All posts by David Corns

Creative Sheffield — Prof Sally Wade — 24th September 2018

Sheffield – known as the ‘Steel City’ — has built its repu­ta­tion on man­u­fac­tur­ing, but sadly over the years this has declined. However, look­ing to the future, Sheffield is determ­ined to re-establish itself as a major centre for the cre­at­ive and innov­at­ive indus­tries.

Professor Sally Wade, Chair of the Sheffield Culture Consortium, gave us a most inter­est­ing talk on the aims of the Consortium and the pro­gress made in enhan­cing Sheffield’s national and inter­na­tional repu­ta­tion for cre­ativ­ity and innov­a­tion. The Consortium is rep­res­en­ted by all the inter­ested parties in the city includ­ing the uni­ver­sit­ies, museums, theatres, Millennium Gallery and the dance net­work. Its prime aim is to speak with one voice for Sheffield, bid col­lect­ively for fund­ing , pro­mote the cul­tural aspects of the city and estab­lish key object­ives.

The ‘our­fave­places’ web­site

Nationally, man­u­fac­tur­ing has declined, the ser­vice indus­tries have grown and the cre­at­ive and innov­at­ive indus­tries are fast becom­ing a major and influ­en­tial group in the wealth of the coun­try. So what sec­tors can be grouped under the creative/innovative banner? Sally listed 12 which include advert­ising, archi­tec­ture, engin­eer­ing, pub­lish­ing, enter­tain­ment, dance and video gaming. The national pic­ture for this industry shows it as a key player rep­res­ent­ing 5.3 per cent of the eco­nomy and employ­ing one in 11 of the work­force of whom 35 per cent are self employed and over 98 per cent are small micro busi­nesses.

‘What’s On’ at the Millennium Gallery

But what of Sheffield? The city is fast gain­ing a repu­ta­tion for cul­tural activ­it­ies. The Crucible, Lyceum and Studio theatres attract nation­ally acclaimed pro­duc­tions with over 700 per­form­ances a year, attract­ing over 400,000 vis­it­ors to Sheffield with all the com­mer­cial spin-offs that brings. Sheffield holds numer­ous fest­ivals includ­ing Off the Shelf, Tramlines, Doc/Fest , Art Sheffield, Festival of the Mind, Sheffield Design Week and International Concert Week present­ing wide ran­ging activ­it­ies, all very well sup­por­ted and bring­ing many vis­it­ors to the region. The city has long been cel­eb­rated for its music and has 460 bands work­ing cur­rently, 65 record­ing stu­dios with 24 labels oper­at­ing.

The Crucible Theatre

The visual arts are well rep­res­en­ted with three major gal­ler­ies (Graves, S1 and Site) and 23 smal­ler gal­ler­ies. Street Art is sponsored with large strik­ing murals not to be con­fused with the illi­cit, tacky graf­fiti which blights our build­ings.

Sheffield is a vibrant city and making great strides in becom­ing a centre for cul­ture, innov­a­tion and cre­ativ­ity, and gain­ing a grow­ing national and inter­na­tional repu­ta­tion. Clearly, more needs to be done to spread the word and shout the suc­cess from the roof tops.

The Lyceum Theatre

There is a web­site called “Our Favourite Places” ( with the strap line “a dif­fer­ent sort of guide to a city of cre­at­ive spirit, uncon­ven­tional beauty and DIY cul­ture, nestled within seven hills.” Clearly, every res­id­ent and every poten­tial vis­itor needs to read the web­site to ensure that the wide range of cul­tural activ­it­ies are sampled and enjoyed. In short — pro­mote, pro­mote, pro­mote our city of cul­ture.

It was a most inform­at­ive talk which promp­ted many ques­tions and sev­eral sug­ges­tions from our mem­bers – always a good sign of a suc­cess­ful morn­ing.


Typhoid in Croydon 1937 — “Who Dun It?” — Peter Watson — 23rd July 2018

We take for gran­ted a clean, safe water supply. Infected and pol­luted water can kill. This was the crux of the account of the typhoid epi­demic in Croydon, the out­break first recor­ded on 27th October 1937 res­ult­ing in 43 deaths and 341 con­tract­ing the bac­teria. Symptoms include extreme lucid­ity, delu­sion, intense fever, loss of appet­ite, insom­nia and a rose pink rash with spots.

