Richard Bradley's Sheffield

Sheffield

 

Whilst the rest of the country were busy learning three chords on guitars during the punk explosion of the late 70s, in Sheffield, The Human League, Clock DVA, Cabaret Voltaire, Vice Versa and others were coaxing various bleeps, bloops and burbles out of the emergent synthesizer technology. The release of the CD compilation 'Northern Electronic' in 2003 grouped together a second wave of South Yorks synth-twiddlers such as the Fat Truckers, I Monster and Kings Have Long Arms, all dolloping a healthy dose of humour into their music. Sheffield also has a proud insurrectionist/left-wing tradition stretching from the Chartists to David Blunkett's 'Socialist Republic Of South Yorkshire'. In his book 'Sheffield Troublemakers' local historian David Price makes the point that whereas the populous of cities of comparable size (eg Liverpool or Manchester) went out to work as subordinates under masters in factories during the Industrial Revolution, in Sheffield the main trade of metal-and cutlery-working was a self-governed role with 'Little Mesters' working under their own volition; a factor that Price sees as shaping the city's independent spirit.  Although the majority of the cutlery forges are now gone, the city's art and music scenes still retain a healthy DIY vibe.

- Richard Bradley

 

Psalter Lane Art College

Location: Psalter Lane, Brincliffe

Psalter Lane Art College in its heyday

This site is, alas, now a shell of its former self, but must still be included here owing to its cultural and historical significance. Former site of the Sheffield School of Art and Design (later Sheffield Polytechnic and after that Sheffield Hallam University), it was in the Wham! Bar on this site (in later life a computer room) that the Human League played their first ever live show in their radical analogue synths 'n' slideshows incarnation (some wag made a blue plaque to put on the wall outside the room commemorating this, which annoyed me as I had had the same idea but never got round to putting it into practice). It was here also, in these hallowed corridors, that a young Nick Park of Aardman Animation fame toyed with plasticine as part of his Fine Arts degree. Unfortunately the University is seemingly not quite as bothered about celebrating its own heritage and the campus was closed down and most of it demolished in the last few years. I can't really say too much more on the matter as they are my current employers, don't want to get sacked…

 

Park Hill

Location: Park Hill

Brutalism and dandelions

Park Hill under renovation by Urban Splash

Park Hill flats seem to totally polarise opinion; people either love them or hate them. Your correspondent is a fan. As Europe's largest listed building, sprawling out on the hill behind the train station, you certainly can’t miss them. Inspired by Le Corbusier's experiments on the continent, when unveiled in the late 1950s the flats were an exercise in Utopian thinking, with "streets in the sky" replacing former Victorian slums. In a forward-thinking move more in tune with today's environmentally aware times, rubbish collected from the flats' waste disposal units was burnt in a furnace to create heating for the residents.

During the 1980s (an awful decade in general which was particularly unkind to Sheffield), decline set in, the concrete began to crumble, onsite shops shut, the community spirit was sucked out. Park Hill's sisters were either demolished (Kelvin Flats at Upperthorpe) or garishly reclad in metal (Hyde Park Flats). Park Hill was spared and, the flats are currently being renovated by architecture company Urban Splash, due for completion in 2012.

 

Sensoria

Location: Various venues across town; takes place in April

Sensoria promotional material

Fantastic annual festival that has emerged in the last couple of years. If you were to draw a Venn diagram with "music" in one circle and "film" in the other then Sensoria celebrates the area where the two overlap. An imaginative programming ethos has to date seen screenings of documentaries about Jean-Jacques Perrey, Delia Derbyshire and Raymond Scott. The festival is concentrated around Sheffield's arthouse cinema, The Showroom, but the organisers are very keen on using unusual locations to stage events; as well as the film showings the festival encompasses live soundtracking events, exhibitions and concerts that take place across the city, as well as the Pro-Industry Day, a series of workshops and panel discussions.

