Postcards from the edge of Sheffield

Sheffield Tap. Families drink coffees and 'something exotic'. Hipsters tuck into the bottled beer menu. Oldsters with a sense of fading style lounge at the bar with the Sunday papers. Two guys in wheelchairs slalom through the bar. I spend an hour-and-a-bit with Ian Harrison, supremo of the website Pubs And Beer, as he rates a few more towards his target of ten thousand beers before the Olympics start next year. Our drinking pace, like the even flow of customers, is slow and steady. There's a palpable sense of time passing; watches glanced at, smartphones asked obvious questions. Time for one more?

Greystones. Pushchairs crammed behind the front doors. A winter market on the go, amongst the tables inside and through to the Backroom, the little gig space which has made a huge impression on the city's music scene. Lots of nippers decorating gingerbread. A stained glass artist who inspires me to get my grinder out and start soldering all over again. An illustrator who makes me stop and think (more on that later). A wait for hot dogs as the cobs run out. Thornbridge Mechelen and Tzara, drank outside, looking down into the city resembling scattered Lego below a blue ceiling.

Harlequin. Here for several reasons, starting with the promise of a vanilla stout. A warm smile from the landlady, an acknowledging nod from the brewer sat at the bar. Eclectic music ticks over in the background. A bunch of fairly refreshed gents in the foreground; even if it had been whispered, the word 'cunt' still cuts through a pub like a cankered switchblade. It's entertainment, but it makes you wince for the audience that he'll inflict himself upon later.

Rutland Arms. One room, disparate groups. Eight round a table around the corner from me, their bets unseen: "yeah, but can you do this..?". "Eeuurrgh!". Two guys with expensive haircuts and knowingly-cheap shirts talk of everything and nothing as an obvious precursor to greater things later on. Opposite me, a one-sided conversation from an over-animated chap against an ever-more desperate quiet man: "sales isn't a career but it pays the bills... so, what are your hobbies?... I like just having chats with strangers like you". I'm on the last chapter of "In Search of the Perfect Pub"; the Quiet Man makes good his escape and Mr Over-Animation appears over my shoulder. "So, what are you reading, then?" "A book", I reply. "No shit" he says, muttering "sod you, then" as he gropes for the door. My Acorn Gorlovka is drained, chocolate brownies procured, and time found between delayed trains to think on this:

Ian Harrison told me how he felt Yorkshire's geography and geology rejects humanity. That the reason why there are so many breweries through the Ridings round is that people need a drink to cope with the hills lashed with rain and more rain. I think he's wrong.

I feel the Tykes survive and thrive because of their geography, not in spite of it. You know those stubborn buggers of single-celled stuff that live in the mouths of volcanoes and the trenches of oceans? Because nothing else seems stupid enough to bother? Got to be born in Yorkshire.

All around the edge of the city, people drink beer and carry on. In the bleeding gauze of the railway station, on the top of one of their seven hills, by the river on the road to nowhere in particular, down a backstreet where no-one knows your name but wants to know what you're reading. Under blue skies and fine concrete. At Greystones, I saw this print by Johnathan Wilkinson: hope he doesn't mind me reproducing it here. I'll be in touch soon to buy one. Because it embodies Sheffield for me: ugly beauty. A city of oxymorons. It bloody well is what it bloody well is. And that's why I love it.


  1. Why would you want "ugly beauty" (or just plain ugly in the case of the building at the bottom of Moor St whose picture you posted) when you can go further put of town from the Greystones & have proper beauty!

    There's plenty of beautiful places in and around Sheffield.

  2. Because nowhere else does ugly beauty better than Sheffield.

    Park Hill has been tarted up but still looks fantastic. Moor Street substation is possibly the best Brutalist architecture I know:

    There are broken windows down Kelham Island that are works of art.

  3. I pass Parkhill every day on the way to & from work and to say it looks dreadful is a massive understatement.

    The current rennovation is well intentioned but effectively it's just polishing a giant dogturd.