City Views: Adriana

From the born and bred to those who’ve arrived from another continent, we asked a number of people living in Sheffield to reflect on and write about their relationship with the city.

There’s a scene in the finale of ITV’s Broadchurch where the town bands together to exile Joe, the convicted murderer. He was found not guilty, and so the villagers have their own punishment to mete. They have booked him a one way train ticket – to Sheffield. DUN DUN DUN! Upon learning his fate, Joe breaks down into tears. Burn him, strike him, make him listen to Enya’s greatest hits on repeat for all eternity, anything but Sheffield! It was watching this scene that I felt my first affinity to the place.

I’m a Perth-born girl, who moved to Sydney for university in search of bright lights, big buildings and that bloody brilliant bridge. I managed to find myself living in Sheffield rather accidentally, and through no fault of my own. An Uber driver told me the other day that he thinks people only move to Sheffield for two reasons: university or love. I think he might be right. I met my partner, a born and bred Sheffield lad, in Sydney and after two years there, we decided it was time to give him the home advantage. We planned to move to London, Manchester or Liverpool. Somewhere exciting, somewhere bustling, somewhere with (that elusive white rabbit for millennials) ‘job prospects’. Definitely, absolutely, emphatically not Sheffield, we’d agreed. And yet, somewhere between crashing at my partner’s Mum’s whilst job searching, and a short sojourn in Manchester, we never left Sheffield.

When I tell people back home I’m living in England they immediately assume London. When I tell them I’m in Sheffield, northern England, where they talk like Ned Stark in in Game of Thrones, they’ll nod slowly only half comprehending there exists a land beyond the Thames. Some will even screw up their noses and say, “Like the Full Monty?” to which I reply, ‘Yes. Exactly. Like the Full Monty.’

You’re a city perpetually misunderstood by the rest of the country, marred by stereotypes of the North and fear of the unknown.

Sheffield, to me, feels like a city on the cusp. Its nightlife is already thriving, from student dive bars, the legendary Leadmill, and Ecclesall Road to the trendy bars that keep popping up in Kelham Island. Not to mention the budding cafe culture that promises to bloom. Where else can you have all the benefits of a major city but only be a five-minute drive from some of the most lusciously green countryside you’ll ever see? Do you guys realise that Loxley Valley looks exactly like the fields on the Yorkshire Tea box?! Do you know how otherworldly such green looks to my Australian eyes?

But, and here I fall to cliché, the thing that gives Sheffield its true heart is its people. A people not impressed by much, but a people you have no need to impress because they’ve already accepted you as you are. Here, I could tell a bloke I was the Prime Minister of Australia and he’d have the same reaction as if I’d said I were a Leo. You still go to the local pub for a chat! I am never short of people proudly telling me about the local history, about the old factories that used to line the streets or of the plumes of smoke that obscured the cityscape when you looked down from The Manor.

That scene in Broadchurch got to me, Sheffield. You’re a city perpetually misunderstood by the rest of the country, marred by stereotypes of the North and fear of the unknown. You’re the underdog. But that’s what I love about you because there’s nothing us Aussies love more than a bloody underdog. My favourite image of Sheffield is the mural of the ageing miner looking over the city from Snig Hill: a city that holds onto past sentimentalities whilst forging ahead, that isn’t afraid of hard work or change, and one that is unashamedly itself.

Words: Adriana Carlino
Illustration: Molly Jones

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