Within these Walls

Tuesday, 7th February 2006, Sheffield, South Yorkshire

pagodaOne man told me that he'd met his wife in there - at the time that it was a Mecca Lecarno Ballroom; it had sparkling chandeliers and a mirror-ball. Once, he told me, Miss World attended a glittering evening there; this was in a year when Miss America won the competition.

A few people stopped to look at my drawing (and make favourable comments, I'm glad to say) as I sat on my canvas chair on the corner by the pedestrian crossing opposite this 1920s cinema on the corner of Boston Street and London Road, just to the south of the Sheffield city centre. A woman told me that this part of town was once once known as 'Little Sheffield' and it bustled with workshops making cutlery and buttons. She said she'd first become aware of the history of the area when she'd noticed the plank-like width of the floorboards in the office she worked in, in a building a little way along the London Road; she went to the city archives to find out more about the area.


doorwaySome people are convinced that this remaining facade of the building will be demolished ('they'll use any excuse', they grumble) but other's tell me that it will be restored as part of the current residential development on the site. One man pointed out that the building still boasts most of its original glass and he thought that attractive details would emerge from under the black gunge that it is coated in.

I've never lived in Sheffield but I've got family connections with this area; my granddad had a business nearby, as did my uncle. My mum remembers seeing films here before the war; the auditorium was rather cramped, with a sloping floor. But one detail that she'd forgotten was that, as one couple told me, it had been a branch of Marks and Spencer, immediately after the war, when much of Sheffield was being rebuilt following bomb damage.

Trashed on Cider

Further down Boston Street, about 50 yards beyond the Pagoda, there's a new brick building called the Forge, part of a student campus. Following a poetry festival last November, it now boasts a short poem set in brushed steel letters on the wall. It's the first published poem by Jarvis Cocker:


Within these walls the future may be being forged

Or maybe Jez is getting trashed on cider

But when you melt you become the shape of your surroundings: Your horizons become wider.

Don't they teach you no brains that at school?

Trashed on Cider
Jarvis Cocker


windowsThat's just the insight that I'd like to put across in my Peak District sketchbook.

No, not the bit about getting trashed on cider! Next Page

Richard Bell, richard@willowisland.co.uk