Soul of Sheffield 1: After the dam, the monster

Since the previous post (which was probably more personally cathartic than anything else) we’ve been shown round some of the empty shops in the city centre. It was like going behind the scenes at the theatre. One of the spaces was a cavernous empty department store with shadowy escalators reaching up into the heights and down to the depths, an intriguing (and creepy) space, but a little unwieldy for our needs. One or two of the other shops look much more promising so it seems that we will be able to press ahead soon.

Whilst there’s an excitement at the dam bursting along with that comes trepidation. If we had a firm ‘no’ then all our dreams and ideas would have been able to stay pristine if unrequited. Now we have the dirty business of trying to make a dream work in the real world. Talking with other artists who are involved in this project I get the sense of a seething mass of creative energy, untamed and wild, that somehow needs to be corralled into something concrete and real without losing its life and vitality. As the dam bursts so the monster emerges.

It’s hard to know where to start, but so often I think the best way is to get a pencil and some paper and start to make marks. So often senseless and directionless at first but creating in faith that something beautiful will coalesce out of the maelstrom.

And so I bought a map and traced the streets, rivers and railways of the city:


It’s a start; it’s no work of art. But in tracing those twists and curves, in seeing where the rivers flow and how they relate to the human interventions in the landscape, I get a sense of how the city has grown as a living organism fit for its environment, shaped by the geography of the place. 

This image reminds me of a living cell, a neuron in a network, complete of itself: it can be named but the boundaries are arbitrary. It is linked to other cells via rail and road and river and in so many ways dependent on them. As I trace the lines of the map I am reminded more than ever that the story of the people is the story of the place and as we search those stories for meaning and beauty that’s where we will find the soul of the city.

2 thoughts on “Soul of Sheffield 1: After the dam, the monster

  1. It reminds me of the recent photo of my eye taken at the opticians …. perhaps as they say "the eye is the window of the soul", this may be a window to the soul of the city.

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