Positive proof of the origin of the out­break was not given, but the con­clu­sion was that it was caused by pol­luted water from a chalk well in Addington, a suburb of Croydon, from which water was sup­plied to between 36,000 and 40,000 inhab­it­ants. The well, 10 feet in dia­meter and 250 feet deep, was built in 1888. Essential main­ten­ance work was needed on the pumps, fil­ters and brick­work. From the begin­ning of the work until 15th October the water was pumped to waste but there­after, until 3rd November, it was pumped to supply. The repairs were car­ried out by 18 volun­teers who were sewer work­ers with no exper­i­ence of water supply. The men were lowered into the well on a plat­form which also served to trans­port tools, mater­i­als and rubble. To cater for their ‘calls of nature’ a bucket was lowered and raised to the sur­face on the plat­form for urine dis­posal and they were instruc­ted to come to the sur­face for ‘bowel move­ments.’ Clearly, the men were trus­ted to obey these simple instruc­tions. Subsequently, it was dis­covered that one of the work­ers was a car­rier of the typhoid bac­teria.

At the top level enquiry led by Mr H.L. Murphy, all work­ers stated on oath that they fol­lowed the cor­rect pro­ced­ures for dis­pos­ing of urine and faeces, and did not pol­lute the water supply. Filters and chlor­in­at­ors play a major role in the puri­fic­a­tion of water. The fil­ters, eight feet in dia­meter, were removed for clean­ing and main­ten­ance, with the unin­ten­ded con­sequence that the chlor­in­at­ors did not func­tion. The water supply was neither filtered nor chlor­in­ated.

The enquiry under Mr Murphy looked at the roles of senior man­age­ment and in par­tic­u­lar the Borough Engineer and the Medical Officer for Health for Croydon. It found that the remit of the Borough Engineer was too wide for one person and respons­ib­il­ity for water was only one of his many import­ant duties. The Medical Officer believed food was more of a health hazard than water. It appeared that these two officers had little or no con­tact or com­mu­nic­a­tion with each other. It was no wonder the water supply was neg­lected, res­ult­ing in no pro­ced­ures or doc­u­ment­a­tion for water samples, chlor­in­a­tion and the gen­eral qual­ity of the water supply.

The need for a public inquiry was dis­cussed in Parliament. This was the account from Hansard on 18th November 1937

The enquiry con­cluded that the infec­tion was caused by a com­bin­a­tion of factors coming together, namely that the well was under repair, that one of the work­ers was a typhoid car­rier and that the supply water was not chlor­in­ated. Management was implic­ated and cri­ti­cised for not suf­fi­ciently man­aging the water supply and for not having adequate com­mu­nic­a­tions and backup pro­ced­ures and records. This was a major turn­ing point in the gov­ernance of the water industry, with the intro­duc­tion of codes of prac­tice res­ult­ing from a High Court case. Croydon was a major incid­ent in the water industry with fatal­it­ies prov­ing to be a form­at­ive event in making the public and author­it­ies aware of the crit­ical import­ance of a clean and safe water supply. It was a most inter­est­ing talk which promp­ted many ques­tions from our mem­bers.

A Surprise Ringside Seat in History — Anthony (Tony) Favell — 18th June 2018

Tony was there ring­side to see the spar­ring and the blows. He recalled a period of polit­ical his­tory as he described his days in the House of Commons whilst serving as a Conservative MP for Stockport from June 1983 to April 1992 when he lost his seat to Labour. There is no doubt this was one of the most inter­est­ing and influ­en­tial peri­ods in British polit­ics.

Tony was edu­cated loc­ally at Birkdale School and Sheffield University where he stud­ied law. After gradu­at­ing he set up his own legal prac­tice which he con­tin­ued to run when he was an MP. He lives in Edale in the Hope Valley, Derbyshire, and admit­ted to our mem­bers he was an ardent Sheffield Wednesday sup­porter which pleased one third of the audi­ence, dis­pleased one third, with the remainder pre­sum­ably sup­port­ing another team or they may have pre­ferred rugger!

Tony Favell

He main­tains he had no thoughts of going into polit­ics but caught the bug when he became a coun­cil­lor on the local coun­cil in Edale. He stood for par­lia­ment in 1979 for Bolsover but was defeated by the now legendry Dennis Skinner. He was elec­ted as a Conservative MP for Stockport on 9th June 1983 under Margaret Thatcher’s gov­ern­ment which held office from 4th May 1997 to 28th November 1990.

Margaret Thatcher

With Mrs Thatcher as Prime Minister, these were indeed excit­ing and troub­ling times with the miners’ strike, the riots and battles at Orgreave, troubles in Northern Ireland, wide­spread union unrest and a fal­ter­ing eco­nomy. Tony’s ring­side seat on his­tory became much clearer as he touched on all these major epis­odes in the life of the gov­ern­ment and the coun­try.

