She’s a lady
Like all the best people, Sheffield is a lady with a past. Some might say she has seen better days. And it is true, in her prime she had thousands of fit young men slaving away for her. One day we’d like to help her reminisce about her glory days with a short cutlery themed horror festival (Fork in Hell). At the end of the eighties many left her for dead or dying. But she dusted herself off, and has begun to put her makeup on to face the new age of the 21st century. She’s got some new tricks, trading on her new advanced manufacturing techniques and putting on a show. She has pushed the boat out this month with both Sensoria and the Festival of the Mind in town. She can still frustrate, maddeningly it can take three buses to go about a mile. And sometimes her new airs and graces can rub us up the wrong way (How much? For a cup of coffee?) but compared to her big sisters she is still a cheap date. And she has been kind to us – letting us into her empty spaces, usually on her shabbier side, to gently tickle her fancy with our cinematic delights. There are other places, not to name names, in the grip of hyper-capitalism where we might only ever have our noses up against the giant plate glass windows. But here, in Sheffield, we have found a willing partner.
To the newcomers
I want to tell you about my Sheffield, a city that wakes up in autumn. You can tell the lazy repose of summer is over when the students start to trickle back. Then there’s the cultural explosion: Festival of the Mind, Sensoria, Off The Shelf… So much interesting stuff to do for the next couple of months.
Sheffield may not seem much to some visitors (other Daily Telegraph articles are available). It’s not got a big centre with lots of shops, impressive monuments or bustling districts. I was at Cathedral tram stop once and some tourists asked where they should venture…to Hyde Park maybe? I told them it wasn’t like London’s version.
But for me it’s a flipping brilliant place to live. It constantly surprises me by revealing new spaces that I hadn’t found before. I love hanging out in characterful neighbourhoods like Kelham Island. There are so many interesting nooks to explore and people who are getting on and just doing it, even if it doesn’t come easy. We’ve even got our own hashtag #sheffieldissuper
Back at the end of the last century I too was a newcomer, a student who barely left the two-mile safety zone of the University. Sheffield was alright, but it’s not the only place… Yet I didn’t leave, I’m still here and it’s just got better! There’s something so satisfying about getting under the city’s skin and becoming part of its fabric.
“Yer not from round ‘ere, are yer luv?”
“Well yes actually, I was born here”
No. I never expected to come back to Sheffield. You grow up, you get away, you explore new horizons, find new people and places to love. But sometimes the stuff of life leads you back to your roots and you unexpectedly find your future in the very place you started from. So here I am again – still discovering new horizons right here at home.
From A to Z, this is my Sheffield:
- Atlas – the coolest name for the most cinematically beautiful, bleak-and-industrial part of town – best driven through at dusk with a head full of dreams. Which is probably why there are so many Artists here. A is also for the Anvil, Sheffield’s first independent cinema. The size of a shoebox but the visions inspired there have lasted a lifetime.
- Bridges – especially along the River Don – Cadman, Bailey’s, Bacon Lane, Lady’s Bridge – as immortalized by our local national treasure Richard Hawley – Hadfield and Abyssinia.
- Castle Market – gone but not forgotten. The smell of fish and disinfectant on tiled floors. Butchers’ aprons and quiffs. Boiled sweets and Brillo pads. Old ladies with beehive hairdos and Jamaican guys speaking patois. The American comic stall where my brother and I used to pore over Spiderman comics while our nana bought a pound of tripe and some sarsparilla. And C is for Climbers. Of which Sheffield has many.
- The Don Valley and the canal basin where we have done two fantastic outdoor film screenings thanks to our friends the Boatyard Boys. And the amazing cabinet of curiosities at the Alfred Denny Museum.
- Endcliffe Park where I fell in the duck pond as a little girl and years later, stood yawning at the swings with other exhausted parents, blowing on our cold fingers, hoping this will tire the lad out before bedtime.
- Walking through Frog Walk, Forge Dam, Five Weirs, Fox House, lovely all year round – but also the unexpected beauties of Fox Hill, Firth Park, Firvale and Frecheville.
- Green spaces – more parks and pocket gardens than in any other northern city. One of which is the General Cemetery, last resting place of George Basset who invented the Liquorice Allsort, and where my friend Wayne had a birthday party amongst the tombs with a black and white striped Beetlejuice cake that we carried there in a suitcase.
- The Hole in the Road – distant memory or urban legend? Let the Everly Pregnant Brothers fill you in… Oh, and H is for Henderson’s Relish. Strong and Northern.
- Independents – record labels, coffee shops, cinemas and film exhibitors…
- Jumble Sales – surely the best in the country, if not anywhere? And Jessop’s Hospital where I was born – and years later my boy came into the world here too, scrunched up and blue in the face on a snowy day.
- Kelham Island – its industrial history, its atmospheric streets and buildings – literally, they make beer here – a great café and museum, and home to our biggest screening yet when we teamed up with the University to show Chaplin’s “Modern Times”.
- Lantern Carnival – like us, a small community venture that started as a “What if…?”
- Monument – the Cholera monument to be precise – with one of the most breathtaking views of the city, especially at dusk. And of course Music, just as much a part of the fabric of the city as its bricks and bolts.
- Now Then! The magazine as well as the traditional Sheffield greeting “Na den, dee!” (transl: “Oh hello, you!”) (Why Sheffielders are sometimes known as dee-dah’s)
- Our Favourite Places – because they put it all together with grace and style. And the Omega restaurant perched on top of a quarry, where my brother and I both worked one crazy Christmas, getting legless on stolen cocktails.
- Picture Houses – Greystones, Abbeydale, the Essoldo, the Rex, the Paramount, the Sunbeam, the Adelphi – such glorious names! Mostly closed before I was born but look closely around town and you can still see the faded majesty of the buildings.
- Q is for the Q-Park, aka the Cheesegrater – one day we’d like to do a screening from the rooftop…
- The view from the millstone at Ringinglow: on one side, the hills and the open road – on the other, the city stretching out before you like a prize.
- The beautiful Electricity Substation on Hanover Way/Moore Street. One day we will screen there too…
- Ted Williams tailors on London Road. Used to go past there as a kid sometimes and admire its jazzy signage, kipper ties and shirts. Now I pass it most days and it still looks exactly the same.
- Just a little way out of town, the shambolic paradise of Unstone Grange. Where I got married. Twice. (to the same person)
- Vulcan – a surprise to see him up close and eye-to-eye when Sheffield had the Big Wheel a few years back.
- Walking and talking with friends and throwing sticks for dogs on the round walk through the lovely Limb Valley from Whirlow.
- X Films – there was a “naughty” cinema round the back of Pond Street multi storey car park and another on the Wicker. My friend and I put on loads of eye makeup to make us look older and bunked off school to see “Emmanuelle”.
- Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Yorkshire Art Space and the yellow bikes dotted around town for the wonderful weekend of Le Tour.
- Zed’s – a little slice of Oregon and the 1970s catapulted through space and time into leafy Netheredge. An institution.
Our next screening is all about place: in My Winnipeg, filmmaker Guy Maddin goes back to his hometown and recreates his childhood. See it on Saturday 20 September at Victoria Works in Neepsend. Full details here.