9 June 2017

Saving lives, reuniting lost children, helping the homeless, tackling litter louts, directing shoppers, controlling crowds and simply being a friendly face – it’s all in a days’ work for Sheffield’s city centre ambassadors.

Patrolling the city centre in their bright red coats, the 13-strong team of Ambassadors provide far more than a presence on the streets.

Last year alone they spoke to more than 36,000 people in the city centre, yet their calm and humble approach means that most of us don’t realise just how much they do.

Taking a look back at a year in the life of an Ambassador, it’s clear to see how much they help people and businesses in Sheffield’s vibrant city centre.

From April 2016 to April 2017, the team walked more than 2,000 hours on foot patrol, responded to more than 6,000 calls from retailers and the public, made more than 1,500 referrals for repairs and maintenance on the city centre streets and roads and kept illegal street traders at bay.

When it comes to a crisis the Ambassadors take it all in their stride. Last year they attended more than 200 first aid incidents and, to the relief of frantic parents and carers, reunited 23 lost children with their grown-ups.

They also play an important role in supporting those sleeping rough or begging on the streets and work closely with housing and adult social care services. Last year alone the Ambassadors had more than 4,800 interactions with 250 different people, helping them access services and get the support they need.

Councillor Mary Lea, cabinet member for culture, parks and leisure at Sheffield City Council, said: “We have a fantastic team of Ambassadors who work really hard and their efforts make a significant difference to people and businesses in the city centre.

“They don’t shy away from tricky situations and they’re always calm in a crisis. I know that people in the city centre can count on them to help, whatever the circumstances. They have all sorts to deal with and generally they do it with a smile.”

It’s not just members of the public who call on them for help. The Ambassadors make a significant contribution to businesses in the city centre.

They’ve made more than 1000 visits to shops and businesses and operate a radio scheme to help reduce business crime in the area. And working closely with the Sheffield Business Improvement District (BID), they keep businesses well informed on relevant issues and updates.

Diane Jarvis, BID Manager at Sheffield Business Improvement District, said: “Ambassadors are a vital step in fulfilling one of the BID’s core objectives of making the city centre safer for businesses and visitors alike.

“They provide a friendly face to the city, make people feel safer and help deal with some of the issues local businesses face.

“We work closely with the council and its ambassadors and will continue to do so in the future.”

Sheffield’s Ambassadors don’t stand for any mess. Last year they issued 71 Fixed Penalty Notices for littering and free literature offences, and their evidence contributed to three prosecutions relating to graffiti.

Famous for its many annual major events, Sheffield hosts the Yorkshire Half Marathon, the World Snooker Championship, Cliffhanger, Tramlines, Out of This World, and the Christmas Lights switch-on all in the city centre, and these events would not be possible without the hard work of the Ambassadors.

Controlling crowds of thousands of people, directing attendees, looking out for incidents, alerting relevant partners such as the police or ambulance services, the list goes on but the Ambassadors have it all under control to make sure Sheffield’s events continue to be a success.

Cllr Lea added: “It’s been a busy period for the team with the 40th Anniversary of World Snooker and Sheffield United’s civic reception, where our Ambassadors controlled thousands of supporters, all desperate to get a good view of the players, and then stayed out way past duty to clear up the mess.

“Now we’re busy planning our next round of events, with City Ride, Cliffhanger and Tramlines all set to hit the city centre in July.

“Whether its major incidents, major events or just a friendly point in the right direction, the team are always on the go, out and about helping people. I’m very proud of what they’ve achieved.”

Case Study

Phil Pix, from Hillsborough, has been a City Centre Ambassador for 10 years.

City Centre Ambassador, Phil Pix
City Centre Ambassador, Phil Pix

He said: “As a Sheffield lad I have a lot of pride in the city and this job means I can make a real difference to residents, visitors, businesses and Sheffield’s reputation.

“I love being an ambassador, it’s a tough job but it’s very rewarding. And what other job would give me the chance to meet people, help those in need, keep fit and active and know the city centre inside and out?

“There are some real challenges and it can be emotionally draining. As in all cities, there are people who beg on the streets and we get to know them and their stories, where they’ve come from and how they ended up here, and it can be really hard seeing them in these terrible situations. It’s difficult not to take that home with you at the end of the day.

“But on the flip side, we’re trained to help these people and we have the knowledge to point them to the right services and when you see that someone has turned their life around because you gave them that little bit of your time, it’s a wonderful feeling and makes it all worthwhile.

“Another great part of the job is the events. We have loads of big, exciting events in the city centre and we get to be at the heart of the action. There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes that people never realise.

“Managing crowds in the thousands is not easy, but our events are really inclusive and we love to see so many families out enjoying themselves. My favourite event has to be Tramlines. It’s such a busy weekend and as well as a lot of great music , it brings with it many challenges, ranging from lost children, first aid incidents and dealing with the public after a fair few sunshine drinks. It’s mostly all good fun, it’s just a shame I never get to join in.

“In this job you’ve got to be ready for anything but I’m very fortunate and proud to work with a great team of like-minded colleagues who sometimes have to put the public’s safety before that of their own. We rely a lot on our colleagues in CCTV to assist us and keep us safe while we deal with incidents. Between the City Centre Management Team, Ambassadors, the Events Team and CCTV a lot of hard work happens every day to make sure that the city centre runs smoothly. Most of this goes unnoticed; that’s because we all work together as one team, like a well-oiled machine.

“What really gets my goat is the litter louts. I don’t understand why they can’t just put it in the bin, so if we see them dropping rubbish they’re going to pay for it. But it’s not all chaos and crises.

“The day-to-day stuff keeps us just as busy, chatting to visitors, directing people around the city and getting to know the people behind the businesses. We cover a fair few miles in a week so although we go through a lot of shoes, I don’t have to worry too much about getting to the gym, that’s a bonus.

“It’s an exciting time for Sheffield city centre, as most people will be aware, we’re going through major developments with the construction of the new retail quarter and I can’t wait to see the transformation and take on the new challenges it will bring to my job.”