Because no-one criticises my blog (to my face) I imagine what people might say to me, in my head. I’ve been thinking about this Sheffield post since I found out I was going and talking myself out of doing a blog because I’ve only done about 6 posts and I was banging on about Bradford in one of them. It’s supposed to be about Leeds. Then I defended myself – just because you live in Leeds doesn’t mean you have to get all your culture in Leeds, right? In fact, that would be quite narrow minded and restrictive. Anyhow the argument escalated, it got pretty nasty, but I won in the end. So all you haterz out there: It’s my blog and I’ll write about what I want! If you don’t like it…do one.
So glad we cleared up that little imaginary problem there.
Up until Friday evening, I had a terribly bad opinion of Sheffield. I’d been a couple of times, but a long time ago and only at night, and I didn’t see much of it. The parts I did see were completely unrecognisable from the fantastic city centre I spent 6 hours in yesterday.
What I do remember of Sheffield is a lot of grey, bland concrete and littered, crowded streets. What I saw yesterday was innovative contemporary architecture sandwiched between well preserved older buildings, lining pedestrianised streets and beautifully designed public spaces.
I arrived pretty early, and there wasn’t a lot open so I bought a paper and wandered round to find somewhere for a drink. I wanted to find an independent place so when I strolled down Chapel Walk and spotted a little door with a ‘Cafe’ flag outside, I went on in. Instantly I realised it wasn’t what I was looking for, but since the place was practically deserted and a waiter in a shirt and tie had already come over to greet and seat me, I sort of felt like I had to stay! It was called Andrew’s and was a bit on the pricy side, but the carrot cake was divine.
Highly recommended to me by various Twitter folk were the Winter Garden and the Millenium Gallery. The Winter Garden is a huge arched glass structure, housing tropical foliage including trees that must be twenty feet high, along with butterflies, shops and exhibitions. I came across a display by a charity for dignity in old age which I looked at for ages – partly because I love learning about people’s lives and their histories. At first glance, it looked like a display of children’s work – it was handprints done in brightly coloured paint. Beneath each handprint was a sentence from the owner of the hand about why their hands were important. The sentences were short but so inspirational – they covered topics from the 2nd World War, to working as a midwife, to milking cows, to working the ground in the Himalayas. Thinking about what my sentence would be (“I use my hands to tweet”, maybe?) was extremely humbling.
Also in the Winter Garden was an NCTJ photography exhibition which contained some incredible, shocking, beautiful images. It’s there until next weekend and is absolutely worth a look. Finally, on my way out I spotted a couple having their wedding photos done in there. What a beautiful idea! How romantic!
The permanent collection at the Millenium Gallery is the Ruskin Collection. It’s a gorgeous display, with a mixture of items from his collection and interactive pieces to teach you more about the man himself. There’s also an exhibition called ‘Kill Your Darlings’ from Kid Acne, the Sheffield based urban artist. (Overheard: 80+ year old woman walking with a stick saying, “I don’t think it’s because I’m old, it’s just not my cup of tea” whilst looking at a cartoon of 2 naked women tied up, and a third naked woman brandishing a whip.) Finally, it wouldn’t be a day in Sheffield without looking at some steel: there’s an entire gallery full of ornate and sometimes mysterious metalwork.
I finished off my day with a self navigated walking tour of contemporary architecture in Sheffield. It’s clear that Sheffield have really taken public spaces seriously and have invested in making the city centre both practically and visually a nice place to be. Opinion is divided on buildings such as the ‘Cheesegrater’ but I think it’s distinctive and a lot more attractive than any other multi storey car park I’ve ever seen.
And by far the nicest space in Sheffield is just outside the train station. With water features and plenty of seating, the area was packed not just with people waiting for a lift but people reading books, eating sandwiches or just people watching.
So I’ll stop banging on about Sheffield now – I’ll just say: it’s less than an hour’s drive away and it’s a delightful, cheap day out. GO!