Once branded by George Orwell as “the ugliest town in the Old World”, Sheffield’s past and its cultural present are founded on one thing: the steel industry. During the 19th century, Sheffield witnessed explosive growth, the city we see today shaped by its industrial prosperity of old. So its leafy suburbs, for example, were purposely built uphill so that domestic residences would sit above the smog-blanketed centre of foundries and furnaces.
The cutlery works of Sheffield’s past have found a new purpose in driving forward the city’s creative life; many now house galleries, independent shops and artist studios. The museums dotted throughout the city trace the city’s unique industrial heritage and social history. Head to Kelham Island Museum to find out how heavy industry has influenced this incredible city and Weston Park Museum for an insight into the community and politics of the area. Close to the train station, and next door to Sheffield’s much-loved independent cinema Showroom, you’ll find Site Gallery, a superb contemporary art space specialising in moving image, new media and performance.
Additionally, there’s a hugely diverse offering of theatre and performance in Sheffield. Alongside the award-winning Crucible and Lyceum, stand the avant-garde Theatre Deli and independent arts hub DINA. As dramatic as the seven hills it’s built on, the city offers touring productions, dance and opera as well as experimental performance and scratch nights.
With 200 plus parks, woodlands and public gardens Sheffield proudly remains one of the greenest cities in the country. Beautiful and lush, in some incongruous way, due to its industrial heritage: open spaces like the Botanical Gardens were designed to offer Victorian residents a much-needed breath of fresh air.
While other cities bustle between high rises and shopping precincts, Sheffield is a place to pause and look around, whether inwards from its hillsides, over spires, chimneys and curling valleys, or outwards from the city centre, to the breeze and birdsong of the moorland that continues to inspire so many artists, designers and makers.