Storying Sheffield

Isha Jain: Everyday Spaces and Stories

My name is Isha Jain (she/her) and I am originally from New Delhi, India. I completed my graduation from the University of Sheffield in English Literature. My fondness for the city led my journey to pursue a Masters degree in Sheffield. You will find me taking countless pictures of the sky, especially the moon and other everyday spaces around me. I also like long walks in nature and listening to music in different languages. I volunteer like I write, almost all the time.


Sheffield is a world of its own. The city relishes Henderson’s recipes and meditates upon the silence of the peaks. At the same time when you walk down the roads of this city, it reveals a combination of other worlds that have found their home here. The city is formed of its people and each person brings with themselves a unique narrative. Sheffield jars every narrative carefully; it tends to every identity. Its stories extend to all societal, geographical and poetic borders. Sheffield then becomes a world of its own containing every other world in itself.

I believe that each person here holds a unique perspective to the space that they inhabit. Each perspective could also be a product of many different locations. Everyday things vary from place to place, then what is an everyday thing for someone who has been to a number of different places?
I wanted to understand how a very ordinary life can be deeply nuanced and complicated because of its entanglements with simplicities around. It is not something one forgets to look at, but something one forgets to notice.

Inspired by my joy to engage in conversations with people because I get to learn something new from them was the reason I joined the Learn for Life Organisation based in Sheffield. I was not sure what I would get out of the volunteering experience, but I was happy that I would get to chat with people.

On my first day, which was before the pandemic had welcomed itself in the world, I saw a crowd of people in line for classes to begin. I was asked by the lovely manager, Hayley Nelson to join my now favourite, Anne, for something called ‘Friday Conversation Classes’.

Many people were sitting around different tables, each with a worksheet of questions. When I sat in the room, I had not realised that I would be engaging in a chat with people who were still beginners in English. They were people way older than me and I was terrified to be someone to teach anyone anything.

I remember in my first group, there was one woman that especially reminded me of my nan. I also remember a man who at first seemed someone I had the most difficulty speaking with, until I realised that he had a PhD in Economics. I had more difficulty speaking to him after that, I am not a maths person.

Learn for Life had taught me many things but every week I was reminded that each person had their own world. Each person had something new to offer and teach. It did not matter where one came from or what their reasons were to be where they were. It did not matter if they could speak fluently in an English-dominant world. I became more empathetic and realised that everyone was equally engaging in this vast world, sometimes a merge of different worlds; which I believe was here, in Sheffield.

The series that I will present later onwards are experiences of people with very ordinary lives that make them special. Each one with an equal capability to create. I am not aiming to empower anyone, but to do something I highly enjoy participating in; everyday conversations.

Read Part Two: Sheffield from a poetic view: At the amphitheatre