Today’s Star columnist: Danielle Hayden

Danielle Hayden, 21-year-old journalism student at Sheffield Hallam University.
Danielle Hayden, 21-year-old journalism student at Sheffield Hallam University.
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You’re not from New York City, you’re from Rotherham.

The famous words of Arctic Monkeys frontman, Alex Turner, rang through my head as I walked past some of the world’s tallest buildings to Times Square.

At 21, a poor student with three jobs, I managed to save up for the trip of a lifetime to New York.

And before someone makes the joke – no, not New York Stadium, home of Rotherham United, the actual city of New York.

Those who have visited will be familiar with yellow cabs whizzing past and people saying hello to you everywhere. But as a small-town girl, it was hard to stop myself welling up.

It may sound silly, but when I was ice-skating in Central Park with my best friends and an excellent view of the skyline, I couldn’t have wished to be anywhere else.

Which is not to say I don’t love it where I’m from.

My home town of Rotherham has had a bad press lately. People are scared to go into the centre for fear of walking into a demonstration. With that and the child abuse scandal – who would believe me?

Before the child abuse report, I would tell people I was from Rotherham, and people didn’t really know where it was.

But now they know, they look pitying, like I have let myself down.

But their idea of the town isn’t my experience. My grandma taught me to be proud of where you’re from.

And all my happy memories with her are from times we spent together in Rotherham – whether that be an afternoon in the library or morning in Clifton Park – I wouldn’t change them for anything.

So how can it have such a bad reputation?

When I was in New York, I saw all the good things. What I didn’t see was it’s horrific underbelly. The Bronx – home to muggings, killings and all things criminal. Even one of the world’s greatest cities has a bad side.

Rotherham has wonderful people and wonderful things to see, it just seems to be outweighed in the media at the moment.

It may not have the Empire State Building or Central Park, but back home, I get that same fuzzy feeling walking through Clifton Park and driving past some of the beautiful buildings.

At times like that, I couldn’t wish to be anywhere else.