Unfortunately uni work has been getting on top of me recently – the perils of being a Law student! This means I haven’t been able to dedicate a day (or even part of a day) to graffiti hunting of late.
I take it as a good opportunity for reminiscing about a piece I photographed on the first ever trip I went out on. This was one I (very wrongly) didn’t take a great deal of notice of at the time, but something I have since learnt a lot more about.
When I first started researching the street art of Sheffield I was mesmerised by the Kid Acnes, the Faunagraphics and of course the Phlegms of the city.
In comparison, “Clare Middleton I love you will u marry me”, with its two spellings of ‘you’ and missing question mark, scrawled across a bridge, high up on Park Hill, didn’t particularly impress me.
How very naïve of me!
…Because this unassuming piece is one of the most well known works in Sheffield. A landmark that can be seen from right across the city. One that has christened the bridge on which it was scrawled ‘the I Love You Bridge’.
The significance of it was brought to my attention thanks to a fairly old, yet fantastic piece of radio on BBC radio 4 – a documentation of the hunt for Clare Middleton and the person responsible for the proposal. Who were they? Did she say ‘yes’? Did they get married? Are some of the questions answered in this moving programme. If you haven’t already heard it, I highly recommend a listen…
Since learning the backstory and subsequent events of the proposal I keep coming across more and more references to ‘the I Love You Bridge’. Like the following poem which, in my opinion, is an incredibly accurate yet beautiful description of Park Hill…
The I Love You Bridge by Rowan Blair Colver
Within a landscape of concrete and other created forms,
A sub suburban sanctuary with rolling cubic lawns,
In coves of homes that peer from oblong fabricated walls,
Are folk with minds and souls breathing in buildings so tall.
Perhaps forgotten or misjudged significance led to time,
People carry on running around their personal pantomime,
And the dreams and lives of people existing up so high,
Can be subconsciously swept so casually aside.
When circumstance dictates and you walk through the lanes,
And you catch yourself straining at the highest window panes,
Perhaps you quietly ask yourself “How do they live like this”,
Then out of nowhere the answer
“I love you”
scrawled on the highest bridge
Additionally, and to my surprise, I discovered that The Crookes (a band all Sheffielders should be aware of!) wrote a song about the (ironically) high number of people who have taken their lives jumping from ‘the I Love You Bridge’.
“There were 26 all just craving one more kiss,
As they jumped from the I Love You bridge.
It’s a magic trick, an escape from this.”
I knew the song, appropriately titled ‘The I Love You Bridge’, long before I knew the bridge. Having seen the band live, the significance of the song was not explained. Perhaps too depressing for the, otherwise cheerful, gig atmosphere. However I can’t help think knowing the meaning completely changes the way you hear the song, which is so beautifully sad.
The question has since been illuminated so that it shines across the city at night. It has also been used as the catchphrase for the Park Hill regeneration project.
Over the years it has been displayed on various memorabilia, including Sheffield’s very own Alex Turner.
I’ve really enjoyed learning more about ‘the I Love You Bridge’. It will now be forever impossible for me to walk to the station without a glance in the direction of Park Hill!