The quest for answers

Romance isn't dead: The graffitied message on the walkway in the city centre.
Romance isn't dead: The graffitied message on the walkway in the city centre.
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AS marriage proposals go it is unusual to say the least.

Graffitied on a Park Hill walkway 13 stories into the Sheffield sky, and visible in the city centre, the message reads simply: ‘I love you will u marry me’.

It has been there years now, probably decades, but this summer a search to find who wrote it - and, just as importantly, if the answer was yes - is to be taken onto the air waves of BBC national radio.

“When I saw it, maybe two years ago, I just thought it was such a dramatic symbol of intense, optimistic, risk-taking love,” says freelance producer Frances Byrnes. “It’s so high and there’s no way it could have been written other than by risking your life climbing over the edge, and I think that’s incredible.

“I’ve met so many people since then who have said they always wondered who wrote it, and why, and what happened, and I just thought I should try and find out.”

The only problem so far? With the 30-minute documentary set to air this summer she’s still no closer to finding an answer.

She’s spoken to residents, old caretakers, Sheffield City Councillor Pat Midgley and Urban Splash, the development company which is currently transforming the complex and which has said it will keep the now-iconic message intact as part of the redevelopment.

And still nothing.

“There’s plenty of rumours,” says the 46-year-old, of Nether Edge, Sheffield. “But for the most part people can’t even seem to agree on when it was done - some people say it was written only 10 years ago, others reckon the graffiti was done not long after the flats opened in the 1960s. It’s fascinating.”

There’s one rumour the girl said yes but the couple later divorced, another that she was at the centre of a love triangle which resulted in one man being set on fire.

“But those are rumours and there’s nothing I’ve found to suggest they’re true,” says Frances, a Sony Radio Academy Award winner who has previously worked on shows including Woman’s Hour and Poetry Please.

“It’s not a frivolous search,” she says. “I’m hopeful but I understand there may not have been a happy ending. But this is something that has looked over Sheffield for years and will do for a long time to come and I think it’s important to try and find what the person was thinking when they wrote it, why they were so in love they did this.”

A name ‘Clare Middleton’ was added at a later date - but it was not part of the original message.

“I’d still like to speak to Clare if she’s out there though,” says Frances. “Or anyone who knows anything about it.”

The show, provisionally called, The I Love You Bridge, will air late summer on Radio 4. If you think you have any information email Frances on