By Lee Gale
Sheffield is a city of pioneers. The first football club in the world were Sheffield FC, formed in 1857 and still in existence today. They beat Stocksbridge Park Steels last week 3-1. Hallam FC are the second-oldest club in the world, founded in 1860 to give Sheffield FC an opponent. Hallam’s Sandygate Road base in Crosspool is the oldest football ground in the world. They thumped Harworth Colliery 5-1 on Saturday in front of 204 people.
We also have Sheffield to thank for stainless steel, which was invented by Harry Brearley at Brown-Firth Research Laboratories just before the First World War. Brearly left in a huff due to a disagreement about patent rights but his successor, WH Hatfield, ran with the idea and in 1924 presented the world with 18/8 stainless steel, 18 per cent chromium, eight per cent nickel – the most common stainless steel used today. Unless you’re Lord Fauntleroy or Lady Docker, your cutlery will be made of this, as are those drippy teapots at motorway services.
Britain’s first astronaut was Sheffield’s Helen Sharman, who hitched a ride aboard the Soviet Soyuz TM-12 mission in May 1991, spending a few days growing protein crystals on the Mir space station. Sharman may have been adjusting to Earth’s gravity two months later when she famously went ass ovver tip at the 1991 World Student Games at the newly opened Don Valley Stadium. During the opening ceremony she tripped while holding the games torch and completely extinguished the flame. Thankfully on Worksop Road there were enough newsagents nearby that sold boxes of matches. Incredibly, Don Valley Stadium was demolished in 2013.
Sheffield’s Phil Oakey sang that he was the first man in space on his street on All Seeing I’s Jarvis Cocker-written “1st Man In Space”, which reached No.28 on the hit parade in 1999. He was also the first man on his street with a symmetry-defying hairstyle. More than space travel or metallurgical breakthroughs, the city is perhaps best known for its influential musicians; Sheffield, as you’ll be aware, is synonymous with synthpop and electronic trickery. Cabaret Voltaire, The Human League, ABC, Pulp, Heaven 17, Clock DVA, Warp Records, the Bleep scene and Fat Truckers (who?! Check out “Teenage Daughter”) have all helped place Sheffield firmly on the global musical map. Slow Club are pretty good, too.
Now, on the strength of two singles, we can add International Teachers Of Pop to the long list of Sheffield greats. “Age Of The Train” and “After Dark”, both released this year, carry the baton for Sheffield synthpop in a way that Oakey, Cocker and Martin Fry would appreciate. Prior to a UK tour, we catch up with International Teachers Of Pop’s Adrian Flanagan to discuss wonky electronic music and the state of Britain’s railways.