THE DIARY: Contain yourself

Shipping Container which will be used as a temporary tourist information kisok..Carolyn Butterworth and Tom Jones
Shipping Container which will be used as a temporary tourist information kisok..Carolyn Butterworth and Tom Jones
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IT looks, on first inspection, like a small shipping container plonked in the middle of Sheaf Square.

And, strictly speaking, that’s exactly what it is.

But when the doors of this industrial storage unit are opened at 11am this morning they will reveal what its creators are calling a dream tourist office for an alternative Sheffield.

Contained within will not be visitor guides to Weston Park Museum or information about The Crucible and Cathedral. Rather it will be jam-packed with walks showing the city’s best views, guides to the old cutlery industries and real ale pubs, information on the South Yorkshire’s music and art scenes, and – this being Sheffield – several bottles of a certain relish to sample.

A guided tour to a different suburb – including Gleadless and Neepsend – will depart daily.

“For everything in here we asked the question, would it go in the real tourist centre?” says Tom James, one of the people behind the project. “And if the answer was yes, we wouldn’t have it in ours.

“I think the TIC does a great job but this is about showing another side to Sheffield that not everyone knows about.”

Be quick, though: in just 11 days this unofficial civic centre will be gone for good.

For The Arrivals Zone, as it is called, is a temporary kiosk set up to shout about Sheffield during the city’s Festival Of The Mind which runs today until September 30.

That transitory aspect explains why it’s in a shipping container.

“We had a limited budget,” says Tom. “We were trying to think how we could build something stable but secure which we could take down - and this came to us. I think it looks great. It’s probably my favourite ‘buildings’ in the city from the last 10 years to be honest.”

The project stemmed from a feeling the region doesn’t always do enough to promote itself.

Tom, who runs Sheffield Publicity Department, an unofficial art group which encourages people to explore the area, teamed up with Carolyn Butterworth, a teaching fellow at the Sheffield University’s School of Architecture.

“At first we were thinking about anchoring a hot air balloon outside the train station which people could go up in,” says Tom, aged 30, of Nether Edge. “But that was probably a bit ambitious.

“But as part of that vision, we wanted an arrivals lounge where people could find out about the city before they went in the balloon.

“Then we sort of started thinking that was a good idea on its own.”

Among the paraphernalia within will be a library of books about Sheffield, art and photographs inspired by the region, products made here such as honey and scissors, and – assuming they can source a battery-powered record player – a listening post featuring local bands.

“I suppose what we’re saying is this is what we like about the place where we live,” says Carolyn, 44, of Nether Green.

“Come down and tell us what you like too.”

The Arrivals Zone opens daily until September 30, 11am - 6pm. Daily tours are listed onsite.