Sheffield offered sanctuary to children fleeing Nazi Germany now it shelters Syrian refugees; CITY FULL OF SKILLS & HEART BUT LOW ON PAY.
Hair is falling to the floor of the Victoria Hall Methodist Church in Sheffield, clipped neatly by volunteer barbers.
"I am a chef, not a barber," 33-year-old Antonio Quarente tells me, flicking stray hairs from the back of a neck.
"But I came here one day and I saw a massive queue and just one barber. I thought, 'I can use clippers'."
Antonio came to the UK when he was 17, fleeing the war in Angola. The man whose hair he is clipping is newly arrived from Syria. "I know what it's like to come here with nothing," Antonio says.
After a year on the road, our Wigan Pier Project has reached Sheffield, the start of the final leg of our journey retracing George Orwell's Road to Wigan Pier. The writer stopped in three Yorkshire towns and cities, starting here in Steel City. With his usual diplomacy, he called Sheffield "by daylight, one of the most appalling places I've seen".
We are in the Methodist Church where the 1984 and Animal Farm author came to listen to a clergyman's "ramblings". He added, sympathetically, that unemployed men "will put up with almost anything in order to have a warm place where they can sit for a few hours".
Now, 80 years on, as winter winds whip along outside, Victoria Hall is still a place where the dispossessed can sit in the warm. In 2007, with the support of the City Council, Sheffield became the UK's first City of Sanctuary for asylum seekers and refugees.
Orwell, who watched fascist leader Oswald Mosley "bamboozle an uneducated audience" 16 miles away at a public hall in Barnsley, would today find clergy outnumbered not just by barbers but by clothes-bank helpers, lawyers, night shelter hosts and other volunteers.
"Sometimes we see 140 refugees and asylum seekers a week," says Sarah Eldridge, the centre's coordinator.
"People came to Sheffield through the Kindertransport in 1939 to escape Hitler. The help we are providing here is carrying on the tradition."
The next year Sheffield was laid waste by a German blitz targeting its factories. It killed 600 and left 40,000 homeless. That was the devastated city Stan Shaw walked into at 15, looking for a job. His father, a miner of ganister - a stone used to line steel furnaces - had died from TB.
Stan had no qualifications after spending most of his childhood in hospital following an accident and suffering TB too. "You could smell all the work in the air," he says. He walked into Ibbersons' cutlery-makers.
"One of the men made me his apprentice," Stan says. "I earned 10 shillings a week and walked the five miles home."
He later became one of the selfemployed cutlery makers - "little bosses" or "little mesters" - Orwell had written about. A modern legacy of high numbers of self-employed workers and small businesses is one of Sheffield's unique selling points.
"It's one of the reasons people fall in love with our city, why they move here and stay," Labour MP Louise Haigh says. "But it's also one of the reasons why, in 2017, Sheffield was named the low pay capital of Britain." Some 76 years later, aged 91, Stan is still working long hours every day in his long grey overalls, making intricate penknives that sell for up to PS1,800.
A living, breathing exhibit, he has a workshop at the Kelham Island museum, where all the materials he uses are reclaimed from Sheffield's industrial past. When the Queen visited the city in the 1980s, Stan made her a platinum knife. This year, he was awarded a British Empire Medal. "Scruffy cutler gets a medal, that showed them," he laughs.
Orwell stayed on a hill opposite the gasworks on Wallace Road, Neepsend, with a view of "lamps twinkling like stars". His hosts were We much here Gilbert Searle, who was out of work and took Orwell to Victoria Hall, wife Kate, a cleaner, and their son Gil. Orwell wrote in his diary he had "seldom met people with more natural decency".
We meet Jean Searle, widow of Gil, the little boy who gave up his bed for Orwell. His child's bed was too small for the 6ft 2in writer and the Searles had to put a chair across the foot to make it longer. "Orwell told them, 'I've slept on worse'," Jean says.
Gil, who became a scrap metal boss and died in 2001, remembered Orwell typing up notes on the kitchen table.
Jean, a former hairdresser now living in the Peak District, says his family make as steel always spoke of "being part of history". But they said: "He could go back to his own life, we couldn't."
Neepsend is gone now, levelled for future housing that was never built. Its cobbles and orchards are overgrown and at the top of the hill are rusting gates that once announced a ski slope.
Beyond them a community of 30 people now occupies the abandoned land, living in vans and caravans. The council is trying to evict them.
"You can see the street where Orwell stayed, right in the middle," says Juna, 22. "It would've been really busy, all those houses, with trees at the sides." Landscape gardener Adam, 29, lives with his girlfriend in a converted van fitted with solar panels. "It's a genuine community. But they want to regenerate the area and maybe we're not part of that."
When the slums Orwell wrote about were cleared in the 1950s, hundreds of families moved to the Gleadless Valley estate. Connie Moore, 81, went from living with her husband and baby in her parents' attic to a new three-bed house.
"This place felt like paradise," she says. But today the estate is struggling, despite its obvious pride. After decades of Right to Buy, private landlords are in danger of returning the residents to the slums. Meanwhile, the city that survived Hitler faces up to Blitzkrieg by robot. "They make as much steel in Sheffield now as they ever did, it just takes about 10 men to do it," says Dave Ridley, 70.
At a Sheffield University centre named after Orwell's biographer, Bernard Crick, local youngsters attend workshops organised by the Orwell Youth Prize. Later, they will see artist Grayson Perry deliver the first "Orwell Lecture in the North" in 20 years.
Eighty years after Orwell tried to make the middle classes feel the pain and taste the filthy air of northern industrial Britain, Perry's subject is social empathy - and the lack of it in Brexit Britain. Orwell's two tribes have been pushed even further apart.
But unlike the grassed-over coalfields elsewhere on Orwell's route, Sheffield's industrial heart is still beating. Matt Flinders of the Crick Centre describes the hundreds of tonnes of foundry hammer still smashing raw steel into shape as the city's "living, roaring pulse".
Lou Haigh quotes John Betjeman's poem on Sheffield. "On back street and alley/ And chemical valley/ Laid out in the light;/ On ugly and pretty/ Where industry thrives/ In this hillshadowed city/ Of razors and knives."
Across the city on Kelham Island, Stan stands in his dusty workshop, sharp as the blade he is honing, bending Sheffield's steel to his will.
We make as much steel here as ever but it only takes 10 men to do it DAVE RIDLEY ON RISE OF INDUSTRIAL ROBOTS
INSIGHT George Orwell
STRUGGLING City's Gleadless area
CHANGE Dave Ridley mourns steel jobs
STILL SHARP Stan Shaw, 91, in his workshop
DECENCY The Searles and, inset left, Jean
Pictures: ANDREW STENNING and BEN LACK head start Antonio gives refugee a clipping