Is Sheffield the new Shoreditch?

Daft question or a bit of click bait? A bit of both really and the Sheffield Telegraph ran with it following last week’s article in The Sunday Times. I wasn’t too impressed with either so he’s my reaction post to the Sheffield Telegraph’s reaction, yes, it has been a slow news week (who needs news when the beer gardens are open).

The Backstory:

You can read the full story from The Sunday Times in the image below, written by features editor Louisa McGillicuddy who has previously worked at British Vogue, I imagine the closest she’s come to Sheffield is a Zoom call with Luke French who features throughout the article.

Within the first two sentences ‘millennial magnets’ & ‘hipsters’ are mentioned, I went to uni in London in 06 – 09 and was a Shoreditch regular as the area was starting to be gentrified, I rarely see the Shoreditch types in Sheffield. The short piece name dropped Bullion, Ferraby Knives, the Ski Village alongside Luke French’s highly acclaimed restaurant Joro and Hotel Joro (coming soon). 

Does 3 luxury brands make a city a ‘hipster’ hot bed?

The Times

What even is Shoreditch?

Shoreditch is a neighbourhood in East London, just a couple of tube stops from Oxford Street, Kings Cross & a short walk from the financial district. In the 90’s people didn’t choose to go out in Shoreditch, it was rough. Like many unpleasant areas, rent is cheap and that attracts creatives (no, not digital marketers & influencers), y’know artists, actors & musicians, those who don’t live the 9 to 5 lifestyle.

When there’s a group of creatives living in the same neighbourhood a scene naturally develops, this became apparent in the early 2000’s when the rise of indie bands broke out of Shoreditch’s shady pubs and into the mainstream, The Libertines were at the heart of this, their gigs became legendary and raucous, inspiring others to follow in the same footsteps. Other off-shoots from the scene naturally blossomed too & mainstream media caught on which brought money in the area, rent prices escalated, luxury apartments rose up & those venues where artists had a stage to learn on transformed into wine bars. The creatives couldn’t afford to live in Shoreditch & gradually moved further out of East London, tech giants & ‘young professionals’ moved in.

It’s not exactly cutting-edge cool anymore, you’ll find that slightly further east, where flats are more affordable. 

This is a typical story of gentrification, today’s Shoreditch isn’t a natural hub of creativity, it has been bought in because it’s London. This is why Sheffield isn’t the new Shoreditch.

The Sheffield Telegraph response:

This week the Sheffield Telegraph ran a story (which you can read here) with the headline “Sheffield is not just the ‘new Shoreditch’ – it is better than that”  by Sam Ward who went straight in with Shoreditch being all about ‘hipsters’, ‘smashed avocado-eating millennials’ and ‘designer beards’. Throughout this article Sam talks about Luke French’s involvement in the Heart of the City’s Cambridge Street Collective and it’s near Leah’s Yard as well as Abbeydale Road’s new bar scene, Sharrow Vale Road, the new lease of life in Hillsborough and the Fleapit Kelham’s ice cream van bar, all exciting additions to the Steel City.

My thoughts:

Both of these articles make some great points and I’m not going to complain about Sheffield’s independents getting some limelight but I feel like both seemed to miss out some vital points.

Firstly, Shoreditch is a tiny neighbourhood that went from sketchy to luxury in just over a decade because of its location, (pretty much central) London. Sheffield is still a working class city and the wages reflect that, people don’t have the disposable income to go out and regularly enjoy luxury treats. 

However, the city’s cheap rents do attract creative types, we’ve always shone when it comes to the arts, ours have always been a little more left-field, just look at Pulp compared to Oasis and Blur or the Arctic Monkeys coming of age with The Libertines. We’ve never been the intentionally ‘cool’ city, we’re humble, understated and DIY, that’s what makes us cool.

If Luke French had opened Joro in London or Manchester it would be highly celebrated, instead it sits at the bottom of a shipping container on Shalesmoor whilst attracting foodies from around the world and high praise from both critics and diners. Bullion is Yorkshire’s first bean-to-bar chocolatier which started out as a hobby and had local support that helped it grow into award-winning, Vogue featuring craft chocolate. 

If we’re comparing anywhere to Shoreditch it is hard to not think Kelham, it was exactly my thought on my first night out in Kelham in 2012 (ish), that night was the night I knew Kelham was the only place I wanted to live in Sheffield. Kelham was an area abandoned when the steel industry died, it then became the red light district, the 90’s saw the area begin to transition with The Fat Cat attracting real ale drinkers, musicians came to Yellow Arch studios and skaters went to the House skatepark. This activity was the starting point to old factories and warehouses being converted into flats and the area has grown organically ever since, it’s still being labelled ‘up-and-coming’. The edginess, quirky pubs and warehouses reminded me of Shoreditch and it has continued to develop into something similar, yes, it’s got the smash avocado, designer beards, street food, craft beer and art but if you spend time here you wouldn’t think ‘hipster’. 

What makes Sheffield exciting as we come out of lockdown is the creativity and DIY ethics that its residents have. There’s pockets of places popping up all over the city, Kelham is the obvious one but like the Telegraph mentions, Dyson Place (just off Sharrow Vale Road), Abbeydale Road and the emerging scene in Hillsborough as well as potential areas such as Attercliffe (former industrial heartland, empty warehouse, a bit sketchy, cheap rents, attracting creatives, sound familiar? Kelham, Shoreditch) and Oughtibridge, not forgetting the work going on in the Heart of the City.

The loss of John Lewis has sparked polarising conversations, it’s great that so many people have invested interest in the city centre which, at times was becoming soulless. Yes, it’s sad for the staff who’ve lost their jobs but the department store was holding the city back from progression. If you leave nostalgia behind you’ll see a new potential for the city that doesn’t need to be the next Shoreditch, Leeds or Manchester when it could be just a new Sheffield, growing by Sheffield people.

Written by Matt

Check out when your favourite independents are planning to reopen here.


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