Saturday, 16 January 2016

In praise of Human heads and giant carrots

There are many wonderful parts and places of Sheffield. I love how many parks there are and how nearly every bit of grassy mound will be home to someone's appreciative posterior. I love Sheffield's thriving poetry and music scene, and it's DIY and independent attitude to Art and commerce like the Forum shops or Access space or new Roco building, or how the old Woolworths is now an art centre.
I could have written in length about the glorious and inspiring views from Norfolk park, or the elegance of Western park or the splendour of Dam house but instead I've decided to write about the carrot sculpture near Firth park.
Before I get to that I wanted to mention a sculpture in Sheffield that for a long time stood at the bottom of my street. For many years I have lived on Ellesmere road in Pitsmoor and one Autumn I gleefully discovered on my journey to work at the bottom of our street that a tree stump had been carved into a Human head. This certainly beat the usual street art offerings of abandoned Sofas and mattresses that aspiring Tracey Emmins left.
This was a skilfully crafted head and it had apparently sprung up from no where, with no warning or big reveal just appearing one day out of the blue. Every day I would walk past it and it would make me smile a big Chesire cat smile, and it really caught the imagination of the street to. He became the street's central figure for festive celebrations. For Halloween they placed pumpkins around him and at Christmas they attached a Santa's hat and beard. It was great.

Unfortunately the council came along one day and had it removed, maybe thinking that we couldn't be trusted with art as it might lead to some anti social watching of the culture show. I was sad to see it go. Not only because it was a beautifully made head but also because I found it so strange to find it at the end of my street and not in some art gallery that no one visits.

But then I discovered the big carrot in Firth park. Or at least I think it's a carrot, it could very well be a tomato. I have never been entirely sure. It's a sort of mutated vegetable that has been tunnelled into by large hungry worms. However, it's not so much the carrot I like but its location. It's just lumped right in the middle of a slab of pavement on the street and seems completely at odds with its environment, as you're left wondering why is it there? Is it a relic from an old park that they now have built houses on, or is it an arts installation by a well meaning local artist or was it health campaign to remind you to eat your five a day?
Yet, it is its incongruity that makes it so great. If it was in a playground or a park it would be insignificant. It would simply be another play apparatus that would be overshadowed by a slide or a roundabout. But here just in the middle of the street it occupies a place majestic wonder. It turns the street into a playground, into an unusual world of giant vegetables, the grey and dull into something fun.
I think it's a fantastic quirky sculpture and in many ways I don't really want to know why it is there. I'm happy for it to be forever shrouded in mystery.

Some might find me flippant for choosing a carrot sculpture as my favourite place in Sheffield but it's this and other quirky things that make Sheffield for me, such a fantastic place to live.
There are so many wonderfully odd sights that so often go under the radar.
Places like the amphitheatre behind the train station, which you can't look at it with anything but complete disbelief that it really exists. As you question why you have never found yourself there before and why when you tell anyone about it they look you up and down like you've snorted Horlicks and reply 'An amphitheatre in Sheffield, behind a train station, yeah right, good one'.
The City is full of strange buildings and curious anomalies in bizarre places; like the huge coloured brick, half moustached, Minor opposite the COOP in castle market, or Sheffield's own Arc di triumph in the Whicker, or the fact that our Morrissons is a castle.
This to me, makes the city what it is. Beautiful and intriguing but always humble to the point of being afraid of showing of it's own brilliance incase it risks turning into Leeds or Manchester, a fate worse than many deaths.

So, I suggest we all continue to find more giant carrots and tree stump heads, they are the treasured gems of the city just don't expect to find them in the likeliest of places.

Stan Skinny is a poet, comedian and writer that has lived in Sheffield for 10 years. His new spoken word show 'Tell me the lies about Love' (part of the Off the Shelf festival) is on the 2nd of Nov at the Sheffield University Union building. Alongside this he runs the Shipping forecast a nautical themed poetry and comedy night at the Riverside on the last Thursday of the month and a weekly comedy quiz Quizarama-rama also at the Riverside every Monday. You can visit his website to find out more or follow him on twitter @stanskinny

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