"Sheffield FC is the world's oldest football club, founded in 1857"
With two universities, three football clubs, 11 cultural quarters, 80 public parks and a little band called the Arctic Monkeys, Sheffield is not short of attributes.
But thanks to its history as one of the capitals of Britain's Industrial Revolution, the city has not always had such a convincing social repertoire.
For years Sheffield was considered a grey production factory, famed for the billions of pieces of cutlery that it produced each year. Times have changed, however, and the powers that be have decided that it is time to show the world what Sheffield is made of.
At the centre of Sheffield's rebranding has been a joint campaign between the City Council and Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and Sheffield Hallam University, supported by Creativesheffield. 'Hundreds of millions of pounds are being spent to complete Sheffield's massive transformation, as the city redefines itself to take advantage of the return of business confidence,' explains Brendan Moffett, director of strategic marketing at Creativesheffield. 'Money is being invested in retail developments, research projects, infrastructure improvements, innovative accommodation and culture projects to make the city irresistible.'
The effort to breathe new life into Sheffield is not a new one, and the impressive array of attractions and cultural quarters already in existence is plainly evident. From the famous Winter Garden - the largest temperate glasshouse in any European city centre and home to more than 2,500 exotic plants - to the many sculptures, fountains and galleries across the city, it is clear that Sheffield's ambitions are already being realised. 'The transformation process really took hold in 2000 with the publication of a City Centre Masterplan for Sheffield which looked at the comprehensive redevelopment of the whole city centre,' explains Ben Morley, deputy director of regeneration for Creativesheffield. 'When finished, it is expected to represent an investment into the city of more than £1 billion and have the potential to accommodate around 10,000 jobs.'
The buildings popping up across the city, from galleries to shopping centres, are not just exciting thanks to the cultural additions they will make to an already improving area, but they are also architectural marvels in their own right. Renovations have taken place at the famous Crucible Theatre, which has undergone a £15.3 million redevelopment, and the Kelham Island Museum, which charts the area's growth from the Industrial Revolution, and required major repair works after the floods the city suffered in 2007.
Culture and sport are abundant in Sheffield. From the city's three professional football teams (Rotherham is the third, in case you were wondering) to the arena, music venues and numerous art galleries, there's something to suit everyone. The city's theatres, the Lyceum, the Crucible and the smaller Studio, make up the biggest theatre complex outside London, and list an exciting range of in-house, touring and new productions all year round. There is also a thriving music scene, no doubt inspired by the city's famous exports, such as Def Leppard, Pulp and, latterly, the Arctic Monkeys who almost singlehandedly have reinvigorated the scene. Their status as arguably Britain's biggest band has certainly done the city no harm and certainly seems to have inspired others.
For tourists, there are plenty of draws. From new boutique hotels like The Leopold, located in the Grade II-listed former boys' grammar school, to big-city attractions like the Wheel of Sheffield, which rises 197 feet to give views across the city and as far as the Peak District, the emphasis is on a consistently high-quality experience. As you may expect, there are many tasty restaurants to discover, too, from modern British fare at Silversmiths or The Milestone to bona fide Italian cuisine at the legendary Ecclesall Road establishment, Nonnas. The city's proximity to the Peak District National Park means that, within a five-mile radius, people can get a taste of the stunning British countryside and a vibrant cityscape in one destination.
A culture capital
'The physical regeneration of the city, like others across the country, has faced a few challenges as a result of the recession,' says Ben. 'However, the 2008 Masterplan sets out a clear vision for the next 15 years and requires all developments to reach completion so initiatives such as the New Business District are brought forward.'
Accordingly, the redevelopments show no sign of slowing: 2010 will see the opening of Tudor Square, the redeveloped centrepiece to the city's theatres, the £2 million refurbishment of The Moor shopping area, and Sevenstone, a huge retail development adjacent to the Peace Gardens. Care has been taken to ensure that what is distinctive to Sheffield remains so, from an earthy sense of humour to a respect for the past and everything that has led to this emergence of a culture capital. While it may seem to some an unlikely destination, it is slowly but surely rising up to rival the finest European cities, with an abundance of culture, character and charm.
Did you know...
Sheffield FC is the world's oldest football club, founded in 1857
Sheffield is the only city in the UK to have a National Park within its boundary. A third of the city lies in the Peak District
Sheffield Hallam University has a 'PlayStation Degree' in Games Software Development. It is the first in the world
Mary Queen of Scots spent 14 years of her imprisonment under Elizabeth I in Sheffield
The Crucible Theatre plays host to the annual World Snooker Championships