Pulp's Guide To Sheffield
Words: Gina Morris, Photographer: Louise Rhodes
Taken from the New Musical Express, 3 April 1993

Welcome to Sheffield, home of Sound City '93. Your guides through the historical sights, prime drinking places and doss-spots of steel city are local pop gurus Pulp.

Situated in the 'alternative' area of the city (Division Street), amid the second hand clothes shops and 'in' cafes, is Warp Records, the shop, the label, the empire. Warp is the most important British dance label outside London, responsible for club/chart hits like LFO's 'We Are Back', Tricky Disco's 'Tricky Disco' and Nightmares On Wax's 'Aftermath'. Started back in July '89 by Steve Beckett and Rob Mitchell, Warp has expanded to massive worldwide recognition. Recently they set up an offshoot indie label, Gift, and signed local god-like legends Pulp and hopefuls Newspeak and Various Vegetables.

"This is the safe area of town," says our guide and Pulp lead singer, Jarvis. "You get a lot of grief if you're alternative round certain parts of Sheffield. It's like Pac Man, you have to dodge your way through the centre of town to get to Division Street. Anyhow, this is the shop that started the record labels Warp and Gift, the Warp Empire began right here. Arrgh! There's a large display of our new single in the window."

Renowned in certain circles for their appalling dress sense, Pulp take us to the very heart of lurid-thread city. Freak Boutique, also on Division Street, is just one of a number of shops specialising in gruesome '70s wear.

Jarvis: "We shop here occasionally. The last thing I bought was a pink and purple patterned shirt. Sheffield's pretty good for second-hand clothes. The jumble sales are best because they're the purest form - you don't know what you'll get, the clothes haven't been sifted."

City Hall, aside from housing the council is also a famous heavy metal venue, boasting a sprung Saturday Night Fever-type floored ballroom.

"This is perhaps the only building that has decent architecture in the whole of Sheffield," observes drummer Nick. "The inside is marvellous. They have an indie disco in the ballroom every Saturday night,"

Jarvis: "Sheffield City Council used to be really radical. I remember when the buses were only 10p to go anywhere. That's why buses are mentioned quite a lot in our songs. Anyway, it all stopped in the mid-'80s. There are about six different bus companies now, like Eager Beaver, Yorkshire Terrier... it's, ridiculous - if the driver sees the stop they're supposed to be going to hasn't got any people at it, they change the number and go to one that has. People came from Japan to see our bus service - it was the envy of the Western World."

To your average outsider, Fargate is just another street-in-the-centre-of-town. To the street-wise local, however, it has a cultural heritage.

Jarvis: "Fargate is a pedestrianised area. This was the centre of Sheffield dole culture. In the summer, everyone would go dolestrolling. Sometimes it would take you a whole day to get from one end to the other because you got to know everyone. It was a nice little scene. Then they introduced YTS and it cut off the new generation. It just got older and sadder after that. It was also the place to come it you wanted to put a band together, you didn't bother putting ads in papers, you just walked up and down for 20 minutes."

At the very core of Sheffield's sports culture is the Crucible Theatre. Every year, top potters like Steve Davis and Jimmy White gather to compete for snooker's top prize.

Jarvis: "Yep, this is the famous Crucible Theatre, just off Fargate, snooker central. It used to be the favourite hangout for goths in Sheffield, when goth was the big thing. I'm not sure why, maybe it was because Ray Reardon looked a bit like Dracula."

Castle Square is a weird underground market, off Commercial Street, with an open air 'sun roof', known locally as the Hole In The Road. Once it was the meeting place for tramps and down-and-outs-but-on-the-way-ups. Now the authorities want to get rid of it.

Nick: "We've started the Hole In The Road campaign, the council want to fill it in with concrete, which will mean more people getting run over. We can't let them do it. It's all part of a conspiracy to dispense with the town centre altogether, and move everything out to Meadowhall (a huge shopping complex known locally as Meadow Hell)."

Jarvis: "See that fish tank in the wall? One of my earliest memories was my mum bringing me here to stop me from moaning when she was doing the shopping. I made a film of it too. Sometimes you get a whispering gallery effect in here, it sounds like someone's talking right in your ear. There used to be benches all the way around the walls and all the old tramps would come here, like a little community centre - and then one morning all the benches had gone, apart from four. It was really sad because they all turned up as usual and just stood there, dazed - their whole world had gone."

On the other side of the Market there's Ladies Bridge which runs over the River Don, the largest river in Sheffield. It's a beautiful part of the city despite being situated in the centre of the once prosperous, now derelict, steel industry warehouses.

Jarvis: "I went on a very good adventure down the River Don once. I had an inflatable boat and I went from here to Rotherham which is about eight miles away. It was like Apocalypse Now, there was all these factories pouring thick smoke across the water, we got attacked by gypsies and then there was a bloke stood on the river bank trying to shoot fish with an air rifle. It was probably the best thing I ever did. It's good to find an adventure in mundane surroundings. Sheffield is built on seven hills, just like Rome but I think that's where the similarities end."

Nick: "The Wicker is just a street, but it's a very special street. It's difficult to say why, but The Wicker arch was the gateway to all the old steel works. Sheffield's oldest brewery is just there, it always smells of hops round here."

Jarvis: "I used to live round here, in the same warehouse that FON Studios and our rehearsal rooms used to be... and the only porno cinema in Sheffield, Studio 567. I bet you didn't know Bob Marley spent a lot of time in Sheffield, did you? Well he didn't, but there's The Bob Marley Recording Studios anyway. I did once see Sly and Robbie on this road though, that was very bizarre."

FON Studios is Sheffield's most prolific recording house. In 1985 it was the first local commercial 24-track studio and over the fast few years has attracted such luminaries like Ian McCulloch, David Bowie, Yazz, Erasure, James, Altern8 and, erm, Rolf Harris. FON is the centre of Sheffield's music culture.

Nick: "Did you know FON actually stands for F*** Off Nazis?"

Jarvis: 'We recorded the LP 'Separations' here, and 'Countdown', 'O.U.' and 'My Legendary Girlfriend'. They're very nice to us. I can't imagine people coming to Sheffield to record because of its exotic location but FON is the best. It's where all the big names come but it's more a studio for techno acts, you couldn't get a grand piano in here, sorry Elton."

Nick: "You get some interesting bands here though, like The Fall..."

The Leadmill has appeared in the Top Ten venues in the NME Readers Poll every year since it opened in 1980 - not bad for a place that used to flood every time you flushed. Now it has the best venue toilets in Britain (fact) and been described by the House of Commons as a prime example of good business practice. Bands that have graced its boards include New Order, Simply Red, The Pogues and EMF.

Jarvis: "The Leadmill's a pretty important venue, I used to come here a lot before I moved to London. The main bus garage is just opposite and, when it first opened, they had a policy of letting bus drivers in for free. So a friend of mine got hold of a bus driver's uniform and got let in for nothing. It was a good little scam but the trouble was, he'd walk in and all the other drivers would be at the end of the bar saying, 'What route does he do then?'"

Of all the pubs in Sheffield The Washington Public House, just down the road from the Grosvenor Hotel, stands out as a reminder of when public houses were quiet family affairs decorated with the landlady's china.

"This is the only pub left where you don't get grief for looking slightly outlandish," remarks guitarist/violinist Russell. "They don't allow riff raff in here. The bar people are very friendly. If you went into town, you'd notice all the pubs have loud jukeboxes, you can't hear yourself talk. This is a little oasis of sanity."

Jarvis: "It also has a large quantity of tea pots, one of the finest collections in the land. It's a theme but it's for real. It's a '4 real' pub."

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