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‘Greasy Chip Butty’: celebrating life and faith in Sheffield

Julian Sullivan

A new book celebrating faith in Bramall Lane has been published, hoping to shine a spotlight on Sheffield and its people. Revd Canon Julian Sullivan, who served at St Mary’s from 1990-2016, has written the book and is looking to share history, faith and life with the wider Diocese of Sheffield.

Born in 1949 in Winterbourne, Bristol, Julian Sullivan found an early passion for drumming, from rock to jazz. Raised a Catholic, he experienced a life-changing renewal of faith in his early 20s, gained a geology degree, taught, and was drawn to ordination in the Church of England. Training in 1980 led to gritty urban ministry from 4 years in Southall, to 26 years in Sheffield, with 3 years in Wells, Somerset – no less challenging – in between. Now retired, with his wife, Veronica, and grown up family, he enjoys bee-keeping, playing jazz, chorale singing, walking, gardening, and worship with their new church. Any profit for the author from the sale of this book will go to Sheffield Urban Theology Union.

‘Greasy Chip Butty’ focuses not only on Julian’s time at Bramall Lane, but is inspired by the people he’s worked with in the inner city. Beginning with a focus on the community at the end of the Second World War, Julian explores the changing nature of the city up to the 21st century.

The title is inspired by one of his earliest memories of moving next door to Sheffield United FC, when he heard the club’s anthem the ‘Greasy Chip Butty’ song. The book is a human story about the people who lived in the network of terraced houses around the football club and the church. They were deeply affected by the Blitz, the massive structural unemployment in the seventies, and urban decay, rising to the challenges. It is a tribute to the resilience of this community in the face of overwhelming odds, the uniqueness of each individual and all that they helped to make happen. Today, even greater challenges have arisen in the form of a global pandemic and economic stagnation. The story continues.

Through Julian’s time in Sheffield he has witnessed the close of the post-war generation, the rise of a new one and all the changes that came with fresh arrivals in the new millennium. Now retired, he felt moved to write about his experiences, inspired by the people he knew, learned from and came to love, rather than let it all go, unrecorded and unsung. Through a series of intervals or ‘entr’actes’ based on powerful paintings, he explains how the stories and characters depicted, gave others the courage to punch well above their weight in pursuit of bringing about positive change. 

Julian says:

“Sheffield means everything to me. It’s home in so many different ways because of the networks we have, because of the infrastructure, the streets, the people. People talk about Sheffield as a big village, and I always thought that to be the case.

“Sheffield really does encapsulate the idea of home and is where we have a real sense of belonging, having been here since 1990. I hope people can read this and be inspired in their faith, to be encouraged in their work and in their ministry.

“I remember St Mary’s facing massive structural unemployment during the 1970s, where there would be lots of skilled people who just had nowhere to go. That was really tragic in so many ways; part of what we were trying to do was to see how we could address that.

“Towards the end of the book, I talk about a lot of the characters of the city and the impact they’ve made. Often you can go a lot further than you think you can when you have a vision and you try to put it into practice. It doesn’t mean you get what you originally thought you were going to get, but very often you get something far richer, unexpected and surprising. That’s part of what I hope would be the encouragement of the book.”