An Urban Love Affair
Favourite Things: Lecturer and text enthusiast Tracey Moberly quickly got the message about Sheffield's musical pedigree
Thursday October 20 2011
TRACEY Moberly is a socio-political artist, author and activist, lecturing in fine art, interactive arts, politics and activism. Her new book, Text-Me-Up!, has recently gone global. It is about every text message she has ever been sent and which she has saved since 1999, and the artwork she has created out of them. Included are Banksy, Pete Doherty (The Libertines), Howard Marks (MrNice) Bill Drummond (exKLF), John Sinclair (ex-MC5/ White Panther), Mark Thomas (political comedian), Les McKeown (Bay City Rollers), Aiden Shaw (gay porn star) and Tony Benn. The book has over 2,500 images. Tracey will be reading and signing copies of the book as part of Off The Shelf Festival at The Showroom cafe, Paternoster Row on Tuesday at 8.30pm.
My love affair with Sheffield began in 1978 when the synth-backed vocals of Human League's Phil Oakey purred out of my radio. My new haircut, emulating Phil Oakey's ultra-long fringe and stylised short back and sides, remains one of my own all-time favourite hairstyles. The track Being Boiled pumped up my soul and put my soles into action. As Martyn Ware split from the band and Heaven 17 were formed I didn't think it could get any better. Sheffield was firmly positioned for me on the world map, both culturally and politically, with records such as We Don't Need This Fascist Groove Thang.
The positive impact and influence of political music including Heaven I7's lyrics would eventually take me on my journey by invitation as a visiting lecturer to the politics department at Sheffield Hallam University.
Once ensconced in Sheffield, I was intrigued by the venues of the area from present to past: The Leadmill to Bar 2, which was in the former Psalter Lane Art College, more recently a computer suite at Sheffield Hallam University. A blue plaque marks its place in the history of popular culture and commemorates Human League's first gig on June 12, 1978. An article on my favourite Sheffield which touches on independent companies and popular culture wouldn't be complete without more than a mention of The Leadmill, one of Sheffield's longest-running independent live music venues.
The former flour mill on Leadmill Road first opened its doors in 1980 fronting bands from Cabaret Voltaire, Human League, Heaven 17, ABC to Pulp, Snow Patrol, Cold Play, Arctic Monkeys and The Strokes. Jarvis Cocker performed his own pantomime there and The House Martins were refused entry by the bouncers to their own gig as they queued with their audience in 1984.
WARP RECORDS AND FILMS
My music collection has always contained a selection of titles from the creative independent record company Warp, founded in Sheffield by Steve Beckett and the late Rob Mitchell in 1989. It has expanded to include Warp films and is now based in Sheffield, London and Melbourne, Australia. Warp Records have been responsible for producing singles and albums notably by the Aphex Twin, Black Dog, B 12, Tricky Disco, LFO, Autechre and more.
The Warp film company has received much acclaim and success producing popular culture iconic classics from Bafta-winning This Is England to Dead Man's Shoes and more recently Le Donk and Scor-Zay-Zee.
PEAK DISTRICT MINES
My move up north held Sheffield's steel-like energy a mystery to me. I fell in love with the Pennine passes en route as my first encounter with the Sheffield environs took me to The Devil's Arse in Castleton - aptly named from the sounds similar to flatulence that can be heard being expelled from the cave. Its name was changed to Peak Cavern in 1880 so as not not offend Queen Victoria when she was visiting the region. It is now more commonly known by its original name, The Speedwell Cavern, with its fluorveins and its waterway driven horizontally into the hillside displaying some fine examples of stalactites and stalagmites. My favourite part of this area is the Blue John Mine where the semi-precious blue/purple and white/yellow banded variety of fluorite is still mined out of tourist season. Despite imports of the semi-precious stone from China, the small industry survives as the miners act as guides during the tourist season.
EATING AND SHOPPING
One of my favourite Sheffield eateries is the family-run independent restaurant on Division Street called BB's where the staff are extremely welcoming and delicious home made Italian food is served. I pause longer over this menu than in other restaurants offering similar regional food due to the number of good choices on offer. Support for independent authentic businesses is important in a country of ever-expanding corporate chain stores. The fancy dress shop PARTY in Ecclesall Road never fails to intrigue and catch my eye with its changing window displays often based on current events. These can sometimes function like the front page of a national newspaper, keeping the passer-by up to date with world affairs.
A couple of recently memorable - and controversial - displays have included the capture and execution of the Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden' and the Royal Wedding where the Union Jack was positioned upside down.
A FINAL THOUGHT
I enjoy Sheffield's socio-political and popular culture heritage as much as I admire its industrial steel heritage. The city's array of independent and creative industries stimulate the senses and are a joy to visit and experience.
Caption Tracey Moberley portrayed on the cover of her new book, Text-Me-Up!