a melting pot for leftfield culture and regeneration

“There’s a lot of confidence in Sheffield these days,” says James O’Hara, one of the city’s leading cultural promoters. “It feels like we are on the cusp of a new era.”

It’s a refrain you hear a lot in Sheffield these days. Spread across five valleys at the foot of the Peak District, this former world capital of steelmaking, and birthplace of Arctic Monkeys, Pulp, Human League and Warp Records, has long been a cultural staple. But as major city center developments such as Cambridge Street Collective’s huge new food hall open their doors, a rejuvenated urban landscape is emerging. Green corridors and innovative parks meander past reclaimed brutalist buildings; flowing sculptures reflect the sinuous topography of the city and the flow of the rivers. There are parts of the city yet to be reached, but Sheffield’s vision of the post-industrial afterlife leans proudly on what makes the city distinctive.

The once maligned, now renovated residential area of ​​Park Hill stars in the Sheffield-made musical Standing at the Sky’s Edge, currently performing in London’s West End. The neglected former industrial heart of Kelham Island – which prompted George Orwell to describe Sheffield as ‘the ugliest city in the Old World’ and inspired the Arctic Monkeys’ When the Sun Goes Down – is now making lists of ‘the coolest neighborhoods in the world’.

Home to Britain’s largest documentary festival, the city has a busy events calendar and also supports a vibrant grassroots arts and music scene. While the cost of living crisis presents new challenges, the city’s resolve is still alive and well. As Richard Henderson, owner of the Dorothy Pax music venue, says: “We have faced many challenges as a community and as a city, from the miners’ strike to the loss of jobs in the steel industry. We stand together and carry on.”


Sheffield’s industrial DNA is closely linked to its history of producing great, unusual electronic music, and the city’s echoing ex-industrial spaces continue to inspire. Hope Works is a former munitions factory that now hosts banging raves and progressive electronics sets, while nomadic underground nights like Kabal – where Toddla T cut his teeth as a young DJ – host clandestine parties in old cutlery factories and other unusual places. “I went to a slaughterhouse once,” O’Hara remembers.

The No Bounds festival (October 11-13), the brainchild of Hope Works founder Liam O’Shea, curates a host of venues across the city for a festival of electronica, left-field dance and installation art; Sheffield’s answer to Sonar. If you fancy Sheffield’s rave scene but the ‘all night in a slaughterhouse’ atmosphere isn’t for you, Groundwork, a monthly house-to-midnight party on the top floor of the excellent Shakespeares pub, offers a very Sheffield feel. combination of real beer and rave.

Despite the hint of Hollywood stardust, DocFest is based on a collaborative, welcoming ethos that reflects its hometown values

The city’s passion for live music and performances is evident across its strong network of independent venues. The large Yellow Arch production and performance complex on Kelham Island plays host to an eclectic range of performances, from hardcore to hip hop. The Dorothy Pax, nestled next to Victoria Quays, hosts a similar genre-hopping offering of free performances with an emphasis on local talent. DIY record label Delicious Clam has a base in Castlegate, but also organizes crazy parties at locations across the city, such as psychedelic cabaret night Clams in Their Eyes.

Tramlines (July 26-28) was founded in 2009 by O’Hara and his colleagues as a free, alternative-oriented festival across a range of city center locations. It has since grown into a major £140-per-ticket event at Hillsborough Park, but the ‘original’ spirit persists at the Fringe at Tramlines, a constellation of free performances in Devonshire Green and a host of smaller venues around the city . Sheffield lacks an LGBTQ+ area like Canal Street in Manchester or Lower Briggate in Leeds, but gay-led collective Gut Level, based in a community space on Chapel Walk, organizes a wide range of events from club nights to board game nights.


Sheffield DocFest (June 12-17), based at the Showroom Cinema, is Britain’s largest documentary festival. This year’s line-up includes a total of 109 films, including Tilda Swinton’s directorial debut, as well as talks from the likes of Idris Elba and Michael Sheen, parties and art installations. The public program covers an enormous geographical and thematic spectrum: “We are a home for documentary in all its forms,” says festival director Annabel Grundy. “For us it just has to be a compelling story.”

