What My City Means to Me


I've lived in Sheffield for all of my 19 years and 10 months. I can't imagine being anywhere else. I don't want to imagine being anywhere else. The Steel City is as much a part of my identity as my eye colour or my fingerprint, and I'm fiercely protective of it. Not in the way Batman protects Gotham, or Daredevil protects Hell's Kitchen, but with a solicitous obsession underpinned with heedful optimism. Be it through articles, word of mouth or pictures, I show my respect to Sheffield as the city that nurtured me like Mowgli was raised by the jungle (ish). I'm pretty certain I have a concoction of Henderson's Relish and Yorkshire Tea streaming through my veins. I love Sheffield because Sheffield loves me.

Sheffield has a long, long history as an innovative and creative city - Sheffield FC was the world's first football club in 1857, chocolate empire Thorntons was founded here in 1911, and we were famously the epicentre of the steel industry, owed in part to Harry Brearley's invention of stainless steel in 1912. I was recently asked by VILLOID about the fashion scene where I live, and I think because of our industrious past, Sheffield was never regarded as a fashionable or cosmopolitan city, but this perception is shifting. The Sheffield demographic is diversifying and the city is currently enrolled in a dramatic population turnover, and has been for some time. The cultural scene is adapting to reflect the scope of opportunities attainable to the general public in terms of health and beauty, food and drink, arts and events, and the fashion scene is emerging from the hidden depths, slowly but surely, thanks to local brands such as Drop Dead and Mamnick. Independent cinema Showroom is home to several annual film festivals that have successfully cemented the picture house as a local institution. The funky coffee shops and restaurants spouting up left, right, and centre are somewhat seductive; places like Steam Yard and Great Gatsby attract floods of visitors everyday because of their Instagram-worthy allure but quintessentially Sheffield spirit. There may not be the perpetual buzz of activity when compared to other core cities, but Sheffield is a temptress that lures you in and lodges itself in your memory as 'that place you like but you really shouldn't'.

The hefty list of notable Sheffield natives includes music legends such as Joe Cocker, (most of) The Human League, (most of) Pulp, and Arctic Monkeys, the first Briton in space Helen Sharman, sporting champion Jessica Ennis-Hill, and actors Sean Bean, Michael Palin and Dominic West. All showed a deep-seated affection for Sheffield throughout their careers, and many, despite moving to swankier locations such as London or LA, return to visit the city as regularly as possible. A poem written by Jarvis Cocker is etched on the side of a student accommodation block and he has publicly labelled Rare & Racy, a historic bookshop facing demolition, a "global treasure". Alex Turner has a Yorkshire Rose with a 'Sheffield' banner tattooed on his arm, and is usually pictured in local pubs around the time of his birthday and Christmas. Sean Bean donated his Land Rover to raise money for Weston Park Cancer Hospital. In short: the people of Sheffield rejoice in their heritage.

Sheffield has undergone mass changes in the last 50 years, many of which only came to fruition at the turn of the century. Some of the most noteworthy developments include: opening of the Millennium Galleries and Winter Gardens in 2001 and 2003, respectively; the closure and subsequent destruction of Don Valley Stadium; the council's immensely unpopular decision to demolish a strip of Devonshire Street shops that survived the Blitz in order to rebuild the site as yet more luxury student accommodation next year; and, most recently, the council sparked further outrage when they disregarded the city's status as the greenest city in the country and began felling hundreds of street trees without consulting the public, and have since been served a High Court injunction preventing them from felling any more. The fiery passion and relentlessness shown by the protesters involved in both the Save Devonshire Street and anti-tree felling campaigns exemplifies my pride for Sheffield - we're the fourth largest city in the UK, but there's a strong 'big village' consensus that binds everyone together, and woe betide those who dare touch our beloved trees.

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