Storying Sheffield

Neon Graffiti

Students on the Storying Sheffield course created narrative artefacts to reflect on the theme of ‘life or lives in Sheffield’. Harry Gold wrote and recorded this song, Neon Graffiti, for his submission. The song is about about the Park Hill flats; Harry’s comments, and the lyrics are below. The art work was produced by Ellie Capron, also as part of her submission for the course.

For my artefact I wrote a song about Sheffield’s famous Park Hill flats. At the beginning of the song, I included an excerpt from an interview in the 1960s with a woman regarding her opinions of the Park Hill flats upon first moving in. The main themes of the song were concerned with the idea of place and identity and the way in which they both feed into one another. The opening line “streets stacked on the skyline” is in reference to the description of the Park Hill flats when they were first built as being ‘streets in the sky’. The line “all that remains is their outline/And memories encased in the stone” directly addresses the idea that the identity of a place is defined by the identity of those that inhabit it. Park Hill (or at least the uninhabited part of it) is now merely an “outline” because it has no one to define itself by. The identity of the estate is thus “lost among dirt and debris”. In the chorus section, the lyrics refer to the “echoes” that “wait in the air”, as a core part of the estate’s identity is still related to the people that once lived there, despite them having deserted the place that they define. The place is then personified, referring to a time “when it was alive”. The distinction between the living and the space in which they inhabit is consequently blurred, with them having a symbiotic relationship. A place requires people to occupy it to thrive, and people need to occupy a space in order to survive. When the estate became uninhabited, it “died” as it had no one to support or justify its existence. The piece is composed in a 6/8 time signature, creating a waltz effect favoured by many Sheffield artists such as Richard Hawley.

Neon Graffiti

Streets stacked on the skyline
Lying in silence alone
All that remains is their outline
And memories encased in the stone

They’re lost among dirt and debris
All that remains to be seen
Is scrawled in neon graffiti
“I love you will you marry me”

Their echoes will wait in the air
As long as you’re there
Not knowing what it will be
It’s halfway between
But you’ll remember a time
When it was alive
Bursting from inside and out
Before it died