A is for ASTRONAUT - In 1991 Sheffield-born chemist Dr Helen Sharman became the first Briton in space when she was a crew member on Operation Juno, a commercial venture between western companies and the Russian space agency. Dr Sharman spent eight days in space, most of it aboard the space station Mir, returning in time to trip and drop the torch at the opening ceremony of the World Student Games held in the city.
B is for BEAN, SEAN - Born in Handsworth, the actor Sean Bean has starred in some of the most popular movies and television shows of the last 20 years, including Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring, Game of Thrones and the Sharpe series, when he played the eponymous hero.
C is for CRUCIBLE - Named after the steelmaking process, the Crucible is one of two large theatres in Sheffield, alongside the Lyceum, and is more famous for hosting an annual sporting event than the many arts productions that take place through the year. Since 1977 the Crucible has been home to the World Snooker Championship, which helps provides the city with international profile.
D is for DEE-DAR - Sheffield has its own distinctive accent, prompting those from surrounding towns to label its citizens as Dee-Dars or Dee-Dahs, which is a corruption of the more commonly used Yorkshire words Thee and Thar. In Sheffield, “Hello, how are you today?” translates as “Eyup dee, how dar doin’?”
E is for EAGLES - Sheffield Eagles are a rugby league team who pulled off the biggest shock in Challenge Cup history in 1998, when they took on Wigan, the game’s most successful Cup team, at Wembley Stadium. Despite being massive underdogs, the Eagles triumphed 17-8.
F is for FOOTBALL - Few cities in the world are as passionate about the round ball game as Sheffield: none can match the Yorkshire city’s history. As well as Wednesday and United, the city is home to Sheffield FC, the world’s oldest club who were founded in 1857.
G is for GREAT PLACE - Sheffield may have fewer architecturally outstanding buildings than other similarly sized cities (it has five Grade 1 listings compared to Liverpool’s 26, for example) but in 2007 the Peace and Winter Gardens won a “Great Place” award as as an “outstanding example of how cities can be improved, to make urban spaces as attractive and accessible as possible.”
H is for HILLSBOROUGH - One of the darkest days in British sport took place at the home of Sheffield Wednesday on April 15, 1989 when 96 people were crushed to death and 766 others injured at an FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest. Almost 27 years on, the quest for why it happened, and for justice for the families of the bereaved, continues.
I is for INDEPENDENT - Like all major conurbations, Sheffield has global brands seemingly everywhere but many parts of the city continue to be a haven for small independent shops, bars and restaurants, no more so than Eccleshall which was last year recognised as one of the best inner-city communities in the UK.
J is for JOHN SHUTTLEWORTH - Singer-songwriter and retired security man John Shuttleworth is the comedy creation of Graham Fellows, who has perfectly captured the whimsical nature of a sense of humour shared by many Sheffield people. Shuttleworth’s repertoire is largely drawn from the city, with songs such as She Lives In Hope (but she used to live in Barnsley) and Incident on the Snake Pass.
K is for KELHAM ISLAND MUSEUM - Built on the site of a man-made island on the River Don, this industrial museum celebrates Sheffield’s industrial heritage with some fascinating exhibits, including a Bessemer converter, one of the machines that revolutionised steel production in the 19th century. It also houses the Millowners Arms, which tells the story of how Sheffield was once the biggest brewing city in England. Steelmaking was thirsty work...
L is for LOOSEMORE, ARNOLD - Undoubtedly the bravest son of Sheffield, Private Arnold Loosemore was awarded the Victoria Cross in 1917 for his heroic actions in Belgium. Pt Loosemore, who was already a veteran of Gallipoli and the Somme, crawled through barbed wire, dragging his Lewis machine-gun with him, and single-handedly cut down 20 German troops. When the machine gun was destroyed, he shot three of the enemy with his pistol, then picked off several snipers before helping a wounded comrade to safety under heavy fire. He died from TB in 1924 and his wife was refused a widow’s pension
M is for MUSIC - Sheffield has produced some of the best known and most successful pop musicians and rock bands of the last 50 years, including Joe Cocker, ABC, The Human League, Heaven 17, Def Leppard, Pulp, Cabaret Voltaire and the Arctic Monkeys. The city has some fine venues for live music, including the Arena, City Hall and Leadmill.