2010.sensoria.org.uk

 

Birkendale Conservation Area

Location: Birkendale / Birkendale View / Upperthorpe / Birkendale Road, Walkley

Gateposts, Birkendale

217 Upperthorpe, the former 'Hula-Kula'

With Sheffield leading the way in perfecting new manufacturing methods during the Industrial Revolution, the city expanded considerably from the mid-1800s onwards and all the top-hatted wealthy industrialists needed somewhere to live. They mainly chose to settle on the hills in the West of the city, away from all the beastly smoke, grime and noise that was being churned out by their own factories. Constructed during this period of expansion, Birkendale is a 'garden suburb' built by a Freehold Land Society. Now a protected Conservation area, the Birkendale district encompasses a grid of four roads with huge villas set in gardens set far back from the road. Birkendale View in particular seems more country lane than city street. Students of experimental / electronic music may wish to pay particular attention to 217 Upperthorpe (now the 'Toy Box' nursery), for it was here during the late 1970s that members of the band 'Hula' holed up with Stephen Mallinder from Cabaret Voltaire and Paul Widger (Clock DVA), dubbing their home the 'Hula-Kula' after a Roxy Music B-Side. I caught up with former Hula member Mark Allbrow to ask him about his memories of the place…

RB So Mark, I imagine living together as a band, it must have been just like 'The Monkees'?

MA More like 'Monkey' than the Monkees, or 'The Young Ones', or a cross between 'Withnail and I' and Fellini’s 'Satyricon'. It was a large mid-19th century detached house, large enough for servants - the bell pushes were still there in the late seventies as was the board in the kitchen to indicate which room was demanding attention. It was a house of faded grandeur that had had the minimum done to it to make it rentable after the owners moved next door around 1963. The minimum included excluding heating. The back garden had a wrecked greenhouse in it - it had been smashed in the gales of '62 and never mended. Hula’s first promotional video was shot in the back garden one evening by Pete Care on a budget of about eighty-two pounds and forty-three pence. This covered all the costs including the half a pigs head, a pint or two-of maggots, a make-up girl, 16mm film and the telecine transfer to videotape.

Pete now lives in Los Angeles and directs feature films. House guests at this time included Rough Trade boss Geoff Travis and punk chronicler John Savage.

 

Langtons

Location: 443 London Road, Heeley

Some of Howard Carter's haul ends up at Langtons

The Surrealists used to love visiting flea markets because of the strange juxtapositions of objects that you might find at them, and the subconscious associations consequently triggered off by the brain. They would have had a field day at Langtons, a mixture of genuine antiques and house clearance junk housed in a former shoe warehouse. Here you will find Egyptian sarcophagi nestling up to signed photos of 80s TV personality Anneka Rice. Langtons is like some kind of mad museum, with the added bonuses of being able to pick up and purchase the 'exhibits', and an ever-changing display.

www.langtons-antiques.co.uk

 

Oxfam Bromhill

Location: 281 Fulwood Road, Broomhill

Oxfam Broomhill

Truly the Harrods of the charity shop world, Oxfam Broomhill benefits from being located in a well-to-do area, meaning high-quality cast offs. Expect to find anything from Russian samovar sets to Victorian 'compactariums' (gentleman's wardrobe) to portable 1960s washing machines. Rare is the day that you visit this shop and they don't have at least one upright piano for sale; I once saw a full-size harmonium on sale for £90 here but sadly was living in a tiny flat above a shop at the time so had nowhere to house it. They also are one of that rare breed, a charity shop that accepts and sells electrical items.

 

Rude Shipyard

Location: 89 Abbeydale Road

Good tea selection at The Rude Shipyard

A small corner of Greenwich Village on the Abbeydale Road, the folks behind the Rude Shipyard have put into practice the dream venture of seemingly everyone who has ever smoked a joint, that of running a café-cum-second hand bookshop-cum-live music venue. Service can be a little erratic at times, but hang in there - what the Shipyard lack in brisk efficiency they more than make up for in charm. The perfect place to stop off for some tea and cake whilst flicking through their fine collection of periodicals and inspecting the artefacts you have just bought from Langtons round the corner.

www.therudeshipyard.com

 

The Grapes

Location: 80 Trippet Lane

The Grapes

Just behind West Street (which on Friday and Saturday nights resembles a living, breathing Hieronymus Bosch painting), may be found The Grapes, whose dark, tiled downstairs bar has miraculously survived the chromification that similar bars in the area have fallen fate to. However The Grapes' main selling point is that you can go there to see a live band or three pretty much 365 days a year, everything from doom metal to experimental laptop electronics to maungy singer-songwriters moaning about just how awful it is to be white and middle class - everyone musical from Sheffield and also folks from much further afield have cut their teeth on the small upstairs stage.

