I went over to Sheffield on Friday night to welcome home Olympian and Heptathlon gold medalist Jessica Ennis, in a ceremony and public turn out usual only befit for FA Cup Winners and Royalty.
20,000 people flocked to see the likable and modest Ennis at Sheffield’s Barker’s Pool on the evening of Friday 17th August. Even before the Olympics had started, she was christened the poster girl for Team GB; with her image being shown on the side of buildings and magazine covers alike. Now, she is being called the greatest female athlete in the world and having won gold in the Heptathlon in what was dubbed Super Saturday; which also saw five other Team GB gold medals won.
I got to Sheffield centre at around a quarter to five. The atmosphere was electric. It was one of those rare occasions that see’s everyone from the community together; much like Sheftival a few weeks prior.
As the masses descended onto Barker’s Pool, the stage and screen was set for the first performers before Ennis came to see her fans. Sarah Mac is an absolutely wonderful singer and pianist in the same vein as Billie Holiday and Any Winehouse. She is someone who can easily appeal to fans of real music just as much as the X-Factor hoards. I have to say that Sarah is from Thurgoland, Barnsley but Sheffield seems to have claimed her for themselves; much like Huddersfield claimed gold medal winner Ed Clancy.
By the times second band Hot Soles are up, the crowd stretched back to Leopold Street and the Town Hall. When Hot Soles started, I’d somehow managed to work my way back about another thirty feet and after getting trampled on my overzealous grannies and kids; worse than many a metal concert I’ve been to but still good moods all around. When the band started it was obvious straight away that there was something wrong. We could see from the screen that the band consisted of a vocalist/guitarist and a drummer, but all we could hear was the muffled beats of the bass drum and the distant yells of the vocalist; not a guitar to be heard. Someone really hadn’t put any thought into what the crowd was going to hear and considering the numbers the council were expecting, that is a damn shame. The band might have been good but who knows.
By the time it got to half six and the Look North cameras were rolling live, Toby Foster I assumed was announcing the arrival of Jessica Ennis and as I could only see his lips move on the large screen and I couldn’t see the stage, I had to rely on the shrill screams from the crowd down in front to let us know. The crowd around me started to shout for Ennis and so too did I. Sure enough, there she was on stage. Both her and her coach were being interviewed by Foster, but unfortunately the crowd down here can’t lip read. A group of around fifty or so started to chant ‘Turn it up! Turn it up!’ and then suddenly the cheers came like a Mexican wave. We didn’t know why we were cheering, or what was being said but we cheered hard regardless.
Ten minutes passed and next thing you know the screen is replaying the clips from her seven heptathlon events and the dreadful mistakes Sheffield council’s had made in putting on this event passed and you realised that we are her for her – not the music and not them.
There is something special about being the best female athlete in the world; something almost superhuman and in times like these, people need super heroes; not the talentless nobodies claiming the position of reality television role models. She is real and she is Sheffield’s and regardless of whether or not you caught a glimpse or heard, you know you were part of something special and that you’ll be seeing her a little more often round these parts now.