|"The Harley Hotel" and the room we stayed in.|
The first time I ever came to Sheffield I was seventeen years old. With a school friend called David Shuttleworth, I had hitchhiked here from East Yorkshire. We came to see a concert in The City Hall. It was November 1971 and the concert featured Buffy Sainte Marie and Loudon Wainwright III.
We had nowhere to stay. Amazingly, that fact didn't occur to us until we were dropped off in the city centre. Outside the town hall, we spoke to the uniformed doorman. He directed us along West Street and we duly secured a room in The Harley Hotel on Glossop Road.
Little did I know that day that towards the end of the decade I would return to the city to live and to work. I have now spent most of my life here.
We had time to kill so we went to Weston Park Museum and saw an art exhibition there. We wrote down the titles of the exhibited paintings and made a poem from them. Then we walked back along West Street to The City Hall.
Both acts were very likeable. At the age of seventeen I was highly receptive to music - especially to singer songwiters. I would listen to my albums over and over - almost obsessively - till I knew every word. In musical terms, I found that familiarity bred appreciation rather than contempt. I loved Buffy Sainte Marie's trilling voice, the anger she felt about the plight of Native Americans and the crazy war in Vietnam:-
...he looked at the sign that she carried in her hand.
It said "Fuck the war and bring our brothers home"
She was a personal hero. She wore her heart on her sleeve and she was unlike all the rest.
After the concert, David and I stood on the pavement in Barker's Pool and waited for Buffy and Loudon to leave. They sat in the back of a shiny black car and we waved at them. For a split second, just a smidgeon of a moment, Buffy's eyes connected with mine and then she was gone.
We drifted back up West Street - perhaps stopping for a pint in "The Mailcoach" or maybe we just went back to the hotel room to finish off our art gallery poem that would later appear in "Fang" - the alternative school newspaper that I helped David and his Lower Sixth pals to develop.
I thought about that time as I walked past "The Harley Hotel" after my art workshop on Saturday. It was forty six years ago when I slept there - my very first night in Sheffield.