Last month, the European court of justice ruled that 3200 former Woolworth's employees will receive no redundancy pay or compensation for the loss of their jobs, due to a loophole which exempts workers in stores which employed fewer than 20 people. Watching the video above from 2008 in light of this verdict, it's hard not to feel the dull ache of inevitability; despite the protester's hopes and the support of passers-by, a far more powerful organising hand would ensure it got its way.
It's funny watching this video now; it's full of hope. It presents a Sheffield utopia - the biggest and best shops; a thriving industry providing enough jobs for all; a vibrant nightlife; the most open, public spaces of any UK city; the best culture; plentiful social housing. In common with every child in Sheffield in the 1970s my mum watched this video in school, and the phrase 'A City on the Move' always stuck in her mind. It brought with it a sense of positivity, of pride, of passion for where she was from. As the video announces: "A city is people - a place for them to live in, to use."
Fast forward to 2015 and the sweeping re-election of the most ruthless and brutal government in a generation, and the video jars. We're in the age of the 'closing-down sale', where the only things springing up are chain shops. Another Starbucks here, a Taco Bell there. Meanwhile, the axe swings over Rare and Racy.
As theatre-makers, we're lucky enough to have a residency at Moor Theatre Deli to think out loud about these things. Theatre Deli is based in the old Woolworths, a site where people came for decades to work and to shop. Because of its range and value Woolworths was the place where many children spent their first pocket-money - it made 'buying your dreams' available to the masses - and for many the shop is now enshrined in a mist of nostalgia. Paradoxically, though, Woolworths itself was of course a chain shop - it was imported from the United States and still exists in Germany, South Africa and Australia.
How has Sheffield interacted with global commercial forces? What communities were formed at the Moor Woolworths, and have they now disbanded? What ghosts are left in the building? What is the role of the artist in re-animating the space, and what does it mean to make theatre there? We're going to be using The Woolworths Project and this blog to explore all these thoughts and more.