City of Sheffield

"If the people of Sheffield could only receive a tenth part of what knives sell for by retail in America, Sheffield might pave its streets with silver."

William Cobbett
Sheffield view
A view from Norfolk Park down into the city centre

The city is no longer the dirty, dull place referred to by such well known commentators as Daniel Defore and George Orwell. The heavy industries of the last century have slipped into the background as new technology has taken over and replaced thousands of workers. If any one thing defines the town now it is probably the 70 – 80 thousand students at the two universities. 

A Few Facts about the city

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Sheffield is the fourth largest city in England with a population of over 569,000 and it seems is larger than Manchester in area. It’s the home of stainless steel, world famous cutlery, the oldest football club in the world, a major centre for rock climbing in the UK. It’s reputedly one of the greenest cities in Europe, even though the council has cut down thousand of healthy trees, it’s spread out over seven hills like most beautiful cities, has five rills or streams flowing through the town and is surrounded by the beautiful Peak District on one side, the hills and mills of the Pennines of the west Riding (a third) of Yorkshire and The Dukeries on the other. All in all a pretty impressive border. Plus it’s one of the few cities in the country that has a modern tram system carrying passengers as far as Rotherham. With all this going for it you would think it should be pretty easy to sell the city. You would be wrong! If there  is a department or someone in post to promote the city they are doing a pretty bad job which is not surprising because Sheffield City Council, although Labour run for decades, as proved itself over the years incapable of even sorting out a town traffic system which confuses first time visitors and puts off returnees. I have heard coach drivers complain it’s a nightmare trying to find their way round the town to drop visiter’s off. 

Sheffield Sports Personalities

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Sheffield can rightfully boast to have the oldest football team in the world. Sheffield FC was formed in 1857, eight years before Sheffield Wednesday in 1866 and Sheffield United which was the first team to be called ‘united’. Sadly both clubs have not achieved much success over the past few years, Sheffield Wednesday being more infamous than famous for its ground Hillsborough, the scene of the worst football disaster in April 1989 when 96 Liverpool fans died and hundreds were injured at the beginning of the FA Cup Semi Final against Nottingham Forest. I well remember that April Saturday, the sun was shinning and was in my mother-in-laws garden not two miles from the ground when the silence and the atmosphere of that Spring day was shattered by the constant sirens of ambulances and police cars making their way to the ground. It has taken thirty years for the blame to be rightfully placed at the feet of the South Yorkshire police hierarchy.

I think it’s fair to say South Yorkshire Police have had less success than the two football clubs over my lifetime, the notable exception being the capture of the Yorkshire Ripper on the 2nd of January 1981. I grew up on a very rough working-class estate and came into contact with the police on a few occasions thanks to a one Killer Brown who lived not far from our house and along with his mother was constantly in conflict with the local constabulary. The street dramas when the police attempted to get past his mum, armed with buckets of slops leaning out from the upstairs window, to arrest killer became legendary. Even back in the 1920s the local constabulary’s use of extreme violence to control the Sheffield gangs is well document by Sheffield writer JP Bean in his seminal book on the subject The Sheffield Gang Wars.

The city has been responsible for turning out a few good footballers from Albert Quixall in the 1950s, transferred from Wednesday to Manchester Utd for a record fee to strengthen the team after Munich to Kyle Walker, Jamie Vardy, Harry Maguire and Dominic Kalvert Lewis and. Perhaps even more successful have been the local track athletes Sebastion Coe, Jessica Ennis Hill and boxers thanks to local legend Brendan Ingle.more successful sports personalities

Music Scene

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It would be wrong to say the city has produced as many pop artists as Liverpool or London but it has had its fair share of good bands and singers and the Stringfellow brothers created a club scene of national and international fame. Back in the 60s I regularly went to the Highcliffe Hotel and various working men’s clubs to see Vance Arnold and the Avengers alias Joe Cocker and the Grease Band. What made Joe really special was not his amazing voice but the fact my dad hated him with a passion. Sundays wouldn’t be the same without a good argument about Joe’s appearance. He did perspire quite a lot, while on stage, but that didn’t make him unwashed and my dad’s comparison with his favourite, Brenda Lee, never seemed appropriate. I always felt he was on safer ground with his other favourite Ray Charles but I don’t think he could cope with the similarity of the two voices. In between Joe and the other Cocker Jarvis a few singers and bands have made the grade from the city: Def Leppard, Cabaret Voltaire, Human League, Heaven 17, Babybird, Pulp, Reverend and the Makers and Arctic Monkeys just to mention a few

The Folk Scene

The folk scene in Sheffield is probably second to none in the country. Traditional folk clubs are not that plentiful anymore in the city but good music and singing session are. Sessions take place at Fagan’s, the Shakespeare, Red House, Highcliffe and the Gardeners Rest. However, of course everything is in lockdown and the nature of the folk scene has been changing over the past few years for a number of reasons and so who knows which venues and sessions will survive once we get back to some sort of normality.

Regular concerts are still run at the Highcliffe, Yellow Arch and weekly clubs are still run at the Red House, Princess Royal and the Bowling Club in Nether Edge with booked guests but less frequently now than in the early days of the revival. One regular new venue is the house concerts held at Sam Hindley’s house which I’m sure will carry on once this is all over. Sam is one of the presenters of the Thank Goodness It’s Folk programme broadcast each Friday between 10.00pm – 12.00am. Besides a flourishing folk programme the area has a well established folk magazine TykesStirrings which is an amalgamation of Tykes News and Stirrings and is published quarterly and along with TGIF keeps folk enthusiasts up to date with happenings throughout the area.

Thank Goodness It’s Folk and TykesStirrings Magagazine

You can listen to the TGIF programme on Sheffield Live!, a community radio station (and TV) on 93.4FM, on the internet to listen live or to catch up via radio podcasts and now on Mixcloud. For further information go to their Facebook page. The show is admirably presented by James Fagan and Sam Hindley providing two hours of music, news, information and live interviews.

Sheffield music sessions and clubs

In Lockdown

Basking in the Sun