N is for NORTHERN GENERAL - The Northern General is one of two major hospitals run by the Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which also runs the Hallamshire. The Northern General is also home to the Sheffield Children’s Hospital and has been operational since 1878, when it was established as the Fir Vale Workhouse.
O is for OUTSTANDING NATURAL BEAUTY - Much of Sheffield lies within the Peak District National Park, which has provided a playground for local people for centuries. Some of the most spectacularly beautiful places in the UK are just a stone’s throw from the city centre, including Ladybower Reservoir, Castleton and the Dark Peak. And Rotherham, which isn’t in the national park.
P is for PALIN, MICHAEL - Broomhill-born Michael Palin was a member of the celebrated Monty Python cast and responsible for some of the most memorable comedy sketches ever written. He also wrote the successful Ripping Yarns TV series and has forged a reputation as a high calibre maker and presenter of television travel documentaries. He also has a very great friend in Rome..
Q is for QUEEN OF SCOTS - The unfortunate Mary, Queen of Scots got a raw deal from Queen Elizabeth I, who kept her cousin-once-removed a prisoner for over 18 years, including a 14-year stay in Sheffield, much of it at Manor Lodge. She ballooned in weight during her time in Sheffield, largely due to 16-course meals four times a day, and developed a likely for bathing in wine. Young people often try to do the latter in Sheffield city centre most weekends, substituting wine for beer and sambuca.
R is for RETAIL - The green glass dome of Meadowhall shopping centre has been tempting shoppers from across the country since 1990 and accounts for an overwhelming majority of the city’s retail turnover - in 2013 Meadowhall turned over £670m of a Sheffield-wide total of £830m. Its presence has had a dramatic effect on Sheffield city centre but in recent years a new air of vibrancy has returned with visitors tempted by the city’s other attractions.
S is for STEEL - In the 19th century Sheffield established a worldwide reputation for the quality of its steel production: stainless steel was developed in a city which had been famous for the quality of its cutlery since before the 14th century. Chaucer wrote about Sheffield knives in The Canterbury Tales.
T is for TRAMS - Built at a cost of £240m and opened in 1994, the Sheffield Supertram is a light rail tram system which links many of the suburbs with Sheffield city centre. It is a modern, comfortable and more environmentally friendly replacement for the old tramway system that was scrapped in 1960. Passengers love it; drivers and cyclists remain unconvinced.
U is for UGLY - Not a word we’d use to describe this fine metropolis, but the author George Orwell was less than impressed when he visited in the 1930s. “Sheffield could justly claim to be called the ugliest town in the Old World,” he wrote. “The town is very hilly, and everywhere streets of mean little houses blackened by smoke run up at sharp angles, paved with cobbles which are purposely set unevenly.” Ouch.
V is for VINCENZO NIBALI - The diminutive Italian cyclist conquered the hills of Sheffield to win Stage 2 of the 2014 Tour de France, before going on to triumph on the cobbles of Paris almost three weeks later. As tough as the Alps and Pyrenees were in between, Nibali can trace his success to the Cotes de Bradfield, Oughtibridge and Jenkin Road, with its 33 per cent gradient.
W is for WALK OF FAME - Just like Hollywood, Sheffield has its own Walk of Fame to celebrate the individuals who have helped put the city on the map. There are currently 19 inductees, all of whom have their own plaque on the pavement outside the Town Hall. They include athlete Jessica Ennis-Hill, Sebastian Coe, mountaineer Joe Simpson and England World Cup-winning goalkeeper Gordon Banks.
X is for PLANET X - Bargains and state of the art cycling technology are the name of the game for this Sheffield-based cycling retailer and bike builder, whose products are used by some of the world’s top riders. The showroom in the shadow of the Magna science adventure centre is a veritable Aladdin’s cave for cyclists.
Y is for YARN - Fancy a scarf costing £6,000 made from the world’s most exclusive yarn? Then Sheffield’s your place: last year an enterprising Sheffield teenager set up the first business in the UK to import yarn spun from the wool of the vicuna, a South American camelid that was popular with Inca royalty. It only comes in one colour, brown, so should be equally popular with Owls and Blades fans.
Z is for ZAMBONI - With two ice rinks in the city, Zambonis are a common sight in Sheffield where they are used to clean and smooth the ice for skaters and ice hockey players.