By Graham Walker
HOLLYWOOD superstar Sean Bean played Santa today to announce a £400,000 makeover for his old Sheffield stamping ground.
The early Christmas present will pay for a planned multi-sports area, including football pitches and a bowling green, a kids play area, a teenage youth zone, bicycle track and woodland in Handsworth, Sheffield.
It will transform the run-down old recreation fields next year into a community park, where 47-year-old Sean remembers playing football as a boy with jumpers for goalposts.
The Sharpe and Lord Of The Rings star has been a leading light in the five-year campaign by his old friends and neighbours, who formed Handsworth Community Forum.
But the dream can only now become a reality after they have received £400,000 funding from the sale of nearby land, for much needed new housing, by builders Barratt Homes and Ackroyd and Abbott.
Plans will be outlined in detail, by landscape architects Breeze, at an official public announcement and consultation meeting at Handsworth Parish Centre, behind St Mary's Church, tonight from 7pm.
It will be the last and main opportunity for local people to have an input.
But Sean, now living in London, spoke exclusively to The Star to reveal his delight at the £400,000 funding news.He said: "All our efforts and dreams for the last four of five years have now been realised in this significant achievement. "Because it's a local thing it means a lot to me, it's close to my heart and something I wanted to be actively involved with from day one, because it's where I used to live as a kid and I still come up here a lot. I'd love to see it regenerated again back to what it once was and better."
He paid special tribute to 72-year-old Forum chairman Maurice Littlewood, who has worked tirelessly for the community and lobbied Sheffield City Council for cash from the sale of the land. Sean handed him a special achievement award at a Forum presentation night at the Ivory bar and restaurant, on Regent Terrace.
Maurice said: "There can't be many communities and park projects who have got involved and interested somebody like Sean Bean. I thank him from the bottom of my heart."I know he's a famous film star. But first and foremost he's a Handsworth lad and he's totally committed to doing what he can to help us. We still need to raise more funding for lighting, trees and paths."
Forum director and pal Michael Brocklebank, owner of the Ivory, added: "We didn't go to Sean - he came to us. Maurice has been turning up to council meetings for five years and always shouting about Handsworth. To see his face next year will be terrific. It should be done by July."