John Major was very much in the ascend­ancy in this gov­ern­ment, hold­ing pos­i­tions of Chief Secretary to the Treasury , Foreign Secretary and Chancellor of the Exchequer. Later Major suc­ceeded Thatcher as Prime Minister. Tony became John Major’s per­sonal private sec­ret­ary, enjoyed work­ing for him but resigned in 1990 when he dis­agreed with Major over the join­ing of the European Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM). Clearly he knew Mrs Thatcher well, always refer­ring to her affec­tion­ately as Margaret in the talk and describ­ing her as an extraordin­ary woman. Mrs Thatcher resigned as Prime Minister in 1990, although Tony and others tried to per­suade her oth­er­wise.

John Major

Tony clearly rubbed shoulders with the good and the mighty. This period of British polit­ics saw many heavy­weight politi­cians and char­ac­ters slug it out in par­lia­ment includ­ing the likes of Lamont, Howe, Hailsham, Heseltine, Hattersley, Kinnock, Heath, Banks, Currie, Portillo, Benn, Boothby, Jenkins, Tebbit etc etc. — clearly a ring­side seat to die for. It was a most inter­est­ing talk which promp­ted many ques­tions from the floor about cur­rent polit­ics and the period when Tony was in Parliament.

Forensic Sciences – Dr Stefano Vanin — 26th February 2018.

Dr. Stefano  Vaningave gave  a fas­cin­at­ing insight into the world of Forensic Science , stress­ing that its role is to  provide evid­ence by recon­struct­ing the crime scene for others to make their judge­ments.  He is a Reader in Forensic Biology at Huddersfield University.  He said that Forensic Science is the applic­a­tion of the sci­ences (from archae­ology to zoology)  to crim­inal and civil laws and can give evid­ence for the pro­sec­u­tion or the defence .   It covers all crimes from murders, rape, burg­lar­ies to less obvi­ous offences  such as art fraud, com­puter hack­ing and money laun­der­ing.  The sci­ent­ists col­lect, pre­serve and ana­lyse sci­entific evid­ence. They can travel to the scene of the crime or have a labor­at­ory role per­form­ing the whole spec­trum of ana­lysis.

A French sci­ent­ist, Edmond Locard , developed the prin­ciple that crime cannot happen without leav­ing a trace. He stated whenever two objects come into con­tact with one another mater­i­als are exchanged.   Wherever you stop, touch or step you uncon­sciously leave a silent wit­ness to your pres­ence . ( I now real­ise why the TV detect­ive pro­gramme was so called)  However, the prob­lem with sci­entific evid­ence is the human fail­ure to find it, study it and  inter­pret it cor­rectly, thus dimin­ish­ing its value. Again, Locard states that you are never alone. Your body is covered by bac­teria with each of us having a micro­bial cloud which dif­fer­en­ti­ates you from another. In short we are dis­pers­ing ourselves all the time a boon for the forensic sci­ent­ist to check our move­ments.

Everybody has a unique genetic pro­file called DNA and like fin­ger­prints can spe­cific­ally identify you.  DNA was first used in 1984 developed by Sir Alec Jeffreys who real­ised the vari­ation in genetic code could be used to identify  indi­vidu­als and tell one from another.  Sir William Herschel was  per­haps the first to see the bene­fits of finger print­ing and today it has been developed into the power­ful tool in the armoury of the forensic sci­ent­ist.

Stefano described sev­eral invest­ig­a­tions which demon­strated many forensic tech­niques includ­ing  the ana­lyse of plants, pollen, soil , bal­list­ics , decom­pos­i­tion of bodies, insects and a whole range of evid­ence at the crime scene acting as a silent wit­ness.  A most inter­est­ing and stim­u­lat­ing talk, prompt­ing many ques­tions from our mem­bers.


I Used To Be A Football Referee But I Am Better Now — Jeff Jacklin — 27th November 2017

Jeff gave us an enter­tain­ing and inform­at­ive look into the world of the foot­ball ref­eree, but it is very doubt­ful if he per­suaded any of our mem­bers that their lives would have been enhanced by taking up the whistle.    Immediately, he chal­lenged us to name the 7 items a ref­eree takes on the pitch – we got 6 but forgot the ball!

He star­ted ref­er­ee­ing at the tender age of 17, gave it up for many years and resumed at the more mature age of 47. The title of his talk may be catchy and a little self-deprecating, but he clearly enjoyed his time in the middle.  He recoun­ted his very first game, a local needle in  Scunthorpe between Scawby Youth Club and Scunthorpe Youth Centre, both under-17 teams. The first is always mem­or­able but even more so when you forget the coin to toss for ends.

