Angel haunts graveyards

Stephen Fellows is frontman of seminal post-punk band the Comsat Angels, reuniting for a concert at the O2 Academy on April 25 as part of the Sensoria Festival.

He said: "I came all the way from Whiston (eight or so miles) to live in Sheffield in 1974 while attending Psalter Lane Art College and just stayed here after graduating – doing my best to avoid having to get a "proper job", and, for the most part, succeeding – at least in that aim.

"The city has always been amenable to the making and playing of music, for which I'm grateful, but this does mean that I've probably spent the majority of my time here writing, rehearsing, or recording in various musty cellars, old works buildings, bedrooms, ill-lit attics and studios instead of yomping about in the countryside or other more wholesome activities.

"It's always good to get home after travelling but these days if you're in a 'wagon' on the M1 – and I've done plenty of that – it's no longer immediately clear when that is any more if you're half-asleep (and not driving, of course), what with the cooling towers being razed and all. I've not travelled so much recently but I do get out sometimes..."


I like a good graveyard. A moody saunter among the headstones is often an ideal antidote to the spending, consumption and telly festival known as Christmas, for example. It kind of puts everything in perspective. Too much perspective, possibly. A favourite is Crookes cemetery on Boxing Day – spectacularly bleak if the weather's right. And there's usually nobody there... I wonder why.

The General Cemetery off Ecclesall Road is another corker, with many Victorian memorial monuments along its winding paths, still quite a few overgrown and neglected and tumbled tombstones, which only add to the atmosphere – even on sunny days it's pretty spooky.


The busking musicians who play around the city: I love them all – even the not-so-hot ones. I've never busked and have nothing but admiration for them as can do it.

There was the elderly black gentleman, usually on Fargate, who always seemed to be singing The Wild Side Of Life when I went past. It seemed like I only ever heard him do this one song, it was always brilliant but slightly different each time – depending on his mood I suppose. His dog would frequently be sporting a tea-towel worn as a cape on colder days. Others are the Django Rheinhardt-esque guitar player who can give Barkers Pool the ambience of a Parisian boulevard – which is quite a feat – and the wild-haired skinny young man with the fabulous powerful voice who makes Rod Stewart sound like Aled Jones. I usually put at least a quid in the hat.


As a muso and punter I've experienced just about every venue in and around town, apart from the Arena – from the likes of Dial House WMC (as was) in the club band days, to the City Hall, as a one-off temporary member of the Human League, and as a somewhat harassed artist manager later on.

I didn't get to see Jimi Hendrix the last time he played there – November 27, 1967, my mother wouldn't let me go – but I did get to see Free, The Groundhogs, King Crimson, Led Zeppelin, Gong and many, many others a few years later. And I did see Patto with the remarkable Ollie Halsall several times at the Black Swan (now the Boardwalk).

Another venue, the University, used to hold 'all-day' concerts during the summer months in the 70s with dozens of now-forgotten acts (Sunshine, anyone?) and occasional future pop stars such as Roxy Music, who, six months before Virginia Plain, appeared to have beamed down directly from the as-yet undiscovered planet Artrock to blow our minds with their sheer strangeness.

The Uni was also host in the early 80s to the Now Society – a Tuesday night gig in a lecture theatre which featured the more arty, largely local bands such as Cabaret Voltaire, I'm So Hollow, Graph, Disease and our lot among many others, although I'm pretty sure that the first place we played as a band was the Broadfield pub.

At the time we lived above the carpet shop about 50 yards further along Abbeydale Road towards town, so we were able to actually carry our gear there – no need for a van. And how cool we would have looked lugging it all along the main road.


The Botanical Gardens has always been there in times of hope and not so much hope – an oasis of calm, or just somewhere to go and think or read a book, or to watch what remains of the seasonal cycle working itself out while being pestered by squirrels.

I discovered Endcliffe Park while living at yet another band house, on Hunter House Road near Hunters Bar. The walk up to the pond area, and beyond to Whitely Woods, is lovely and, as has been noted here before, the cafe does a wicked chip butty.

A new favourite is Bolehills above the Rivelin Valley with its spectacular views out over Stannington in one direction and almost across to the moors in the other.

The weather can change quite quickly, though. Once, we got back home from a walk up there with dry fronts and completely wet backs, due to sudden and somewhat over-bracing sleetstorm equalling subsequent hasty retreat. No chip butties either.

Retail therapy

While my wife seems to plot her way round town by supermarkets and department stores, I have tended to do it by music and guitar shops, but nowadays I have fewer landmarks.

So – to those that remain, defying the online onslaught and the pure pursuit of profit: Record Collector, Rare & Racy, Wavelength and all music-related retailers – 'may your credit remain uncrunched'.

I can't see how they can digitise charity shops, though. Broomhill has my favourites – Help The Aged (Anthony Burgess Shakespeare biog 2!) and Oxfam, of course.

I do like going upstairs at the new Cream cafe on the corner opposite the Fox and Duck, it's oddly pleasant to see an area you've known for years from a new perspective – and the carrot cake is top.