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  • Marika Page

Creative Connections: Portraits of Sheffield’s Brightest Stars on Display

Inside the Millennium Gallery a host of familiar faces greet you just past the famous tall giraffe sculpture made from old Sheffield steel cutlery. From now until the 2nd of October, Museums Sheffield (in association with students from Sheffield Park Academy, The National Portrait Gallery, and Photographer Conor Rogers) are displaying a selection of Sheffield’s famous exports that have graced our screens, stadiums and even travelled to space. All walks of life are represented within the intimate gallery space, and it prompts the question - who represents Sheffield?

As a transplant from Los Angeles to Sheffield, I admit that I wasn’t aware of just how many notable names originated in the Steel City. Stepping into the galleries on this Sunday afternoon, I immediately spotted striking portraits of Alex Turner (of Arctic Monkeys fame) and Sean Bean (known for The Lord of the Rings and The Game of Thrones series); both are well known as being Sheffield born and bred. But as I experienced the exhibit, I learned a lot about who came from this incredible city and was reminded of the impact that they have made on Sheffield and the world around them.

From Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill (Olympic Gold Medallist) to Magid Magid (Somali-British Activist turned Lord Mayor of Sheffield who was a child refugee and grew up in Burngreave), the Gallery is filled with portraits of some of Sheffield’s finest. Notable pieces include the busts of Florence Nightingale (who knew that her parents were from Sheffield?! Not me!) and Mary Queen of Scots (who was imprisoned at both Manor Lodge and Sheffield Castle by Elizabeth I). Fantastic portraits of Pulp, Def Leppard, and Michael Palin are standouts as well.

One of the highlights of the exhibit is an installation of a bus shelter by Conor Rogers - a young local artist from Sheffield, winner of UK Young Artist of the Year in 2019. No spoilers here, but there are also some fantastic drawings and doodles from Sheffield Park Academy’s students that feature on this installation. Rogers has also included his own artwork to adorn this installation and it culminates the entire exhibit well.

I also loved seeing the ‘London Underground’ style enlarged map of all the Sheffielders mentioned in this exhibit and which areas of the city they hail from. It is colour coded (like the Underground lines) by what professions they have. I especially loved seeing both the portrait of Helen Sharman (the first British astronaut in space, who recently played “Space Oddity” alongside Richard Hawley at The Leadmill last week), and seeing her name posted on the underground map as having grown up in Grenoside because it’s so close to where I live. A remarkable woman with such a special link to Sheffield.

This exhibit is free (with a suggested donation) as are all exhibitions within the galleries of Museums Sheffield. So many wonderful things and people hail from this beautiful city. Make sure you see this exhibit before it closes because I think it will make you proud to be from here, and proud to have a connection to Sheffield.

In addition to the exhibit itself, make sure to stop by the gift shop, as it is filled with independent Sheffield goodies. Everything from books on the history of Sheffield, Peak District walking guides, local art, stationery, locally made sweets, and of course Henderson’s Relish and their new crisps…it has something for everyone! As well as the gift shop, don’t miss Ambulo - a café on the ground floor of the Millennium Galleries off Arundel Gate, across the road from Sheffield Hallam’s city campus. The café is partially owned by Matt Helders (Arctic Monkeys drummer) and serves up a variety of tasty options. From Shakshuka to smoothies, to a full English and both vegetarian and vegan options; it's the perfect way to top off or start your day at the museum.


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