The Diary: A week Designed to show city talent

An exhibition of work by northern artists is taking place at Yorkshire Artspace's Persistence Works Studio in Brown Street, Sheffield. Our picture shows Culture North Director Patrick Murphy in the Made North Gallery.
An exhibition of work by northern artists is taking place at Yorkshire Artspace's Persistence Works Studio in Brown Street, Sheffield. Our picture shows Culture North Director Patrick Murphy in the Made North Gallery.
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From the classic British traffic light and the retractable roof at Wimbledon to the humble Marks & Spencer sandwich packet, Sheffield designers have been helping to shape how our world looks for decades.

Now, the city’s excellence in the field is to be celebrated with a special festival, The Diary can reveal.

The inaugural Sheffield Design Week is set to attract a hoped-for 8,000 visitors to a range of exhibitions, installations, walks and talks being held at more than a dozen venues in June.

A 350-delegate conference will take place at Persistence Works in Brown Street, while displays of both locally and internationally designed products - from cutlery to T-shirts, furniture to packaging - will be held at spaces including Millennium Gallery, APG Works and 99 Mary Street. A guided walk will take in Sheffield’s best buildings and design-based films will be screened at The Showroom. Visitors arriving in the city will be met by a large-scale art installation outside the train station if all goes to plan. Perhaps best of all, most events will be free, to encourage Sheffielders to go along.

“It’s going to be terrific,” says Patrick Murphy, director of the city’s Culture North enterprise which is running the project with support from Sheffield Council and the Arts Council. “Although it’s probably going to be a lot of sleepless nights for me.”

A daunting task it may be. But then, as the 44-year-old of Darfield, Barnsley, notes, perhaps it’s time Sheffield had something like this.

“This is a design city,” says Patrick today, at his own design studio in Exchange Works, Exchange Place. “We have an incredible heritage here from David Mellor, who designed the traffic light, to The Designers Republic, which produced world-famous record covers.”

That reputation is still strong today too. The retractable roof at Wimbledon was engineered by Ridgeway Road company SCX Group, while M&S turned to Design Futures, of Arundel Street, for new food packaging. A bid to make the city a UNESCO Design Capital was announced in 2012 and is currently being worked on.

“There are dozens of companies producing everything from furniture to clothes,” says Patrick. “This is a way of boosting their reputation in the city itself but also drawing national attention to them.”

Runs June 23-29. Full programme will be released in April at sheffielddesignweek.co.uk