. The joint bid by the Club and Sharrow Community Forum secured £1.8 million from the European Social Fund. A condition of this grant was the provision of the Community Room for the Forum on a peppercorn lease for 10 years. This was used extensively by local groups until the forum moved to their current premises on South View Road which provided more space. Before this they were based on 154 London Road, next to William Hill.
Ann had many talents and these included not only bringing groups of people together but one of art. When the Community Room was officially opened by the Lord Mayor on 2 December 2002, Ann designed the invitation card. You can see her design depicting the Sheffield United Club stand on John Street titled ‘Community United’. If you look closely you can see how she incorporated many of the local groups involved including the Sharrow Partnership , Asian Welfare Association (1996), South Yorkshire Police, Football Unites, Racism Divides, Blades Enterprise Centre and the Sharrow Community Forum room. And, of course the local community cheering on the local football team.
As I said at the beginning of this tribute, Ann had a special talent for communicating with not only other groups in the area, but especially with individuals. She had a great sense of humour and for making people feel welcome. I have focussed here on the tremendous contribution she made to the formation of Sharrow Community Forum and its growth in its early years. She continued her involvement until a few years ago until she decided to take a stepdown and enjoy her retirement, but she still kept her great sense of fun.
Ann Wilson’s death is a sad loss for the Sharrow area and her enthusiasm for working together with other groups will be sadly missed where she had so many friends.