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What’s That Smell on West Street?: An Investigation

A Nasal Exploration

Imagine the Wonders of the World – Machu Picchu, Christ the Redeemer, Phillip Schofield’s Snapchat – picture them, take in their wonder. They’re beautiful, right? David Attenborough has shown us that our planet is filled with splendour, both natural and man-made; those magnificent wonders of our world, a gift to thine eyes. Now forget about them. They have nothing on West Street.

West Street, a true wonder of our world. You’ve probably walked down it before (unless you don't know Sheffield, then, quite obviously, you have not walked down West Street), you know it’s vibe, it’s aura. You can feel it, feel it inside your soul, reverberating through your body as you go into Nando’s. Or perhaps it’s just the vibrations of a passing tram. Either way, there is a quality to West Street that makes it special, a taste that lingers on the tongue even after you’ve dropped down on to Division Street, the poor man’s West Street. Do you know what that taste is? It’s the taste of the mysterious West Street smell.

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Groovier than any groove, funkier than any funk, grimier than any grime, the smell on West Street is Sheffield’s biggest mystery. You know the one I mean? It kind of starts outside Players and extends down to the takeaway opposite West Street Live, a stretch of land that has baffled scientists, unnerved students, and pricked the interest of me, a BA student at a polytechnic university.

Nobody really knows what it is or where it came from or which absolute animal is responsible for it, with a smell a little like sewage, kind of like stale alcohol, and taking the colour of piss. Is it piss? It could be. Is it just that the guys who spend actual real money in Players, the ones who go out wearing an outfit comprised of a roll neck jumper, tan slip-ons, and a deep disrespect for women have left the club (club in the very loosest sense of the word) and decided that here, this specific stretch of West Street, is where they are going to piss? This would not surprise me.

However, if this were the case then why does Carver Street not smell this way? Shouldn't Carver Street, with its ill-fitting XXS River Island V-neck t-shirt vibe and quaint little Italian restaurant opposite Popworld*, smell like piss too?

*I’m no Alan Sugar but even I know you should never put an Italian restaurant parallel to a Popworld. Your Italian restaurant should be nowhere near a Popworld, Popworld is the worst club in the country. It’s the first rule of business – don’t open an Italian restaurant opposite a Popworld.

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No, I don’t believe it’s piss, it’s too straightforward. My theory is this – the smell is an elaborate, nasal-led Corp marketing campaign designed to familiarise and accustom the people of Sheffield with the smell of Corp. It all makes sense. Does it smell like piss? Check. Like stale alcohol? 100%. Does it have the colour of a substance not quite Earthly? Abso-bloody-lutely.

It’s a genius ploy, really. You’re heading down West Street, you’ve just passed Players and you’re on your way into town to walk down Fargate in a totally convoluted way because, let’s be honest, you can never walk straight down Fargate, there’s always something blocking your way.

You’re getting deep into the smell now, the smell has penetrated your nostrils in a totally non-sexy way, it’s filling your lungs like the smell of an overcrowded smoking area. Suddenly you get the urge to go to Corp. You’re pining for blue pints, your mind already lost in the Corporation maze, your body is overcome with a desire to hear Rage Against the Machine’s Christmas classic ‘Killing in the Name’ seamlessly mixed with ‘I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor’ (the irony is that it is not a seamless mix, if anything the seams are totally visible to the naked eye during the transition). Corp is within you. Next thing you know you’re in Corp. How did this happen? The smell on West Street happened.

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But no, I’m wrong. The smell on West Street is more than a simple marketing trick. It isn’t designed to fool us, it’s designed to embody us. The smell on West Street isn’t sewage or alcohol, the smell on West Street is the smell of shame.

A shame we can all relate to, when we’ve drunkenly slept with our housemate, when we’ve accidentally opened Siri in the middle of a silent lecture, when we spend £9000 a year on an education that probably won’t help us in the grand scheme of things, if anything slowing us down under the weight of the crippling debt. That is the truth behind the smell on West Street – shame. Case closed.

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