Games could not be played without a neut­ral ref­eree who needs to be a cer­tain type, out in all weath­ers, sworn at, abused by play­ers and spec­tat­ors alike, with rarely any thanks.  Why do they do it?  Is it the power?  Is it the sat­is­fac­tion of being part of a well fought, enter­tain­ing game?  It is not for the money unless you are a top, full time offi­cial.  Indeed, when you start cur­rently it costs around £245 to cover the train­ing, regis­tra­tion, kit, secur­ity checks etc. You cer­tainly need to be keen and motiv­ated,

Jeff played a few film clips to encour­age dis­cus­sion cov­er­ing the rules of the game which we did sur­pris­ingly well and posed the ques­tion ‘What would you do next?’  This clip showed a streaker dis­rupt­ing a game who was even­tu­ally rugby tackled (excuse the pun). The ref­eree booked the player for viol­ent con­duct, with the streaker pre­sum­ably dis­ap­pear­ing into the crowd.   It appears there are 17 laws of the game with the unof­fi­cial 18th being com­mon­sense which should have pre­vailed.

Referees have been assisted by sev­eral recent innov­a­tions which have been intro­duced or being tri­alled, includ­ing goal line tech­no­logy, goal line offi­cials, replay videos and the use of 2 ref­er­ees. Possibly, goal line tech­no­logy and replay videos may have altered foot­ball his­tory if they were avail­able at the 1966 World Cup or when Maradona scored that dis­puted goal. Women ref­er­ees and offi­cials are becom­ing more common in our modern game.

There is no doubt the ref­er­ees’ lot is a strange one.  The man in black is often lonely, unloved, must pos­sess eyes in the back of their heads, have the abil­ity to make split second decisions and wish they had the powers of hind­sight.  He has recently pub­lished a book which is avail­able on Kindle and  in paper­back ver­sion : a local parks referee’s tales of  life on the edge.

Referees are vital to our national game and it was heart­en­ing to listen to Jeff who was an enthu­si­astic and com­mit­ted ref­eree.




Thoughts on the History of Crime, the Courts and Capital Punishment — Peter Stubbs — 16th October 2017.

Peter attemp­ted to sum­mar­ise 900 years of legal his­tory in just over an hour , cov­er­ing the quirks and wisdom of English law. –no mean chal­lenge  .  Today, we have trial by jury , no death sen­tence and our jails are full includ­ing over 300 inmates on life sen­tences alone.  No longer are  the guilty flogged, hung, immersed in boil­ing oil or burnt at the stake.  Clearly, justice and the pen­al­ties for crime have moved on a great deal since the medi­eval ages although many offences are very sim­ilar.

Before Trial by Jury, we had the pleas­ant­ries of Trial by Water, Trial by Fire and Trial by Battle.  

Trial by Water would see the accused  immersed in a pond if they sur­vived they were guilty, if they didn’t they were not guilty !!!    Trial by Fire con­sisted of put­ting a piece of red hot iron into the clench fist of the accused , whilst Trial by Battle was settled in a 60 foot square where the accuser and the accused would fight to the last man stand­ing to settle the ver­dict. All very prim­it­ive stuff.  Trial by Battle is hardly a modern way of set­tling legal mat­ters but this didn’t stop an aggrieved motor­ist who had received a fixed pen­alty notice from asking the DVLA for the name of their cham­pion to resolve the dis­pute.  Needless to say the DVLA did not respond and the motor­ist was still fined.

Up to, and includ­ing the 12th cen­tury, the power­ful clergy were involved in admin­is­ter­ing the law, but they were often cor­rupt and in 1215 they were for­bid­den from involve­ment in legal mat­ters.   The concept of Trial by Jury was estab­lished in the 14th cen­tury and is now enshrined in our laws.  Peter emphas­ised the point that once a jury has given its ver­dict this must not be changed.  He went on to illus­trate this point by giving us examples of some high pro­file cases where the juries decisions were unex­pec­ted. In 1380 a law was passed making it illegal to con­tact jurors during the trial.  Trial by Jury may have its crit­ics but is largely favoured by ex- jury mem­bers as the  best way of admin­is­ter­ing justice.

The death pen­alty has caused a great deal of dis­cus­sion and con­tro­versy with many in favour and many against , quot­ing mis­car­riages of justice.  In the 50’s and 60’s moves were made towards abol­ish­ing the death pen­alty.  In 1957, the Homicide Act was passed which removed the death sen­tence for domestic murders leav­ing the sen­tence for the murder of police­men . In 1969, the death sen­tence was abol­ished for all murders.

Peter gave us a most inter­est­ing and pol­ished present­a­tion as he raced through 900 years of legal his­tory, prompt­ing a whole host of ques­tions from a very attent­ive audi­ence.