FEATURE: City’s hub of creative businesses

Steve Rimmer, founder of CADS
Steve Rimmer, founder of CADS
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Time and again, Sheffield has proven itself a vital city in the heart of the north.

From music and fashion, to technology and industry, the steel city’s exports are world-renowned - and for the last six years one particular local arts charity has been working hard to grow the city’s creative businesses.

Social enterprise ‘Creative Arts Development Space’ - better known as CADS - has made it their mission to provide affordable space in the city for Sheffield’s creative industries.

The charity is headed up by founder Steve Rimmer, who launched it in 2009, after an advert he placed regarding some available studio space got a record number of responses.

He says: “I realised there was a very real need for affordable unit space in the city, so I set up a studio complex in Shalesmoor - and CADS was born!”

In the six years since its inception, CADS has acquired a further seven buildings, located all over the city, which today contain 120 studios and house hundreds of Sheffield businesses - including six art galleries, four breweries and eight music studios. The studios are rented out for as little as £20 a week and 80 per cent of all CADS’ units are rented for less than £50, something Steve is clearly very proud of.

“I wanted to remove the barriers for people with great ideas,” he says.

“I wanted to create a community of artisan productivity, where the facilities and services provided would enable people - regardless of their social or economic circumstances - to develop their work in their own locality.

“Through surplus studio space, free events and exhibitions, fundraising and creative networking, our aim is to benefit a wide and diverse range of people and help them to continue to create and innovate.”

And in addition to providing a home to new start-ups and existing small businesses, CADS is focused on re-purposing disused buildings in the city, turning these unique spaces into creative hubs.

Steve says: “For over a century, the industrial heartland of this city has churned out a conveyor belt of history and a wealth of heritage which shapes Sheffield’s identity. Today the area retains its manufacturing traditions, but new methods of production have joined them in the arena, complementing toil with technology and invention with innovation in art, music and culture.

“It’s wonderful to see cutlers’ workshops stand shoulder-to-shoulder with art galleries and recording studios. We have a generation of talented people here eager to write their own chapter in the region’s rich history. Artists’ collectives and theatre companies share the streets of Sheffield with nationally-acclaimed breweries, master craftsmen and repair shops and there is unique co-operation between heritage and renovation here, a mindset which looks both respectfully backwards whilst charging headlong into the future.”

Since achieveing charitable status in 2013, CADS - which reinvests all its profits into other projects benefitting creative people - has headed up a number of social enterprise programmes, such as the ‘Space CADets programme,’ which offers free space to new start ups, and art therapy workshops for people with mental health issues. They’ve also played host to myriad one-off events spanning theatre, photo-shoots and art exhibitions, covering 50 days of the year and attracting over 2000 visitors.

Steve adds: “We’re striving to help people develop their businesses, as well as assisting in the widespread development of the arts through workshops, free spaces and any other help and support we can provide.

Steve insists partnerships are also key to the CADS philosophy, as he believes that housing lots of creative people together promotes collaboration between individuals.

Artist Rob Lee, who currently rents a studio in one of CADS buildings, confirms this is the case, saying: “There’s always such a friendly and social atmosphere and the main building is a really interesting space; it’s really good for productivity and inspiration. I enjoy being around other creative folk.”

Music teacher Nye Farley addes “CADS buildings are so interesting and full of creative people, they’re perfect places for me to teach from.”

Steve adds: “As well as the units, we have space for hire - whether it’s for arts exhibitions, music performances, film and photography shoots, fashion shows, conferences or public meetings.”

Visit www.cads-online.co.uk for details.