Sonic Heritage, Identity and Music-making in Sheffield, ‘Steel City’

John Schofield, Ron Wright

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper examines the way pervasive influences within the built environment shape heritage and identity. With a focus on Sheffield, a northern English city strongly associated with a now largely defunct steel industry, the paper investigates how the city’s industrial past, its location and social fabric have shaped music-making, creating a distinctive scene that has become central to the city’s cultural identity. Using a combination of in-depth interviews and documentary analysis, Sheffield is presented from the mid-1970s as experiencing what can be referred to as a “sonic cycle” in which the city’s musicians refer to the sound of the drop-hammer in the steel forges being a backdrop to their childhood and a clear influence as they began their musical careers, and how the “industrial music” scene which they created has in turn shaped a new heritage identity. The paper concludes by promoting the idea that music created by local musicians forms a vital part of Sheffield’s character and is an essential ingredient for shaping alternative urban futures.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)198-222
Number of pages25
JournalHeritage & Society
Issue number3
Early online date13 Sept 2021
Publication statusPublished - 17 Dec 2021

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© 2021, The Author(s).

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