Discovering Sheffield's Musical History

Exposed music blogger Mark Perkins goes on a musical treasure hunt, and climbs the stairs to revisit a piece of Sheffield’s musical history…


If there’s one thing I know, it’s that there’s a lot I don’t know. One of the many things that I don’t really know enough about is Sheffield’s musical past. Even though I’ve lived here for most of my life, I always seemed to be looking the other way when events of great musical importance were happening. Sure, I was at university when Artery and 2.3 were playing at Now Soc, but I chose to go and see the likes of Blondie and Roger Chapman. I went to the Grapes to see plenty of bands, but never spotted the Arctic Monkeys. I even used to walk down Division Street but missed the Warp records shop and Jarvis falling out of the first floor window (more of that later). Good news though. All these regrets are now a thing of the past. There’s a new phone app that will tell you all about the seminal moments which came together to make Sheffield the city with the most interesting musical history imaginable as you walk around town.


Say hello to Sheffield Music Map

As you can see from the capture image above, there’s a fair few to visit, and that’s only a small section of the map. At the moment you can choose from tours based on Pulp, Arctic Monkeys, Cabaret Voltaire, Richard Hawley or the Human League, with the promise of more being added as the site evolves. To launch this, they organised a treasure hunt on the same day as the Devonshire Green market, so up and down a very busy Division Street I walked, for over an hour. I’ll let you know how I did in a bit. Jo Wingate and her Sensoria team were partly behind all this, and had put some ‘blue plaques’ in a few notable places, so spotting them was also part of the fun.


Here’s a few of the questions to be going on with to give you a taste of how it went.


‘Who rented the flat on Division Street where Jarvis Cocker famously fell out of the window and broke his leg?’ And ‘which fast food outlet used to let local bands play there in the 70s?’


With my phone in one hand, and the treasure hunt quiz sheet in the other I started at the Hop, after decoding the clue about somewhere named after what rabbits do (no not that), or something that goes into beer. I had to note down some of the musical notaries featured on the walls there, and I was off. I then had to find a book hidden upstairs in Rare and Racy, which I completely failed to do, so a big thank-you the bloke who works there for telling me the answer. I found the blue plaque in the window of Plantology Florist shop, commemorating Jarvis Cockers earthward plunge from the flat above in 1985, but whose flat was it, the quiz wanted to know.



I’d no idea but, ah ha, time to consult the SheffieldMusicMap! There’s a Jarvis tour on there, and the answer was easy to find. Have a look yourself if you really want to know.


I needed a few more answers, and the next stop, Bungalow and Bears continued the Jarvis theme and provided the next answer to the question, what’s Jarvis saying on the illustration just inside the door?



You get the idea I’m sure. I clued my way down Division Street and back up to Devonshire Green to hand in my answer sheet. I headed home, steeped in the musical diversity of just a small part of town, only to return later for the official launch party upstairs in the Hallamshire Hotel on West Street. Except it’s not called that now, it’s Bloo 88. It felt very odd climbing those stone and cast iron stairs, as they have not changed a bit since the last time I was up there in the 80s, but the room at the top has been transformed. It was a perfect venue to launch an app based on the history of Sheffield music, as this was where many bands had their early gigs, often playing to an audience consisting entirely of just their mates. It was a dingy dive in those days there’s no escaping that fact, but an essential outlet for Sheffield’s musical youth back in the 80’s.



Nigel Humberstone, Jo Wingate and I could not agree about which end of the room the stage was at. We eventually decided it had been at both ends in its time, so a fall-out was avoided and friendships were maintained.  As a nostalgic treat, Jo had arranged for a new Sheffield band to play to mark the official launch of the app. This is the first time in who knows how long that a band has played up here.


Riders played a great set, and made me want to see them again when they play Tramlines next week. This was followed by a cool DJ set from Ralph Razor. Oh, and one last thrill for the day. I won a prize! Not quite sure what I won it for though. Perhaps there was a category for most answers wrong in the slowest time.  Great night; thanks for the memories guys!



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