FEATURE: There’s Steel in the Blood: Fifty Years of BBC Radio Sheffield and the City’s Rich Music Scene



There’s Steel in the Blood:


 PHOTO CREDIT: BBC Radio Sheffield 

Fifty Years of BBC Radio Sheffield and the City’s Rich Music Scene


ONE might look at a city like Sheffield and associate it…


with the steel-making industry and manual labour. There is that ostensive working-class mentality and ideal we have. Sheffield, as it is a Yorkshire city, is quite ordinary and predictable, right?! That might have been the impression of the area long ago by there is more than quality steel and an awesome accent to Sheffield. Two things that strike me about the city is the music and sense of community. I shall come to the latter later, but, right now, the reason behind this piece. BBC Radio Sheffield has marked its fiftieth anniversary with a rather special video. Common People is, perhaps, the most famous song from a Sheffield band – the mighty and peerless Pulp. I have been looking on the BBC website and, when it comes to the project and its make-up; they assess it in these terms:

“To mark the occasion of their 50th birthday, BBC Radio Sheffield has remade a South Yorkshire anthem - Pulp's Common People. A community choir, made up of singers from across the region, recorded a specially arranged version of the 1990's classic.

BBC Radio Sheffield presenters including Toby Foster and Paulette Edwards were joined by around 300 members of the public to film their own version of the music video.


 PHOTO CREDIT: BBC Radio Sheffield

Katrina Bunker, Managing Editor of BBC Radio Sheffield, says the film is all about bringing people together and capturing a sense of local pride: "It was really important to us that this film focused on local people, and that it reflected the unique spirit and attitude that we share in this part of the world.

"Pulp are a Sheffield band and the song Common People was one we felt people around here identify with. And the fact that so many people - hundreds of them, helped us make the film shows the whole idea really captured people's imagination.

"Now we get to share the joy and sense of community captured in the film with the many thousands of people who will watch it online.

Making the film

Filming took place at various locations across South Yorkshire and North Derbyshire including Barnsley Town Hall, Doncaster Market, a sweet shop in Rotherham and a Sheffield supertram. Lots of local people were keen to get involved in the project including the Lord Mayor of Barnsley, former MP, Jeff Ennis and a knife maker from Portland Works in Sheffield, Michael May.

The finale to the video was a large crowd scene filmed at the iconic Leadmill nightclub in Sheffield city centre - the place where coincidentally the band Pulp played their very first gig in 1980.

The finale features hundreds of BBC Radio Sheffield listeners from all walks of life from an 8 week old baby to a group of scouts and cubs to a retired bus driver and a 7 year old British bulldog called Horace who almost steals the show.

About BBC Radio Sheffield

On November 15 1967, BBC Radio Sheffield made its first broadcast to listeners across South Yorkshire and North Derbyshire. They were the second BBC local radio station to launch following BBC Radio Leicester on Wednesday 8 November.


  PHOTO CREDIT: BBC Radio Sheffield

Katrina says: "BBC Radio Sheffield is the people's radio station. We've been reflecting local life in South Yorkshire and North Derbyshire since 1967 and have been with communities through many highs and lows over the years.

"Ultimately this film is a celebration of localness. We, along with our audiences, are proud of where we live."

It seems axiomatic to say Sheffield – and Yorkshire – is defined by its character, pride and community. There is more of a sense of belonging and comfort living somewhere like Sheffield. I remember the days of Pulp and when they ruled the scene. Albums like His ‘n’ Hers (1994) and Different Class (1995) were released in the same year as the best two albums by another northern working-class band of heroes, Oasis.


