City Views: Ellen Beardmore -“It felt like living in technicolour for the first time.”
Once, there was a girl.
She lived on a council estate some 30 miles from Sheffield, which was fine. It was fine in a grey, nondescript, Groundhog Day way, nothing more or less, and she daydreamed about leaving most of the time. She also thought of writing. Writing wasn’t something people did there. And most people laughed out loud at the idea.
That girl was me.
I moved to Sheffield aged 18 – theoretically for a one-year journalism course at the now-defunct Norton College. It was a move fuelled solely by my inexorable desire to ‘get away’ before it was too late. It was a move funded by the results of three summer jobs, plus money scraped together by my mum.
I didn’t know a single soul, had only visited Sheffield once, and wasn’t precisely sure how I would pay for it. But arriving in Sheffield – a moment I may have slightly romanticised into a mental love letter over the years – felt right.
It felt like living in technicolour for the first time. Everything was exciting, from having my own bedroom to visiting The Leadmill and Gatecrasher nightclubs.
There were restaurants. More than one pub. Creative success stories were sitting in every bar, from writers to artists, musicians, actors, and designers , and it wasn’t even a big deal.
Idyllic green spaces and parks were abundant. Then there was a sauce called Henderson’s Relish that everyone kept banging on about.
The journalism course ended, and I didn’t go home. In fact, I never did.
Sheffield exerted an irresistible pull. Emboldened by a new circle of friends, I fully immersed myself there.
For a few years, the necessity of paying the rent meant commuting from S1 to other parts of the north where the job of a trainee news reporter was going.
Eventually, I landed my dream job of working for Sheffield Newspapers, to cover the city.
Being a journalist gives you many different perspectives, plus the privilege of behind-the-scenes access. Thanks to this, I know, as any born-and-bred resident does, the city isn’t perfect. We aren’t great at shouting about the incredible things happening here – or we haven’t been. That seems to be improving recently.
There’s a vast disparity around equality: in all areas, racial equality, economic equality, and life expectancies.
As a long-suffering passenger and author of many articles about bus cuts, don’t even get me started on the standard of public transport. There’s crime and litter here too.
However, despite these points, Sheffield’s shine was never dimmed for me; it’s only grown brighter over the years.
Not long after landing that dream job, I was diagnosed, out of the blue, with a life-threatening brain tumour.
It was discovered in an eye test (thanks again, Boots on Fargate). Just days later, a brain surgeon removed the orange-sized tumour in a 13-hour operation at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital.
The good fortune of living so close to a neurological centre of excellence wasn’t lost on me. If I hadn’t moved to Sheffield, who knows what would have happened?
Over the years I have become more interested in the number of people with similar stories of moving here. So many people come to Sheffield – for university, work or love – and stay.
Some for a few years, others for a lifetime. Next year I will have lived here longer than anywhere else. I hope then I will be classed as a true Sheffielder.
I’ve tried hard to pinpoint what the real draw of Sheffield is, especially now as the founder of my own Sheffield copywriting business which aims to champion the city.
Sure, there’s the Peak District next door, the blunt friendliness of the population.
But I think a huge factor is that Sheffield hides many of its qualities just underneath the surface. You need to invest some time here before you discover the fantastic stuff.
That might be the finest bagels served from a tiny shopfront, the nature reserve with stunning waterfalls, or the community projects which make a difference to people’s lives on a shoestring budget.
The food scene is one of the best in the country, while the innovative theatre made here will knock your socks off.
I walked home from a trip to Crookes last week, having spent the afternoon alone but still in good company visiting a few independent businesses. Just past The Old Grindstone pub, a corner view opens up where you can glimpse the city in the distance. It made me smile with recognition, joy and belonging right there in the street. That feeling is the closest I can get to explaining why I love Sheffield so much.
Sheffield is endlessly compared with Leeds and Manchester. I find the soul-lifting, proudly indie, vibrant character far superior. It also can’t be replicated with bigger shops.
These days, I also see the city through fresh eyes thanks to having a three-year-old daughter. I’m so proud she has Sheffield listed on her birth certificate. I adore showing her all it has to offer.
If one day she too has the urge to leave, I can only hope she finds somewhere that feels as completely like home as Sheffield has always felt to me.
Ellen Beardmore is a former editor and the founder of Edit Sheffield, which offers copywriting, PR, editorial and marketing services. Visit editsheffield.co.uk or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.