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City Views: A Goodbye Letter to Sheffield…

Words: Jamie Lei-Roberts

While it wasn’t a huge culture shock moving from Manchester’s outskirts to Sheffield’s city centre, it was definitely a big change. I loved the busy buzz of living in the heart of Sheffield: the convenience of having the world on my doorstep, supermarkets within walking distance, my closest friends all under one roof, and uni buildings down the road – with the latter enabling me to roll out of bed ten minutes before 9am.

However, my Sheffield experiences before and after the pandemic are completely contrasting.

In my first year of uni, I established a routine. On a Monday, my coursemates and I finished a lecture at 3 and headed straight to the pub. “We’ll just go for one,” we’d say… until we cancelled our evening plans and eventually stumbled home the next morning.

Ashamedly, every Tuesday my flatmates and I took advantage of 90p night at CODE, and on Wednesdays, we’d get dressed up for Hallamnation, scavenging for free sausage rolls and inflatable guitars. Back home, I was used to covering up hangovers on my morning shifts following heavy nights facilitated by a fake ID, but the weekly recovery from an event at Tank was unearthly.

Sheffield quickly became my new home – a familiar safe space. I rooted around the Moor Market, window-shopped at Meadowhall (I was on a student budget, after all), and established my regular coffee spots in the centre of town. By the end of my first year at uni, I was completely comfortable here and thought I knew it like the back of my hand – it felt like my city.

I moved back home when the first lockdown was announced – now, that was a culture shock. Via social media, I watched other people doing home workouts, partaking in fun challenges and baking banana bread while I just… sat. Jobless, hopeless and lonely.

Through lockdowns 2 and 3, I stayed in Sheffield, which was better, but I had changed: I had become anxious and awkward. When the world went back to normal, the last thing I wanted to do was to socialise. If I heard my flatmates, my friends, clattering pots in the kitchen I would skip meals to limit human contact; my social battery was always on five per cent, and God forbid anyone muttered the words ‘night out’.

“Sheffield quickly became my new home – a familiar safe space.”

Instead of dancing to CODE’s repetitive pop playlist, it would keep me up, blasting through my window, as I tossed and turned in bed. I would negotiate drinks at Water Works (which would inevitably lead to a night on West Street) down to a trip to Tamper, with a cut-off time of 3pm.

For me, now, the pandemic feels like a distant memory, and after its solid attempt to tarnish my relationship with Sheffield, I find myself in an endeavour to salvage it – and every day this genial city offers me shimmers of hope in exchange.

I notice that nothing feels as summery as a lukewarm day in Sheffield. Give them a dry day and a spot of sunshine and the beer gardens will buzz with friendly chatter and booming laughter; Endcliffe park will bustle with day-drinkers, barbecuers and amateur footballers; eateries will vacate outdoors, pedestrianising the roads with extravagant signage and excessive seating.

While I blamed Covid for preventing me from experiencing Sheffield fully, it eventually became a sign to venture out of my city centre bubble. I have lost half of my uni experience to not only lockdowns, but to repetitive nights at shitty clubs, which left me with blurry flashbacks, excruciating hangxiety and a very limited view of a city that I call home.

For me, now, the pandemic feels like a distant memory, and after its solid attempt to tarnish my relationship with Sheffield, I find myself in an endeavour to salvage it – and every day this genial city offers me shimmers of hope in exchange.

Only during the pandemic did I step into a Sheffield park for the first time, or wander through the contemporary, cobblestoned streets of Kelham Island (which ended in the quintessential Riverside roast). After clubs remained closed, I headed into Sheffield bars instead, where I uncovered my competitive side by finishing last in pub quizzes, and I was reminded how easy it is to make friends while complimenting outfits in the girls’ toilets.

As my time in this benevolent city draws to an untimely end, after three years which seem like forever, my Sheffield experience feels incomplete. It is my mission to relish and make the most of my final few months – for now, but not forever.




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