Nurturing Needs

Phil Proctor, Managing Director at Robert Sorby:

“I work for Robert Sorby and I have been struggling to recruit new staff as the older people who work here start to retire.  When we’ve had people in for interviews, they haven’t had the right skills to use the machinery in our workshop and they aren’t really bothered with college to get the training.  When I was their age I wasn’t bothered about school either so I can see where they’re coming from, but I used to muck about with fixing things at home which is how I learnt some of the skills I have.  I’ve always been one for inventing new gadgets and machines; I’ve come up with a lot of the tools we make at Robert Sorby myself. 

“I saw this pedal powered lathe online that someone had made and taken to the Dominican Republic to teach kids about woodturning, and I thought it would be a good idea to have something like that here.  I found the plans online so I went about making it in our workshop.  We don’t really use the whole of the car park at the moment so I thought I could put it there and see if many people have a go on it. 

“There haven’t been too many people using it yet so I think we need to get better signs or instructions really, or advertise it somehow.  I think another problem has been the strikes going on at the sorting office over there.  We haven’t had as many people coming down here lately because I think they’ve been put off by that.

“They’re not a bad lot though, the posties.  I was chatting to one the other day actually when I was out changing the wheel on the lathe and he was saying how Royal Mail doesn’t have any money and they’re trying to cut costs all the time, they even have a limit on how many rubber bands they can use each day!

“Anyway, it got me thinking and it just so happened that the wheel I was putting on the lathe had a tyre on.  The tyre was no use, it was an old one of mine which had a puncture but I had the idea that with the inner tube being rubber, maybe if they cut it up, the posties could use it for some kind of rubber bands….”

Ian, postal worker at Royal Mail:

“After that guy at Robert Sorby had mentioned the rubber bands idea to me, I went to my boss and asked him if we could get something set up to start collecting inner tubes and cutting them up.  I should’ve guessed he’d say no.  We’re stretched to the limit as it is at the moment with all the cost-saving, so he said we don’t have the time or staff to do it.

“I got home that night and was moaning to my wife about it.  She works at the Alcohol Support Service up on Abbeydale Road.  Anyway, it turns out they were looking for ways to integrate the people who use the service into the community a bit more, and she reckoned this might be a good way to do it.

“When I put it to my boss, he thought it was a great idea.  After all the strikes, we could do with a way of showing we do have heart and we’re not a bunch of greedy workers like some of the papers made out….”

Sue, counsellor at Sheffield Alcohol Support:

“Working with Royal Mail was such a good opportunity for us.  Everyone that did it found it was a great way to chat to people and let them know more about we do.  We even started posting leaflets through people’s doors to let them know what was happening and so we could get more inner tubes.  Someone came up with the idea to do the leaflets as postcards as a little way to link to post.

“Art is part of our rehab process and we got people there to design artwork to print onto the postcards.  Some of the artwork was so good we also started displaying some outside the centre on Abbeydale Road…”


“I was walking back home one day and I saw the display of postcards outside Sheffield Alcohol Support Service.  It was really interesting to see the way these people were coping with their recovery, and the way they could show this through their art.  It was late in the evening so the centre had closed for the day so I wrote a little note on the back of a postcard leaflet they had.  One postcard in particular was really moving so I attached my note close to that.  All I had to tie it on was a black rubber band I’d found on the floor by the Sorting Office so I used that.”

Norman Salt, Salt Antiques Centre owner:

“I was involved in an antiques fair a year or so ago which raised money for the hospice which cared for my late wife.  We managed to raise quite a bit of money, so when my nephew was helped to recover from his alcoholism by Sheffield Alcohol Support Service, I wanted to do a similar thing to raise money for them.  When they started up their postcard gallery outside the centre, it gave me the idea to make some form of exhibition outside our antiques centre.  I’ve got a large collection of antique toys from when me and my wife used to run Derbyshire Toy Museum, so I thought I’d do an exhibition of these.

“One of my customers mentioned that HK Interiors over at Centenary Works were always willing to offer help to members of the community.  They’re a shopfitters and they can also do with joinery too.  When I was over there asking about it, I got talking to Sam at the Climbing Works.  He heard about the exhibition I was planning and said he would be more than happy to help advertise it in any way he could, because he’d had a friend who struggled with alcoholism in the past.  I wasn’t sure what he had in mind but when I saw what he’d done a few weeks later I was over the moon, it was better than I could possibly have imagined!”

Sam Whittaker, Climbing Works owner:

“We’d been thinking of adding something extra to the centre ever since the Mini Works opened and was so popular.  There’s quite a few places opening up now where people can climb or do bouldering, so we felt we needed to offer something new.  We didn’t have any space to expand into more buildings on our current site, but saw the potential in the outside of the building.  It all fell into place when Norman from the Antiques Centre mentioned about his toy exhibition. 

“We build our own bouldering walls inside the centre, but didn’t have the equipment to fix grips so high up the outside of the building.  Luckily, some of the guys at Eurosafe Solutions helped out – they specialise in fall protection so they had all the equipment we needed!

“We’ve got a lease on the building so I’m not sure how much we’re really meant to alter the outside – that’s why we decided to use bricks as grips so they blend in a bit better from far away!  For the Antiques Centre advert, we painted some of the grips to spell out the text.  If anyone says we shouldn’t be advertising, we can always wipe the paint off, but it won’t affect our climbing wall…”



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