Favourite Things: Sketching an outline of Sheffield - a city that still delights

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James Whitworth is the daily news cartoonist for The Star. His work also appears in the Sheffield Telegraph and numerous newspapers and magazines including Private Eye. Son of legendary Telegraph cartoonist, Ralph Whitworth, James also writes the DCI Miller crime novels set in Whitby, and lectures at universities on their journalism courses. When not working, he loves to read and listen to his ever-growing music collection. James lives with his wife Lisa in Fulwood.


I have travelled to many different parts of the world from America to Zambia, but I honestly don’t think I have ever seen anywhere as beautiful as Mayfield Valley. It is a quintessentially English landscape that never fails to move me. I discovered it as a child when my parents would take me on walks through the valley and down to Forge Dam cafe where I still pop in for one of their wonderful bacon sandwiches. My friends and I used to spend days playing in the area having what now seem almost Famous Five-like adventures - and all without a mobile phone in sight.


Broomhill is where I met my wife and is by far my favourite shopping area in the city. I am often to be found in the Itchy Pig micro pub. It ticks all the boxes for me: no TV, no bland muzak, and an ever-changing selection of great beers. Next door is Galaxy Four where I buy the audio CDs I often play when I’m drawing. I also love the library (now staffed by volunteers) and fondly remember being taken there every week by my mother to select a new Michael Bond Paddington novel, or one of those great Puffin paperbacks. When all the shopping is over, Vittles is perfect for a coffee and a round or two of toast.


No discussion of Broomhill should be complete without mention of my very favourite shop. I have been a customer here since 1981 when as an eleven-year-old I bought my first two albums: Bow Wow Wow and Simon and Garfunkel. My musical tastes remain as eclectic and whether it’s a Sinatra CD or Sandy Denny on vinyl, Barry and his team always seem to have what I want, along with many things I didn’t know I wanted. When I was the official cartoonist for the national Record Store Day, it was the only place I wanted to be. Broomhill has changed a lot over the past few years, but shops like Record Collector and Galaxy Four need to be supported to help keep some individuality and independence in our local areas.


When I was a child, my father and I would visit all of the city’s art shops (Andrew’s being a particular favourite). Sadly, almost all of these have now vanished, but Pinder’s continues to fly the flag and support my need to buy far more pens, pencils, paints, and paper than I could ever actually use. I love the smell of the shop and can happily spend far too long browsing there when I should be drawing. My mother used to work there which probably explains why we never ran out of pens when I was young.


Of course I’m biased, but this is one of my favourite places in the city. My father worked here from the late 1950s to the 1990s. I have many fond childhood memories of calling in and being allowed to bash away on the typewriters and - treat of treats - being taken to watch the printing presses thunder out the latest copies of the Star and the old Morning Telegraph. When I started to work as a journalist, I stood on York Street to watch the presses roll on my first-ever published piece. Today the presses have gone, but the smell of ink remains along with a ghost or two of the past.


When we moved to this house three years ago, I had the opportunity to design a room specifically as a studio. It is important that I like it as I often spend up to 12 hours a day sitting at my desk. The day starts with drawing the following day’s Star cartoon and then I work on other projects. This could be a batch of cartoons for Private Eye, the latest Steels’ City strip, or a book commission. I can’t think of a better place to spend the day drawing cartoons. I’m surrounded by pens, paper, and my pride and joy: my Wacom Cintiq. And when there’s no news, and the ideas aren’t coming, I can look up at my collection of cartoon books for inspiration. And if that doesn’t work, I can always go for a walk in Mayfield Valley.