Sheffield is not sexy

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The city of Sheffield’s attempts, during the early 1980s, at promoting economic regeneration through popular cultural production were unconsciously suggestive of later creative industries strategies. Post-work economic policies, which became significant to the Blair government a decade later, were evident in urban centres such as Manchester, Liverpool and Sheffield in nascent form. The specificity of Sheffield’s socio-economic configuration gave context, not merely to its industrial narrative but also to the city’s auditory culture, which was to frame well intended though subsequently flawed strategies for regeneration. Unlike other cities, most notably Manchester, the city’s mono-cultural characteristics failed to provide an effective entrepreneurial infrastructure on which to build immediate economic response to economic rationalisation and regional decline. Top-down municipal policies, which embraced the city’s popular music, gave centrality to cultural production in response to a deflated regional economy unable, at the time, to sustain rejuvenation through cultural consumption. Such embryonic strategies would subsequently become formalised though creative industry policies developing relationships with local economies as opposed to urban engineering through regional government. Building upon the readings of industrial cities such as Liverpool, New Orleans and Chicago, the post-work leisure economy has increasingly addressed the significance of the auditory effect in cities such as Manchester and Sheffield. However the failure of the talismanic National Centre for Popular Music signifies the inherent problems of institutionalizing popular cultural forms and resistance of sound to be anchored and contained. The city’s sonic narrative became contained in its distinctive patterns of cultural production and consumption that ultimately resisted attempts at compartmentalization and representation through what became colloquially known as ‘the museum of popular music’. A personal narrative that is inextricably bound up in the construction of the city’s sound has informed many aspects of the article, providing subjective context to the broader discourse, that of sound and the city image.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)292-321
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2 Sept 2007

Bibliographical note

© 2007 The Author(s)


  • Sheffield
  • Pop music


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