21 May 2009

Sheffield Int' 80's

[The BBC wanted experiences of Sheffield from the 1980's, so despite being between the age of 0-8 I thought I would have a go]

Having been born in 1982, I'm a little limited in my contribution, but there's a few things that stick in my mind.

One was how few cars/traffic there was. Sheffield City Council (and South Yorkshire County Council as was) ensured that bus fares were really cheap. I remember my Mum taking my brother and I to 'town' and her asking for a "10 and two 2's" reflecting the price at the time. I think once transport was gradually scaled back, more residents bought vehicles and were unwilling to return to the public sphere.

There were also 'features' that I associate with that period, such as the fountain at the top of Fargate, and the dark and mysterious shops that inhabited the rather intimidating 'hole in the road'. Most of the underground pedestrian walkways were filled in during the 1990s.

My Dad was unemployed for around 2 years in the 1980s because his employer, the Sheffield Smelting Company (later taken over and then closed) was so closely connected with the steel industry. Thankfully, my Mum worked part-time as a teacher supporting those with disabilities, so there was one income for our young family. My Dad would take me to nursery on the back of his bicycle.

Whilst I was at school, there were still remnants of the 'municipal socialism' that Sheffield was known for. The Education Authority had its own printing works that made our exercise books. During the 1980's we had people like David Blunkett at the helm of the council, before he became an authoritarian right-wing bruiser of a politician.

Rather than emphasising the great differences that Sheffield has compared to other cities, Sheffield's overseers became known (and are still known to a greater extent) for the white elephant schemes, such as the World Student Games, and certain 'regeneration' ideas such as Meadowhall. Meadowhall effectively killed off regeneration in the city centre for a decade.

For all its faults, I love Sheffield and have never left. I went to nursery, school and university in the city, and now work in a vaguely promotional role, where this affords me the opportunity to enthuse to outsiders about what makes Sheffield a great place to live, study and work.

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