A major push to realise the potential of Sheffield’s creative sector gets under way this week.
The new Sheffield Creative Guild has been set up to raise the profile and recognition of businesses, individuals and organisations working in a wide range of creative fields, from art and music to design, digital technology and literature.
Backed by Arts Council England, the city council and both Sheffield universities, the guild has attracted more than 150 ‘pioneer’ members, among them music producers, stonemasons, performers, managers and students.
The city’s creative sector - encompassing traditional ‘making’ and modern technology - is thriving, but the new body aims to unite people from different disciplines, attract investment and stop talent migrating to London and elsewhere.
It will also take on a lobbying role in the hope of influencing decisions made by local government and businesses.
An online directory - likened to a ‘Yellow Pages of creativity’ for Sheffield - is being set up, members will be encouraged to trade their skills through a ‘time bank’ and events will be held, along with other initiatives.
Jane Dawson, the guild’s development officer, said: “There’s been a quite overwhelming and really positive response. People are joining up every day. It’s really exciting. People are just saying ‘Sheffield needs this’.
“Our ambition is really big. This hasn’t ever been done before, there’s no other membership organisation that exists in terms of its breadth.”
Two years in the making, the guild emerged from Sheffield’s unsuccessful bid to become the 2013 UK Capital of Culture, which had been expected to bring an increase in tourism and an associated economic boost.
Jane said the disappointment ‘created a new determination to improve’. The Sheffield Culture Consortium, made up of the big venues and arts chiefs, was launched, but there was still a ‘lack of infrastructure and support for the individual artist or creative freelancer’, she added.
“That’s where the idea of the guild came in.”
A bid for Arts Council funding at the end of 2014 brought in £37,000 - this was match-funded by the council and universities to a total of £70,000.
“There was a real investment from the city in the project,” said Jane.
A subscription model has been adopted so funding can become ‘self-sustaining’.
“The Arts Council made quite clear that they fund projects like this to set up, but what they don’t do is fund continuous development,” she said.
Jane said the guild is aimed at ‘anyone who works within the creative sector’.
“It’s really broad. The more members we have, the more diversity we have and the stronger we will be. It’s not just for people who are creative in the sense of artists, makers, actors, musicians - we want this to support anyone working under the creative umbrella in the city - architects, digital coders, web designers and developers.
“It also takes in people like myself - I don’t make things, but I am a project manager for creative projects.
“We don’t want it to be a membership society full of 500 painters.
“When you put a poet in a room with a dancer and a musician, and give them someone who’s good with budgets and can organise things, the opportunities can be endless.
“We want people to spark off each other.”
Jane continued: “The idea is that our voice will be listened to, that we will be encouraging creative businesses to come to Sheffield to set up their offices.”
Local businesses needing creative input will be encouraged to call on local talent using the directory, she explained.
“We can retain talent in the city, also we’ll keep money in the city. What tends to happen now is very much that if a business in Sheffield wants a graphic designer, they’ll search Google, look through the top three or four results and just choose one - they don’t take into consideration where that designer is.
“It will be, to external eyes, like a Yellow Pages of creativity for the city.”
And Sheffield’s neighbours are watching with interest, it seems.
“A lot of other cities are quite keenly keeping their eyes on us. This could very easily be a plan that is rolled out to other cities.”
n A sold-out launch event is taking place tomorrow (Friday) at The Roco on Glossop Road. Visit Sheffield Creative Guild for details.