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The Sheffield culture guide written by in-the-know locals

Tim Etchells

Tim Etchells is a writer, artist, performance maker and artistic director of Forced Entertainment, a theatre company based in Sheffield for nearly 30 years which tours all over the world.

How would you describe your work?
I work in lots of different areas – in visual art, in writing, in performance. I think one of the things that ties the work together is an interest in speech and in written language – how we use words to process, describe and understand the world. I tend to think about language as an incredibly rich field of possibilities, and at the same time to think of it as a trap. We’re in it, can’t quite get out of it.

What inspires you?
People’s resourcefulness and invention – not necessarily in a dramatic way, but in the small ways that people think and act in their lives. People with ways of doing things that aren’t mine. Bright people – quick thinkers. People that take their time. Anything done with love, or with wit or with a question – implicit or explicit.

What’s your workspace like?
My physical space is totally disorganised but I know where things are, unless someone else has been moving things. Or to put it another way, if a thing is in the place I think it is we are lucky – if it is not then it may as well not exist at all… or it might take several days to find it. The filing system on my computer meanwhile is an abandoned ruin of several previous systems. Thanks to the ‘find’ function I can still locate things, but they are everywhere and nowhere until searched for (see the slideshow photo – the true horror of this is not really visible: about a million files in the top right hand corner. Desktop picture of dropped ketchup bottle outside Sainsbury's on London Road). I would like it if real-world objects were tagged electronically so that I could search for them – a missing book could make a yelling sound from the bottom of a pile.

What do you love about Sheffield?
People. The possibility of walking to the countryside. The small scale. The fact that it’s overwritten (for me) with so many stories, good and bad and in the middle of the two.

What would you do to improve the city?
I would rename every street, rebuild and repaint every building. Construct a thousand monuments. Build an underground lake for nightswimming. A gigantic tower for observation of the night-time and day-time skies. Close the city centre for cars. Serve free food on The Moor and on Fargate each lunchtime with meals cooked by artists. Broadcast a radio station all night every night describing the dreams of everyone that lives there. Stage performances on the parkway roundabout. Recreations of chariot races and great car crashes from history. Make Sundays a day in which only children can go outside. Make Mondays a day where everyone should play music everywhere, of all kinds, at all volumes. Make the snow dance.

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