Hands-on Sean worth his weight in gold
Lord Of The Rings and Sharpe superstar Sean Bean may live in London and travel the world making box office blockbusters,
but home is where the heart is. And South Yorkshire's most famous son is thrilled to be part of a £400,000 project to transform the old playing fields where he grew up as a lad in Handsworth, he told Graham Walker
ALL-action hero Sean Bean has battled in some of the most famous movie landscapes of all time.
He's waged war with monsters in Lord Of The Rings, Greek gods in Troy and with Bond himself in Goldeneye. But The Sharpe star couldn't keep his footing on the sloping playing field where he grew up in Handsworth, Sheffield.
He remembers taking a bad tumble and spraining his ankle while playing football there, no doubt dreaming of scoring an FA Cup winner for his beloved Blades.Now it's payback time and the Hollywood legend is about to get even.
Sean, aged 47, wants that field levelled out as part of £400,000 plans being announced today by Handsworth Community Forum, to turn the disused area into a community park. He has been actively supporting and campaigning for the forum for the past five years, but the work can now take place with cash raised from the sale of local land to house builders.
Details will be given at Handsworth Parish Centre, behind St Mary's Church, tonight from 7pm.
"It's a long time ago but I remember playing football and spraining my ankle on the field because it's on a bit of a slope. Going over on my ankle. Oh, it didn't half kill. So they definitely need to sort that out," laughed Sean.
He is hoping it will become a beacon project to inspire other communities to help themselves.
"I've some great memories of what it was like growing up there - of lovely sunsets, with big gas works in the background, fire coming out of the chimneys and all that. The recreation ground, or the 'rec' as we call it, was very central to our lives. We used to go and play football there, meet our pals and girlfriends.
"I'm proud to be from Handsworth. It's still a great community, with great spirit. But it's not got a centre as such and it needs somewhere people can congregate, meet, make friends and talk to each other.
"For me, first and foremost, it's about creating a meeting area again for people in the community to come and say hello to each other, to express what they do and have a chat.
"There's got to be somewhere other than pubs. The library has gone and it's an area that needs that kind of investment.
"The 'rec' isn't the same meeting place. It's been neglected. It's just a piece of land that's not being used. It's green belt. But these are wonderful ideas and opportunities. And I want kids these days to have the same opportunities and good times we had.
"I've been speaking to the planners, looking at their designs and drawings of what we can achieve within the budget we've got. "The plans will work."There will be football pitches, a bowling green, playground, with trees and woods, meadows and a bicycle track. "People will be able to enjoy the spectacle but it also links in to the rest of the community. There are going to be houses built around the area, so you want them to be connected to the park. It's like a spiders web, all joining up in the middle.
"I've been involved in the plans but we want to get everyone in Handsworth involved. We don't want anyone to think it's a private little group. It's not. "We want lots of people to get involved, especially kids. It's about what they want to achieve and how they want to express themselves.
"Once we see it happening next year and you see things becoming a reality, that's going to kick start everything else and get people very enthusiastic. We've a lot to look forward to.
"You can't do everything at once. But one day we're hoping there may be a café, where people can meet up for a chat and a cup of coffee, and just sit and look out on to the trees and people playing football, with kids in the playground."
The Blades superfan and Sheffield United director added: "I'm hoping we can get Sheffield United involved and arrange for them to come and have a kick around when we get the football pitches open."
Forum chairman Maurice Littlewood, aged 72, who has worked tirelessly for the community, was presented with an award for his efforts by Sean. He said: "We really are rolling now. We're working with the council, with Breeze, the land architects, and the park is a reality.
"We will get a park next year that's worthy of the people of Handsworth.
"This is an excellent start. We have been pushing for this for five years, but to get the kind of park that our community deserves, we still need to raise funding for lighting, trees and paths."
Handsworth Community Forum has held a summer fun day in recent years to highlight the need for a park, raising money for other worthy causes.
This year £3,000 was raised and Sean presented £1,000 cheques each to Sheffield Children's Hospital, Bluebell Wood Children's Hospice and Help A Hallam Child at The Ivory bar and restaurant, Regent Terrace.
For more information about the Handsworth project contact the Forum office on Sheffield 0114 288 9029 or visit www.handsworthforum.org.uk