City Views: “Love brought me to Sheffield. And love keeps me here.”

After growing up in a small Devon town, I spent ten years as a Covent Garden Street Performer. A joyous, but ultimately unhealthy, and unsustainable lifestyle. I was stuck not wanting a return to my roots, but also feeling the strange need to escape from much more than my strait jacket. With age, my ego was starting to diminish, and therefore so were my audiences.

I ran away to Australia, and there I fell in love/lust/infatuation with someone from Sheffield, a place I knew nothing about, that conjured only images of middle-aged men keeping their hats on. Sheffield seemed the perfect place. Because she lived there. And she was all that mattered.

My first few hours here were spent in the Lescar, where I waited for my future wife to finish work in Café Rouge. There was a comedy club in the back room called the Last Laugh, the open spot didn’t turn up. I went on, pissed, with no material. I still can’t tell you what I said. I have no recollection. But it went well. The audience was lovely. It felt like a friendly small-town audience who had been bussed into a big city. I didn’t know it at the time, but this was how Sheffield would always feel. A perfect mix of the familiarity of a Devon town with the optional anonymity of a capital city. I could engage or I could hide. This was exactly what I needed. Unfortunately, I focused too much on the latter. And after kids, marriage and divorce, I felt stuck in a place that didn’t feel like home.

This is when this city slowly revealed itself to me. It’s people soothed and comforted me, and it’s surrounding beauty healed me. Slowly. Audiences and ‘contacts’ became friends and breadcake started sounding better than bread roll. There was so much more to this city than I had realised. I started to dread the London gigs, then the anywhere but here gigs. For the first time I didn’t need to go anywhere else. Age had a bit to do with that, place a lot more.

Nearly twenty years in, the Sheffield that’s outside of my house now feels like home. I’ve finally found somewhere I don’t want to leave, and for that I’ll be eternally grateful.

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