By Rory Nicklin
Stepping off the train and walking through Sheffield’s town centre I was somewhat excited about the prosperity of a music festival in a place that has become my favorite in the country. The atmosphere was building as locals, returning students, and everyone in-between began fleeing to the town for what has become a pivotal weekend for the aptly named ‘Steel city’.
On the whole I was extremely impressed; there was a sense of unity and love that every festival should base its very foundations upon, with family orientated parks and enough range in genres to keep even the most enthusiastic of music lovers engaged. The weather also provided for Sheffield, with blue skies and warm sun never amiss throughout the weekend – but when nightfall came on Saturday night I was shown a slightly darker, more hostile side to the inner-city festival.
After the main-stage closed for the evening the thousands fled to the city centre and in typical British tradition, excessive amounts of alcohol led to the utter destruction of the beautiful town. Walking past Carver Street many individuals began aimlessly throwing their litter onto the pavements of Sheffield without any remorse. Arguments were ripe, and I even passed two men having a ‘bath’ in the water monuments near the town hall, before two policemen walked past and did – absolutely nothing.
Without the traditional campsite that so many music festivals offer, Sheffield turned into an overrun zoo, portraying that ever so typical British culture that has overtime earned our country the name ‘booze Britain’.
Yes, that’s right, in a survey released recently by the British Council – as others see us – two of our most unattractive traits were indeed our boozy culture along with our almost intolerable and unnecessary nationalistic pride. We are a country with the belief that we should be awarded almost everything. We lobby for better health care, better education, better housing, higher pay cheques, and yet during our drunken, enraged states that come around almost on a weekly basis – if not more – we treat our country like a worthless wasteland that we expect to improve so drastically and without question. In 2006/07 it was estimated that we spent an approximate £2.7 billion on alcohol misuse alone on resources such as; ambulance services, dependency drugs, specialist treatment services, and much more.
As my journey around Sheffield continued that evening I came across one of the many homeless scattered across the city bellowing the words ‘I’m f***ing British I do what I want.’ I couldn’t help but sense a hint of sarcasm in his tone.
The mentality our country has, is one of a dog-eat-dog world where everyone fends for themselves; there is no unity or love that our festivals base themselves upon. In hindsight – and this may infuriate those nationalists of you out their – we should take note from our European neighbours. Germany for instance is a country that works in unison; everything operates so smoothly - this is reflected by their incomparable railway systems along with their national team’s recent success at the FIFA World Cup. The German side operated as one single unit. Every individual knew what their job was and how to do it well and now they can call themselves the greatest side in the world.
I know this was a festival, with many people from across the region making their way to Sheffield, but if this is a reflection of what a Saturday evening is like in, what has been surveyed as the happiest city in the country, then I am somewhat fearful as to what a night out in one of the least pleasant cities would resemble.