Sheffield’s new Lord Mayor Magid Magid has welcomed freshers to the city, in an exclusive interview with Forge Press.
The Steel City has a large proportion of students, especially in the north and west of the city, and Magid raised how much good they do for the region.
He said: “I think students are, not necessarily vital but they add so much value to Sheffield. Not just from an economic point of view, in the sense of that community point of view, they volunteer so much and make the lives of people in Sheffield amazing.”
When asked if he had anything to say to the new arrivals in the city, he said: “I would say you’ve got a fantastic taste in universities. I would say welcome, I would say get involved and literally just have the best time that you can and just do it. If you see me, say hello.”
“students make the lives of people in Sheffield amazing”
He also encouraged students to get out and make themselves a part of the city. A lot of students, myself included, get stuck in a student bubble and there’s so much to Sheffield that isn’t just around the student areas.
“There’s so many other amazing things happening and I would say just see what’s happening out there and you’ll find your niche, you’ll find your tribe.”
From refugee to Lord Mayor
The new Lord Mayor came to the country age five, as a refugee from Somalia. He was schooled in Sheffield before attending the University of Hull where he was elected President of their Students’ Union.
He was first elected as a Councillor in 2016, and as Lord Mayor earlier this year.
Magid has raised eyebrows around the country over his first months in the role, first attracting attention for his now signature pose in his first official photo.
In July he also “banned” US President Donald Trump from the city while wearing a T-shirt that declared the controversial head of state “a wasteman”.
Even during the interview with this newspaper, when he receives a phone call from an unknown number, he wonders whether to answer it, before opening with the line “hello, this is Magid’s secretary”, trying to suppress laughter.
“I’ve definitely made the role my own. I’ve completely turned it on its head”
However, Sheffield Green Party’s first ever Lord Mayor doesn’t try to disguise that he acts differently in the role to his predecessors.
“I’ve definitely made the role my own. I’ve completely turned it on its head and I want it to engage a whole different crowd and just make it a bit more appealing and interesting,” he said.
‘I’m not ignorant to what’s been said but I just don’t really care’
His attitude to the role, as well as being the first BME Lord Mayor of Sheffield, has attracted abuse from some corners of the public, especially given how vocal he is on Twitter, but he told Forge that it wouldn’t let it affect the way he is: “You’ll never see me arguing with anybody, I just haven’t got the time for it, nor the energy so I only focus on the positives.
“That doesn’t mean I don’t see it, I sometimes search my name, like looking in obscure groups like the Haberdashery group just to see what they’re saying about me.
“I’m not ignorant to what’s been said but I just don’t really care. The way I deal with it is just to continue to be myself. For every negative comment there’s a thousand positive comments.”
In fact, he sees himself as a reflection of the city itself: “I genuinely think I’m just a reflection of Sheffield. I grew up in Sheffield XYZ but I got to where I am by people electing me.
“I think we need more diversity in politics whether that be locally or nationally because it’s important we have a diverse group of people leading and representing us.”
Campaigning, not careering
During his time in the role so far Magid has launched or supported several campaigns, dedicating each month of his time in the role to a different cause. In June he headed a campaign to show how immigrants make Britain great, in July he was campaigning around Donald Trump’s state visit to the UK and in August he supported the Orgreave Justice Campaign, which fights for an official inquiry into the Battle of Orgreave during the Miners’ Strike in 1984.
For the month of September, he is campaigning on suicide prevention, and launched an initiative on World Suicide Prevention Day on Monday 10 September to get 100 organisations around the country to sign up for the Suicide Prevention Charter by the end of the month.
Magid asked the University of Sheffield and the Students’ Union to be the first organisations to join the initiative, telling the media: “It was a no brainer for me to ask the University of Sheffield to launch this campaign and get them to be the first people to sign up to the pledge because they already do so much amazing work.
“They are a university of sanctuary and it felt like a good representation of what this campaign is about so I am really grateful for their support.”
He also told Forge Press how keen he is to campaign with students: “Anything I can help students with, whatever the campaign is, just hit me up. I’m quite accessible and I’ll definitely help out.”
Before taking up the role, the 29-year-old Magid spent the prior year as the Deputy Lord Mayor, working under Councillor Anne Murphy.
During his time in the role, he appeared in the popular Channel 4 show Hunted where contestants try to avoid being caught for 25 days to get a £100,000 prize fund. Magid lasted 19 days before being caught, and afterwards thanked the people of Sheffield for helping him hide.
Unlike many politicians, the Lord Mayor says he doesn’t have any ambitions for a career in politics, and like many on the left he believes you don’t have to be elected to change things.
Magid said: “I have no ambitions for a career in politics, it’s never been an ambition.
“For me it’s a case of as long as I’m pushing myself, taking myself out of my comfort zone but most importantly as long as I feel I’m having a positive contribution to those around me then I’ll be happy regardless what I do.
“I genuinely believe you don’t have to be a Councillor or a Lord Mayor or an MP to make a real impact or contribution where you live. I know a lot of people who aren’t in politics who are doing amazing things and groundbreaking stuff in the community.”