New Roots, 1987 – 2020

new roots shop front

New Roots was a non-profit wholefoods “shop for justice” on Glossop Road, Sheffield. Owned by the Ashram Trust, but run by Grace Vincent (until 2013), it was staffed by a community of volunteers, including many students (the shop site is about 2 minutes from the University of Sheffield Students’ Union).

Last week I went past the shop and saw it was being cleaned out. The Ashram Trust is planning to sell the shop. It had been closed since the beginning of the pandemic, and had been open less regularly even before then.

I have happy memories of New Roots and think of its passing as a success. The values that made New Roots unusual in 1987 are now more mainstream – The Student’s Union has it’s own zero-packaging shop, you can buy vegan food almost everywhere, get fair trade and organic veg in supermarkets and so on. All things have their seasons.

New Roots is now passed into legend, but leaves behind a community which stretches out across generations of volunteers – I’m still in touch with many. A community forged by decades of shop floor chat, of protest planning, bicycle powered smoothies, cake cutting, and tens of thousands of hot veggie burritos.

I was hosting the New Roots website, but have recently changed my hosting plan so will disappear forever at some point. I’ve scraped the site and put it here. Local heroes Webarchitects have scraped the site and archived it here. Also in existence are New Roots pages on facebook (see this link for photos), twitter and there’s a nice roll of pics on instagram.

Grace Vincent. Thanks for everything Grace

If you’ve memories of New Roots you’d like to share please leave a comment, or send me any pictures and I can add them here.

3 replies on “New Roots, 1987 – 2020”

As a student I pretty much lived off the New Roots crumble bars – part flapjack, part fruit crumble, entirely delicious. The cherry one was the best. I also fondly recall chatting away with friends downstairs discussing ‘figs on the Don’ – historically, the effluent from the steel works and power stations raised the water temperature in the river, creating perfect fig germination conditions on the banks.

I had a lot of lovely times, burritos, and cakes at New Roots! Nearly all my friends volunteered there at some time (I was a student 2000-2004), and some friends also lived in the flat upstairs for a while.
We plotted Peace in the Park in the basement, and I loved ALL the amazing window displays; always sharing important campaigns.
Thank you to everyone who helped out there and kept it going for so long. I like your thoughts about the legacy of change Tom, and the passing being a sign of success. Xx

I spent some great days at New Roots, often working with my friend Ali (I was in Sheffield 2001-2006) – it had healthy food, was budget friendly, provided valuable work, and was a remarkably calm escape to appear at and breathe out.

The shop taught me…
>> one of the great rewards of work is simply the work itself, whether that was grounding me by meeting locals and doing something hands-on like measuring out TVP between studies& (plus of course the quantity of crumbs you have to eat after slicing 15 cakes), and there seemed to be similar reward for those who wanted something other than full time employment structuring a schedule, taking responsibility and having an outlet
>> good potatoes really should be 34p/lb, this is still my benchmark when I do my weekly shop
>> stock rotation is a ballache. Credit to shop crews everywhere for that
>> Sheffield parties are epic, and even more so when New Roots people were there
>> a steady, quietly principled, Christian spiritualist inspired place was an important rock amid the various fluid political chunterings of my university life – and some of the ethics the place seemed to have of being nice, being globally conscious, being generous with your time, being occasionally firm with the wayward, helping keep people healthy in a non-flashy but very reliable way, and being accepting of all the different colours of society with all their stories and obscure or well intentioned pursuits (and windowadvertising those) — these are things that have stuck with me. For those things and more, thank you Grace, and thank you the people that made New Roots.

++ LilyFG et al if anyone has a recipe for those crumble bars, please share, Cat Black has shared the vegan chocolate orange cake recipe with me that I cut up so many happy times, and it’s still yummy.

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