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City Views: Matic Mouth – “Sometimes I feel like we don’t get the respect we deserve”

I was born at number 78 of Springvale Walk, Upperthorpe, Sheffield. Yes, right there* in the smallest bedroom of the house. Now I know I’m not the first person ever to be born in the bedroom of a house, of course; but, with this being my point of entry to the world, it always seemed to give me a true and deep sense of belonging.

I’m of dual/triple heritage – Jamaican, Cuban and English – but the little fact above not only made me feel like I was from my area of this city, it TOLD me I was from it; I literally was born on those streets. You couldn’t tell me otherwise, especially as I got older and into my teens and the story of my birth was relayed back to me. I actually came from the bricks of the place; the concrete, the steel, the glass and, dare I say, from its community too. Community: another keyword that relates closely to Sheffield, but we’ll come back to that in a bit.

*Where it all began: “I know I’m not the first person ever to be born in the bedroom of a house, of course; but, with this being my point of entry to the world, it always seemed to give me a true and deep sense of belonging.”

I’ve always loved walking through the built-up areas of Sheffield. I’m often asked if I want to go for a walk and I mostly say no – not because I don’t want to go, but because I know they mean the Peak District or some other part of the countryside that beautifully ensconces us. That’s not to say I have anything against these marvellous spaces and places. Growing up, my mother made sure that me and my sister could escape the city and be in the calming nature of the countryside. It’s just that I really like the urban environment a lot; I love the concrete jungle. But still, how lucky are we to have all this greenery surrounding us?

I think we all know how lucky we are, but I still – and probably always will – prefer walking through the city. That applies to any city, as a matter of fact, but certainly the one that birthed me. I always thought it was one of the reasons I left learning to drive so late in life: I was content. Most places were easily reachable on foot, even with all these wonderful hills – another great quality. You see, the hills tell us “There is something beyond,” something that exists elsewhere and, if we want to, we can go there. They tell us there is something to climb and that we can get higher. The hills spark intrigue and curiosity and always draw out a great sense of adventure when you gaze upon them.

Sheffield is an adventure. I’m reminded of hot summer days when my mother would borrow my Uncle’s big Volkswagen van and simply say to me, “Marcus, get your friends.” I learnt what this meant very quickly. This meant fun; it meant laughter; it meant imagination and play; it meant a game of rounders; it meant being beaten in a race by my mom… again. It meant being with my friends all day, under the supervision of my wonderfully young-at-heart mom. She was trusted by all the other parents on the estate, over and over again, as they knew that their child would be safe and cared for. And that brings me back to community. This was the community I grew up in – a tight-knit, caring community. One where everybody knew each other, well enough to know your kids were safe in the hands of others. A place where everyone looked out for each other, and the kids were outside in groups playing games like Delavio, Kick the Can, Bulldog. Even a simple water fight could bring pure joy to a large number of people at any one time.

I’m reminded of hot summer days when my mother would borrow my Uncle’s big Volkswagen van and simply say to me, “Marcus, get your friends.” I learnt what this meant very quickly. This meant fun; it meant laughter; it meant imagination and play; it meant a game of rounders; it meant being beaten in a race by my mom… again.

Bonfire Night was a big community event; the bonfire itself was huge because EVERYONE was contributing to it. You’d see it growing over the course of a couple of weeks – a vast pyramid of wood anticipating the blaze to come and the community that would gather around the dancing flames on a cold night in November. On the night, doors to houses on the estate would be opened and children would come out with different offerings from their household, sharing the spoils among the small crowd that would gather. There was also never a need for barriers, never any injury or loss of life. We kept each other safe. We were each other’s protection.

Image: @iamgoldteeth

Sometimes I feel like we don’t get the respect we deserve; we always seem to get overlooked for things. Of course, we are often a great contender, but we never seem to pip others at the finish line. I feel like these things are always judged by someone on the outside because I guarantee this: if it were judged by someone who knows the bricks and concrete of Sheffield, they would know how much life this place has to give.

Marcus Smith is a Sheffield-based artist and rapper who makes music under the name Matic Mouth. Over the years he has performed with the likes of hip-hop collective Clubs & Spades and most recently released a solo album ‘Here Comes the Pain’, available on all streaming sites.




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