Despite the amount of Hollywood stardust, DocFest remains rooted in a collaborative, welcoming ethos that reflects hometown values: “We can have A-listers on the dance floor at one of our parties with aspiring filmmakers,” says Grundy. The Open Up Sheffield festival, usually held in May, has a similarly democratic spirit, with artists from across the city inviting audiences into their studios and homes. Sheffield became Britain’s first City of Sanctuary in 2005, and the Migration Matters festival (14-22 June) explores cultural identity and forced displacement.

The Crucible, the Playhouse and the Lyceum together form the largest theater complex in Britain outside London. Standing at the Sky’s Edge was originally a Crucible creation, and although it is on a Southern retreat, upcoming original productions include adaptations of Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House and Jonathan Dove’s community opera The Monster in the Maze..


Cambridge Street Collective, the flagship project of the current £470 million regeneration of the city centre, brings together traders from Sheffield’s diverse patchwork of communities in a vibrant culinary melting pot. I tried a vegetarian dish from Ethiopian and Eritrean merchant House of Habesha (spicy stews served on a spongy, slightly sour injera flatbread, made with teff flour that owner Samson Yitbarek imports from Ethiopia). Not far away is the decade-old Moorish Market, a plethora of global produce, with its own great little food court during the day.

Sheffield’s foodie scene has undergone a transformation over the past decade, much of it coming from Kelham Island and Neepsend, where hipness and history collide in interesting ways. The excellent Kelham Island food tour, run by Sheffield’s Sophie Barber, gives an insight into the area’s industrial heritage as you sample some of the best offerings, including the excellent Japanese restaurant Roku and artisan chocolate makers Bullion in the Cutlery Works dining room.

Sardinian restaurant Domo is not on the tour, but is worth a visit: Barber praises it for its pecorino-filled, honey-drizzled pastries and “beautiful decor.” Not far away, the Michelin-named Jöro – housed in the Krynkl shipping container development, although it will move to Oughtibridge in the autumn – serves loosely Asian and Scandinavian-inspired fusion dishes in a very stylish yet homely environment.

In the city center, Neapolitan – and SSC Napoli-obsessed – Caffè Tucci serves thick paninis made with imported ingredients such as nduja, burrata and mortadella; a great lunch spot. Still with the southern Italian theme, Grazie is a good choice for an evening meal. In the leafy suburb of Nether Edge, the combination wine bistro/bar/bakery/bottle shop Bench is creating a lot of foodie buzz.


Sheffield is ashamed of big breweries and good old pubs. As Barber explains: “Beer was the fuel of industry, and many pubs and breweries from the steelmaking era have been preserved.

The Kelham Beer Tour brings together several of these excellent old-fashioned pubs, such as the Camra-acclaimed Kelham Island Tavern, The Fat Cat, Shakespeares and the restored Victorian pub The Millowners Arms, but also includes craft beer places such as Heist Brewery and taproom. There are many excellent pubs in the rest of the city. The great Irish pub Fagan’s is one of the city’s landmarks and the Rutland Arms at the Showroom is another personal favourite: an old-fashioned pub for proud pinkos, punks and creative types that also serves excellent food.

Back on Kelham Island, the intriguing ‘drip infusion’ cocktail bar Factory Floor is worth a visit (I recommend Drip 4, where Skyy vodka is dripped through lychee and red-veined sorrel leaves and garnished with hibiscus flowers). In the city center, Public is housed in a public toilet for old gentlemen under the town hall and its epic menu offers innovative, eyebrow-raising combinations with the likes of toasted cornflakes (it really works). In the revamped Park Hill apartment complex – a short and pleasantly green walk uphill from the train station with beautiful views over the city – the brutalist-pastel-minimalist Pearl is a great place to have a drink on a sunny day and feel cool, while the nearby South Street Kitchen serves specialty coffee and Lebanese-inspired dishes.


Houseboat Hotels is one of the most characterful options in the city centre, offering well-equipped and fully heated apartment-style accommodation on permanently moored, static houseboats in Victoria Quays. Each boat is individually designed and has its own outdoor seating area and can accommodate up to four people. From £130 per night for two (£190 for four).

House of Jöro near Kelham Island offers four cozy boutique rooms, cut from a cloth as stylish as its restaurant. B&B is available from £100 per night, but packages include express or special tasting menus in the restaurant, along with gourmet breakfasts from £250.

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