After I’d taken part in the Church Commissioners’ meeting to discuss the redundancy and proposed demolition of St Cecilia’s Church, Parson Cross, Sheffield, I spent some time talking to people in the Parson Cross community about the building’s practical possibilities.
Apparently, there aren’t any.
Local community workers told me that there’s already full provision of community facilities on the Parson Cross and neighbouring Foxhill estates: a further facility, if it could be financed, would threaten the viability of those already existing.
Public finance is, of course, an impossibility.
One City Councillor told me with understandable passion of the difficulties of maintaining social provision in the face of draconian financial cuts. One particular priority at present, justifiably, is somehow to maintain a branch library within reach of local residents.
Yet the emotional pull of St Cecilia’s still remains. A clergyman spoke movingly of how the building holds the prayers of seventy years of congregational worship, and is a monument to the revered Kelham Fathers who built up the parish from nothing.
The one positive insight I heard came from someone with enterprise experience: “The only hope for that building,” he said, “is serendipity.”
The Gorton Monastery project was co-founded by Elaine Griffiths, MBE; the Abbeydale Cinema turned a corner when Phil Robins spotted its possibilities as a climbing centre; the founders of Greentop Circus had the wit to challenge Anneka Rice.
In other words, the only possibility of finding a use for the building is if someone comes along with a practical idea that no-one else has thought of.
The only way of saving St Cecilia’s is for someone who needs an attractive space on the north side of Sheffield to come up with a business plan that relieves the Church Commissioners of the need to spend nearly £200,000 knocking the place down brick by brick to the great inconvenience of the neighbours.