Do you remember that time when we thoroughly beat Leeds at Christmas?

49 years ago, the BBC found itself caught smack in’t middle of a battle of the Christmas high streets between Sheffield and Leeds, while also proving that Santa lives in Sheffield and not the North Pole

Thursday, 24th December 2020, 12:25 pm
Updated Thursday, 24th December 2020, 1:28 pm

Back in’t 70s, Sheffield had over 20,000 light bulbs which illuminated our city streets to the delight of many. Turning the seven-hilled shire into a glittering fairyland for which there was no other Yorkshire city to compare.

Some (Leeds local politicians) had the audacity to question why it was necessary to spend so much on creating such unbridled Christmas joy at the flick of a switch but the resulting crowds said it all.

For you see, once upon a time, people of the city took to the streets around Barker’s Pool in their thousands to attend the ‘Christmas Illuminations Switch-on’, complete with the City Mayor presenting Father Christmas with a stainless steel ‘Key to the city’ (Sheffield-made, no less), and we even had the likes of Les Dawson appearing out of a cracker, it was a source of pride — like Henderson’s Relish, which Leeds doesn’t have either *shrug emoji*.

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A city of pride and sharing, Sheffield decided to bestow some of the ‘Christmas spirit’ through the medium of attractive ladies in mini-skirts (it is the 70s after all) who handed out free ‘Shop in Sheffield this Christmas’ bags on Leeds high street, and it’s fair to say that most of people were pretty delighted… but not everybody took kindly to this. And, it seems that cutting a dash of Christmas: “just wasn’t worth a rats” to some in Leeds.

Perhaps it was Sheffield’s 200 planted Christmas trees in comparison to Leeds’ grant total of 11 that created such emotion? Others pointed out the lack of Christmas lights which was a sign of a considerably lacking festive spirit on the part of, well… Leeds.

Sadly though, it seems that some people didn’t take too kindly to this and when it was put to the city’s leading local politician, Sir Frank Marshall, under one of Leeds’ 11 trees that Leeds were probably missing a trick, he was particularly dismissive of Sheffield’s festive cheer, commenting that: “we don’t like to hire second-hand lights from Blackpool and we have a real lighting system in Leeds”, before following up by saying: “I think Sheffield takes itself a little too seriously”.

For someone that seemed unimpressed by Sheffield’s brazen nature, it seemed that not all of Leeds felt the same and only 24 hours later the Evening Post sent it’s own mini-skirt attired entourage to Sheffield to curry some favour with our locals, which back-fired when some of the people they approached had actually come from Leeds to do their shopping, because they “liked to do their shopping in Sheffield” — no doubt with their ‘Shop in Sheffield this Christmas’ bags in tow.In short, “Leeds is the second greatest city in Yorkshire... and if people in Leeds really want to see how Christmas should be carried on they ought to come to Sheffield and see it” — a statement as true in 1971 as it would be today in much more regular times.

Christmas lights Barker's Pool 1974

Merry Christmas everyone, and to you as well Leeds.

#OnThisDay 1971: Nationwide found itself caught in the middle of a battle of the Christmas high streets between Sheffield and Leeds.

— BBC Archive (@BBCArchive) December 21, 2020