Sheffield Street Trees

Sheffield Street Trees

In his Letter from a Birmingham Jail, Martin Luther King Jr. wrote, 
“You may well ask, ‘Why direct action? Why sit-ins, marches, etc.? Isn’t negotiation a better path?’ You are exactly right in your call for negotiation. Indeed, this is the purpose of direct action. Non-violent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and establish such tension that a community that has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatise the issue that it can no longer be ignored”. The Sheffield Street Trees campaign illustrates this beautifully as direct action was used successfully not only to actually protect trees but also to bring the issue to the attention of the wider public. This led to a successful process of negotiation where different views were taken into consideration when deciding how to manage the street trees.

These lessons use a fictional context using ‘Mantle of the Expert’ to introduce different perspectives and to engage learners in the Sheffield Street Trees case study which is introduced at the end. At this point it would be helpful to make a distinction between the fictional drama and what really happened. Although different perspectives and complexities are introduced through the lessons, including the contestability of the decision by some tree protectors to break the injunction by going through the barriers as ‘persons unknown’ the final outcome of the actual protests was that the protestors were vindicated in their objections.

The new tree strategy that came from negotiations illustrates this and is a much more cautious and participatory approach to street tree management in Sheffield. Sheffield Council received criticism from national bodies such as the Woodland Trust and was investigated by the Forestry Commission. They issued an apology for the dawn raid on Rustlings road (that the first scenario is based on) ‘A public unreserved apology’ was recommended by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman https://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/politics/sheffield-council-makes-new-public-apology-over-tree-felling-scandal-3004071

A script is provided for those teachers who are not familiar with Mantle of the Expert but this can obviously be used flexibly with those who are. Out of role curriculum activities feature throughout.

“Drama activity to explore different perspectives during the protests: it was important that children got the chance to consider and hear the voices of people on all sides of this issue.”

Our current funders are:

The Fore
Can Do South Yorkshire Community Fund
The Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust
Nineveh Charitable Trust

Co-funded by the Erasmus + programme of the European Union

The Linking Network