Rather Rotherham

Rather Rotherham

In the heart of Rotherham, a vibrant collaboration between visual artist Patrick Murphy and poet and writer Ian McMillan has brought forth a captivating project, aptly named ‘Rather Rotherham’. Patrick and Ian embarked on a journey to craft a poetic narrative that intricately intertwines with the essence of Rotherham, all in anticipation of the forthcoming 2025 Children’s Capital of Culture Festival.

Commissioned in 2022, the project delivered a series of public workshops, where the creative energies of young minds converged to shape the verses that would eventually adorn the final neon artwork destined to grace Rotherham’s Civic Theatre.


Commission: Rotherham Council
Place: Rotherham
Year: 2022

Through these workshops, a unique phrase emerged, encapsulating the spirit of the endeavor – ‘Rather Rotherham’.

Patrick created the artwork for ‘Rather Rotherham’ which adorned badges and T-shirts, thereby instilling a sense of pride and belonging among participants. Meanwhile, Ian, with his poetic prowess, carefully crafted the verses that would form the basis of the neon installation. These verses were also featured on a set of four postcards, each bearing a distinct element from the poetic tapestry.

The full verse written by Ian McMillan is shown below:


A river of possibilities
Flows through here;
A ray of Rotherham light
Across the middle
Of the town.
It’s time to turn Rotherham
Upside down
In our way.

I’d rather Rotherham.

Here is a changing, shifting story;
It’s flowing, it’s growing.
All Rotherham’s stories
Through the middle
Of our lives;
Time to help this Rotherham
To arrive.
It’s a good day.

I’d rather Rotherham.
This Rotherham,
This gleaming Rotherham.

Round here feels rather real,
It flows through us
Rotherham starts singing
Through the middle
Of our hearts
Time to make a start
On a shining future:
Let’s have our say.

Thanks to those
Who were here before.
Thanks to those
Who have yet to arrive.
Now it’s over to those
Who are here and now.
Over to you,
Over to us…
We’d rather Rotherham

The final part of the project was to create a neon installation for Rotherham Civic Theatre. Patrick worked with Ian to choose just two lines from the Rather Rotherham verse that represented the ethos of the project.

To premiere the ‘Rather Rotherham’ neon installation an open mic night was orchestrated, drawing together voices from the community. Hosted in collaboration with the Rotherham Civic Theatre, the event provided a platform for individuals to share their own verses while Ian provided a tantalizing preview performance of the finished work.

As the neon lights of ‘Rather Rotherham’ illuminate the Civic Theatre, they serve as a testament to the power of creativity and collaboration.