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Park Hill Flats renovation

Gary Hindley at work on the painting of a boy from 1960s Park Hill - who he later found was Geoffrey Lindley
Gary Hindley at work on the painting of a boy from 1960s Park Hill - who he later found was Geoffrey Lindley

By Grace Parnell
BBC Sheffield & South Yorkshire

Two Sheffield artists have been allowed to give a bright splash of colour to the brown and grey expanse which sits on the hill behind Sheffield railway station.

Striking art installations have now brightened up the building site which had been left looking rather drab and lifeless for the last few months while a slow process of repairs to the concrete frame has taken place - over 5000 pieces of individual concrete have been painstakingly patched and re-coloured.

One Sheffield artist, Gary Hindley, has used the exposed frame of Park Hill literally as a frame for his seven-foot-square canvases.

Gary is doing five individual paintings of characters associated with Park Hill flats, one of whom is Grenville Squires, the long-serving caretaker who has worked on Park Hill for over 20 years. His smiling face was installed in the concrete grid above Park Square roundabout in mid-September.

Gary Hindley has also painted two young boys and an old woman in curlers, both of whom make an appearance in an early film about Park Hill when the flats first opened in the 1960s.

One of the boys came forward in 2009 after recognising Gary's painting on the building.

Charlie Lindley and his brother Geoffrey were about seven years old when they were filmed for the 1960 BBC documentary, and were subsequently painted by Gary Hindley.

Gary Hindley has painted several characters from Park Hill, past and present
Gary Hindley has painted several characters from Park Hill, past and present

Charlie came into BBC Radio Sheffield in December 2009: "We'd just moved on to Park Hill from the slum clearance in Pitsmoor when the documentary was filmed in 1960. I was thinking we'd got a brighter future and an inside toilet! So we were more than pleased, like everybody else was.

"My younger brother Geoffrey has since died so when I saw Gary's paintings in The Star I had to think twice about whether to get in touch or not, opening old wounds.

"But I just thought, what better tribute could there be? To have my brother's picture on Park Hill flats where he lived so long and where he was known so well."

Coincidentally the day that Charlie got in touch with Gary to say that he had recognised his brother in the painting was the day that Gary had just started painting Charlie himself, and the coincidence continues... Charlie's mum lives just 300 yards away from where he was painting in the old garages at Park Hill.

The idea...

Gary describes how he came up with the idea of displaying his paintings in Park Hill's frame:

"I was driving around Park Square roundabout, pulled up at the traffic lights, and it suddenly struck me.

Charlie Lindley and Gary Hindley, with one of the Park Hill portraits
Charlie Lindley (left) is the subject of one of Gary's paintings, as is his brother

"The sunlight was coming through Park Hill flats and I just thought, could it be a giant art gallery? Could it really happen? I went to Urban Splash with my proposal. It took a long time but I'm glad I stuck with it.

"Now some of my artwork is on show in the biggest Grade 2* listed building in Europe! And to meet Charlie and get all the background story - it's fantastic, icing on the cake."

Charlie Lindley recounts how it felt to see the paintings of he and his brother as they looked 50 years ago:

"When I look at the pictures I think how innocent and doe-eyed we look, and how life treated us since! Park Hill had a big influence on my life. Me and my dad ran the local football team for about 10 years.

"There's controversy about the flats but most people who do it down have never actually lived on there.

"No one I've come across who lived on Park Hill have ever run it down, they would all stand on their soapbox and declare how good it was."

Gary's fifth painting will be of a lady called Christine who used to live on Park Hill, suggested to him by Charlie.

He also wants to put together a book about the people who grew up and were born on Park Hill and would like people to get in touch. Email south.yorkshire@bbc.co.uk if you think you can help.

Park Hill Arist GARY HINDLEY has recently had his artwork displayed on the structure of the Park Hill Flats and is now interested in putting a book together about the life and times of living on and in The Streets In The Skies. Many people will have memories good bad or just indifferent about living on the Park Hill Flats, Gary needs your stories and you can contact him at parkhillgeneration@live.co.uk

Kid Acne

Gary is not the only artist to display his work on Park Hill; one of Sheffield's best known urban artists Kid Acne, whose graffiti-style work can be seen on walls all over the city, approached Park Hill's developers Urban Splash and asked if he could paint some of the walls on the building site.

The long, flat concrete walls are all that is left of the primary school, community centre and shopping precinct The Pavement but they made a perfect canvas for Kid Acne's spray paint.

Although they will be demolished eventually, the walls can currently be seen by passers by on Duke Street.

Kid Acne work at Park Hill
Sheffield artist Kid Acne was commissioned to brighten up Park Hill flats in September 2009. The walls will eventually be knocked down.

Read Gary Hindley's and Kid Acne's blogs here.


Park Hill has not only been hosting visual art; an atmospheric open-air amphitheatre screened films produced by Warp Films as part of the label's 20th anniversary celebrations in September 2009.

Advertising hoardings have also been re-installed on the tallest end of the flats.

A squeeze in advertising budgets during the recession meant that companies were not interested or able to pay for large advertisements but they started to reappear in September 2009 - perhaps a sign that the economy was recovering. The revenue the adverts generate is to go to a community fund for Park Hill residents run by Sheffield City Council.

Listen: Park Hill artist Gary Hindley
10 Dec 09 |  Arts & Culture


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