Culture club gets to the art of the matter

Ben Duong as taken by Luke Avery for his Sheffield 365 project
Ben Duong as taken by Luke Avery for his Sheffield 365 project
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FROM the outside it looks like a party - and to some extent it is.

Dozens of 20 and 30 somethings are crammed into a small bare room in an old, bare building on the outskirts of Sheffield city centre. They talk, drink and listen to records.

The North Culture Club networking event

The North Culture Club networking event

But there is perhaps something more important afoot than mere socialising.

For here gallery owners, jewellery makers and magazine founders all mingle. Artists, film makers and musicians share a beer. Photographers, graphic designers and architects debate ideas.

Welcome, then, to Sheffield’s latest, most real bid to be recognised as a place of culture.

Spurred on by the failed attempt to be crowned official European City of Culture in 2013, these people are plotting a year of events, exhibitions and collaborations which they hope will create an art movement still talked about in years to come.

“There’s so many exciting things happening in the city right now it’s incredible,” says Ben Duong, the man behind the networking event at The Orchard Centre in West Bar. “But often it’s being done by brilliant individuals who are treading their own path.

“What we’re trying to do is connect those people up, get them interested in each other’s projects, expand their audience, create a scene that makes Sheffield stand out, that shows what a vibrant place this is.”

He’s right about the vibrancy.

In a few square feet of your diarist there’s one member of Pulp, two guys who set up a Sheffield arts magazine, Article, which has since expanded to four other cities, three gallery owners, and the photographer Luke Avery, whose project of taking a picture of one Sheffielder for every day of 2010 earned himself his own feature in The Star.

Oh, and there’s Ben himself, the founder of The North Marketing Agency and the man behind this venture, which he calls simply The North Culture Club.

He wants to bring a sense of community to the city’s culture, while also taking the city’s culture to a wider community.

Over the next year, he and others will be hosting regular events like this, sponsoring exhibitions, hosting talks, classes and gigs - all with the aim of bringing people together.

“It’s about giving a sense of cohesion to what’s going on here,” says the 35-year-old, of Valley Road, Meersbrook. “I know the council is trying to keep the culture bid activities alive but that’s quite top-down, whereas this is giving power to creative people to get inspired and be inspiring.

“It’s not about trying to change the world, it’s just about supporting that independent spirit.”

The event is a Speakeasy and live music evening on February 16 at a venue to be announced.

To get involved email ben@nrth.co.uk