Their ascension to the top of the Britpop tree was cemented with the incredible one-two, Definitely Maybe and (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? Maybe Pulp took a few albums to reach the same heights but many could claim they have had a more acclaimed, focused and consistent career – not falling apart after their sophomore album and limping to extinction. Pulp were the, to me, leaders of Britpop in the sense they were outside the circle. It is not a surprise their popular smash has been taken to heart and endures. It looks at the working-class and a life one does not hear about in music anymore. Maybe BBC Radio Sheffield is the definition of a radio station that preserves the values laid down by bands like Pulp. You can watch the video via BBC Radio Sheffield’s page - and see why the song has captivated the locals of the city.


IN THIS PHOTO: FloodHounds/PHOTO CREDIT: Mal Whichelow

I feel Sheffield is among many northern cities that do not get the recognition it warrants. The fine work done on Sheffield’s best radio station makes sure local acts get a voice but one need only look at the history books to realise what a cannon the city has produced. FloodHounds are a modern band working out of Sheffield who follows acts like The Hosts, Baba Naga and Anytown; Lonely Boy; Gilmore Trail and Blood Sport. Throw into the list Liberty Ship, The Seamonsters and Matic Mouth and there is enough to get your chops around! Black Mamba Fever, Solanas’ Son and The Hot Soles; Vultures and Deadset Dream could all got into the music and make a fantastic playlist of new Sheffield bands.


IN THIS PHOTO: The Seamonsters

Dig deeper and you will unearth a bustling scene that is promising wonderful things. I wonder why there is such a hesitation for the mainstream media to shine a light on the Sheffield music economy. It is not like there is an absence of venues for other artists to play in – cut their teeth in Sheffield and get a taste of what it is all about! Joe Cocker and Robert Palmer both played the legendary stage at The Boardwalk. The Grapes has played host to the likes of Arctic Monkeys – more on them later! – whilst The Casbah, The Leadmill and New Barrack Tavern give ambitious musicians a wealth of possibilities. Those are just a few venues one could frequent if they travel to Sheffield.

If one looks back at historic Sheffield acts, they are really in for a treat. The Human League and Def Leppard; Reverend and the Makers, ABC; Bring Me the Horizon, Heaven 17 and Moloko; Slow Club and Cabaret Voltaire. It is a packed and vibrant area of the U.K. that has provided some of the strongest bands from all of music. Maybe a lot of those acts have ended but, as I have shown, there is a new breed willing to take their place. It seems Arctic Monkeys are among a rare breed of Sheffield bands courting mainstream attention and fame. The boys might not all base themselves in the city but they have not forgotten where they came from. I have compiled two lists below: one of the new class of Sheffield acts putting their names on the map; the other puts together the classic and legendary music we associate with the city. I am glad there is such an active scene but hope, in 2018, the popular press realises places like Sheffield are being overlooked. It seems anywhere north of London is seen as ‘international’ or alien. That naivety is causing a split between the North and the South. I hear so many great groups from Manchester and Leeds; fantastic acts from Glasgow and Liverpool – that could challenge the finest London has to offer! Dispense with the divisions and judgement and realise what a heritage and fertile foundation there is in the city.



The reimagined video for Common People proves there is humour, togetherness and fortitude in Sheffield. BBC Radio Sheffield has been on air fifty years – let’s hope it lasts decades longer! I know the station prides itself on eclecticism and mixing its national and local outlook – not neglecting an artist because of where they come from or the genre they play. That is an attitude that is reflected in the people of the city. Make sure you tune into BBC Radio Sheffield and the great work they do on a daily basis. It is one of the finest BBC stations and has remained that way for five decades. Long may that remain: continuing to provide incredible music and exceptional entertainment. More than that; have a listen and investigation of the music coming from Sheffield. We all know the artists who have come before but many of us are unaware of the wonderful newbies that are making Sheffield an essential point of study. An incredible people and rich boiling pot where fine music and quality sounds bounce off every wall in the city. Here’s to the artists there and a bedrock station that shows there is plenty of life and wonder in the Yorkshire city. Sheffield will always be a vital fountain of music and quality radio. The sooner we remember that, the stronger…


IN THIS PHOTO: Sheffield's The Leadmill

THE music industry will be!