Spot the difference

Sheffield-born author Geoff Nicholson with the Hollywood Hills in the background
Sheffield-born author Geoff Nicholson with the Hollywood Hills in the background
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IT was Dominic West who (in)famously compared Sheffield to the mean, drug-scarred streets of Baltimore.

Now another American-based Englishman has come up with a slightly more favourable comparison.

Image from Sheffield Street Art

Image from Sheffield Street Art

The Steel City, reckons best-selling Los Angeles-living author Geoff Nicholson, is a dead ringer for Tinsel Town.

And (hey, stop laughing at the back!) he had the thought, which forms the basis of an increasingly popular new blog, while walking down Sunset Boulevard.

“Over there you have the Capitol Records Tower which looks like a stack of 45s on a turntable,” says the 58-year-old. “But here you have the kettle drums.

“LA has the Hollywood sign on the hill, here there’s the Park Hill illumination.

Los Angeles by Geoff Nicholson: graffiti

Los Angeles by Geoff Nicholson: graffiti

“And there’s so much stunning street art in both.”

Something of a stretch, you might think, but if anyone is in a position to make the claim it’s Geoff.

The writer – whose latest book The Lost Art Of Walking has been published on both sides of the Atlantic – was born in Hillsborough (“on my gran’s kitchen table”), grew up in Gleadless and attended King Edward VII school in Broomhill. At 19, he left for Cambridge University, spent some years living in London, and then moved to LA in 2003 after falling in love with an American while promoting his novel Footsucker in New York.

But it was only when he was invited back to Sheffield’s Off The Shelf literary festival this year that he really started comparing the place he comes from with the place he is at.

Park Hill Flats, Sheffield, with an advert reading: 'Park Hill - I Love You - Will You Marry Me'

Park Hill Flats, Sheffield, with an advert reading: 'Park Hill - I Love You - Will You Marry Me'

“I was due here to promote my book,” he explains.

“It’s about the history and philosophy of walking, and it recalls a lot of the walks I did around the Peak District when I was a child, so the festival organisers asked me to lead a guided walk around the city. But I’ve not lived here properly for so long I’d have felt a fraud doing that.”

Instead he came up with his own idea – to stroll through his Hollywood neighbourhood in a rough circle taking pictures and making notes before transposing that walk on to a map of Sheffield.

He then did the corresponding trek here with a sold-out walking audience.

Hollywood sign

Hollywood sign

In LA it took Sunset Boulevard, Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street. Here there was Pond Street, The Moor and Norfolk Row.

“It’s been fascinating,” says Geoff.

“It might seem like a silly project, and I suppose it is, but it’s by doing things like this you get to explore places you wouldn’t and see things you might miss – like those similarities between Sheffield and LA – and now it’s nice to share that with people on the blog and spark some discussion.

“It’s nice knowing I’ll look around Hollywood from now on and think of Yorkshire.”

The Lost Art of Walking is published by Harbour Books. The Hollywood-Sheffield blog is available at www.hollywoodwalker.blogspot.com