Eric and I both studied in Sheffield back in the 80s. But at opposite ends of the city, our memories are somewhat different. I remember landing in a multicultural sprawl at the height of the miners strike, and decline of the steel industry. Eric was cloistered in one of the countries finest red brick universities on the edge of the Peak District.
We both have a lot of fond memories and we were keen to explore, although I couldn’t quite bring myself to get on the bus that used to cost me 6p a journey and venture back up Spittal Hill, under the Wicker Arches to Fir Vale because I knew that old Victorian workhouse cum hospital had grown even larger and and entered the 21 century. I loved nursing on a nightingale ward where the recuperating patients took the tea trolley around in the early morning whilst I as a second year nurse took responsibility for the whole ward overnight.
The Maplin building that nurtured Eric’s engineering skills was undergoing refurbishment and shrouded in scaffolding which was a disappointment. And the tower block accommodation had been demolished years ago to be replaced by more modern student digs. In fact Sheffield has become the place to be now for students. The old poly has become the Hallam university, and the whole city was awash with developement for the student population. Some buildings were striking in their contemporary design, but we did wonder how the mish mash of old and modern would weather the years and if all that glass and steel cladding would need replacing long before the red brick.
Sheffield centre has a vibrant open feel, There’s plenty of space to sit and people watch, the children are actively encouraged to play in the dancing fountain of the Peace Garden. There’s green planting all over the city and the Winter garden is a haven for those needing somewhere sheltered to eat their lunch.
Sadly we couldn’t avoid seeing the less fortunate than ourselves, the area around Victoria Quays is still being redeveloped and although the basin itself felt safe, we knew we weren’t far from the homeless, jobless and the addicts. And I wonder if the redevelopements do anything to help this segment of society, or does it just reduce the amount of dark corners that they can take some shelter in.