Little Sheffield meeting Nick Clegg in July 2014 – Kate with Phoebe – Carol’s daughter, Nick Clegg, Lisa Pugh then Carol Castle (holding Amelie – Carol’s youngest daughter), photo by Zephyrtography

Little Sheffield making a big impact

Voluntarily-run parenting support group Little Sheffield has some big ideas for the city’s youngest folk & their families – and they’re already making friends in high places. Sheffield Unchained contributor Jill Theobald met up with founder Kate Hayward to find out more.

Climbing fan Kate Hayward moved to Sheffield from Worcestershire in 2005 to explore and make the most of the great outdoors, such as the neighbouring Peak District.

But the mum of two, currently on maternity leave who works in retail for Go Outdoors, quickly found that getting outside into the community was not quite so simple once first son Edan was born in 2011.

Now her experience as a parent is seeing her scale heights of a different sort after setting up Little Sheffield.

Everyone tells you it’s difficult, but of course you don’t realise what hard work being a new parent is until you actually become one.

I didn’t have many friends with kids at that stage and no family in Sheffield and I found it really difficult to discover what was going on that was child-friendly.

I met some friends at a baby massage class who always seemed to be going to different events and it occurred to me that it would be great to have a website dedicated to just that – all the information in one place at the click of a button.

Little Sheffield was set up in July 2013 with a mission of helping parents adapt to life with children, with Kate and her husband, who live in Crookes, welcoming second son Owen not long after in October.

The 31-year-old has been thrilled by its success so far.

Everything we do is aimed at helping parents get out of the house, find local support groups and information, and ultimately help them enjoy time with their children.

Pulling this information together in one easily accessible location has been invaluable to many parents across the city.

We started off with a Facebook page, now have a website and Twitter profile and I just can’t believe how quickly it has all grown – we have more than 3,000 Facebook followers already.

That includes, it would seem, quite a high-profile supporter in the form of Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg who recently held a meeting with Little Sheffield.

He seemed genuinely interested in what we’re trying to achieve and very supportive, which was really encouraging.

Little Sheffield meeting Nick Clegg in July 2014, photo by Zephyrtography

Little Sheffield meeting Nick Clegg in July 2014, photo by Zephyrtography

We’re not a forum, but more of a resource, with interactive maps and routes to print off, events listings and a help centre for support with lots of information on local services.

Child-friendly events are so important to get parents away from the pressures of home life and out into the community – and when parents are happy and enjoying themselves, the children benefit too.

Little Sheffield is currently run voluntarily by Kate with support from friends Carol Castle and Lisa Pugh who helped organise a hugely successful recent event at Sheffield City Hall. The Family Fun Show was all about ‘showcasing local stuff for little people’ from demonstrations and activities to a story book corner and even a bake-off.

We wanted to help parents find local birthday cake bakers so we held the Little Sheffield Best Bake 2014 with the winner being Curious Cakes and Beautiful Bakes.

Little Sheffield Best bake 2014 winner - Curious Cakes and Beautiful Bakes, courtesy of Little Sheffield

Little Sheffield Best bake 2014 winner – Curious Cakes and Beautiful Bakes, courtesy of Little Sheffield

The event attracted 2,500 people, while outside the venue up to 4,000 enjoyed play events and water fountain displays filled with rubber ducks.

We make no money out of Little Sheffield and all costs are currently paid for by me. So we hope to stage more events once we have established an income and we are currently exploring different avenues of sustainable funding.

Little Sheffield helps local businesses by working with them to advertise their children’s events and services to our followers and we have had fantastic feedback from organisations and parents alike.

Little Sheffield event at Sheffield City Hall, courtesy of Little Sheffield

Little Sheffield event at Sheffield City Hall, courtesy of Little Sheffield

With council-run children’s services affected by budget cuts, we want to try and step in and hope to become a more recognised service to parents across the city, but it’s important we keep everything free so it remains accessible to everyone.

Our aim is to make Sheffield the best place in the UK to raise a young family and for parents to feel empowered and engaged with what’s going on in our city.

Little Sheffield has great potential and we have lots of exciting plans – we just want to have a big impact.