 

Rare and Racy

Location: 164/166 Devonshire Street

Rare and Racy

Fantastic second hand book shop; also sells music that leans towards the experimental end of the spectrum (with a good emphasis on local artists), back issues of The Wire magazine, and other suchlike sundries (I once bought a Buddha Machine off them). A lovely peaceful haven in the city centre (apart from when they are playing awful honking improv saxophone music CDs behind the counter).

http://www.rareandracy.co.uk

 

Record Collector

Location: 233-235 Fulwood Road, Broomhill

A highy recommended purchase at Record Collector

Record shops are, alas, somewhat of an anachronism these days. In the past decade Sheffield has seen several within the city boundaries fall: Polar Bear, Fopp, Jacks, Forever Changes and the sadly lamented Spin City. Record Collector remains, selling new and second hand CDs and vinyl, so the choice is yours: if you like tinny, compressed music with pixelated artwork, head on over to iTunes. If better audio quality, exchanging money for something you can hold in your hand and gatefold sleeves with paintings by Storm Thorgersen is your bag, head up the road to Broomhill.

 

Lantern Theatre

Location: 18 Kenwood Park Road, Nether Edge

The enchanted world of The Lantern Theatre

Don't put your daughter on the stage! Or, if you really must, build a private theatre in your back garden. This is what rich Sheffielder of days gone by William Webster did in the 1880s to satisfy his daughter's craving for stardom (this being the days before 'The X Factor' and 'Big Brother'). Fallen into neglect by the 1950s, the theatre was rescued by local theatre troupe the Dilys Guite Players. As well as still putting on am-dram shows there, the Lantern can be hired out from the Players for events and concerts; it is one of the most atmospheric venues I have ever played a live show at.

www.lanterntheatre.org.uk

 

Bloc Studios and Other Nearby Artspaces

Location: Eyre Lane and surrounding streets

Colouful regeneration amongst the old industrial spaces around Eyre Lane

A mere knife and fork's throw from the train station, in a grid of slightly bleak streets (concentrated around the smouldering remains of the former 'Gatecrasher' nitespot) which once throbbed to the rhythms of cutlery and steel forges, now a different type of creativity occurs. As well as the Bloc Space gallery, what with all the redundant industrial space around here, there are several small and independent-natured galleries/venues which have sprung up in this area (eg Archipelago Works, Sylvester Space, Access Space), who put on exhibitions, sound art installations, underground live performances and the like.

www.artsheffield.org
http://blocprojects.co.uk

 

Kelham Island

Location: Kelham Island

Green Lane Works, Kelham Island

A trip to Kelham Island is a trip back in time. If you exit at the 'Shalesmoor' tram stop, cross over a busy traffic roundabout and creep down a side street, your footsteps ringing off the cobbles as you go, the sense of a modern city starts to slip away. In a former tram substation you may find the Kelham Island Industrial Museum: I once spent a very enjoyable afternoon here with a digital audio recorder capturing field recordings of all the Victorian contraptions in operation (if ever you find yourself in desperate need of a recording of a Crossley Horizontal Gas Engine running then please do get in touch). Kelham Island is also home to two of the city's finest boozers - The Fat Cat and the Kelham Island Tavern (real ale aplenty at both) - and intimate gastropub restaurant The Milestone.

Kelham Island Museum
www.thefatcat.co.uk 
www.the-milestone.co.uk

Richard Bradley

Richard Bradley

Richard Bradley is a Sheffield-based electronic musician, sound artist and Super-8 filmmaker. His debut album (as The Pony Harvest) 'An Individual Note: Of Sound, Music & Electronics' (the title borrowed from a book written by Radiophonic Workshop founder Daphne Oram) was released on Ann Shenton (Add N To X)'s White Label Recordings of Windsor in 2006, with tracks also appearing on 'The Electronic Bible Chapter 2' and 'Thee Sheffield Radiophonic Workshop' compilations, and gaining BBC Radio 1 airplay. Recent sonic activities include recording a sound effects album, working on the second Pony Harvest LP and dabbling in plunderphonics with BBC Wildlife recordings. The past year has seen the rebirth of The Pony Harvest as a live entity, as a one-man show featuring theremin and EMS Synthi (think one part Brian Eno to two parts Spike Milligan) with appearances in churches in Leeds (part of Expo Festival - "poisoned lounge music" (Frieze art journal website)), Static Gallery in Liverpool (part of Liverpool Sound City) and at Sheffield's Tramlines festival (The Audio Visual Zone event hand-picked by I Monster). Richard has taken part in 3 of White Label Music's 'Sonic Weekends' where musicians from UK / France / USA / Finland / Portugal / Spain / Greece / Germany / Columbia descend on a rural retreat and record an album from scratch over a weekend.

www.myspace.com/ponyharvest
 
       

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