‘Powerhouses’ could back much needed arts funding

Kim Streets outside the Graves Gallery in Surrey Street
Kim Streets outside the Graves Gallery in Surrey Street
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A new era of philanthropy could be about to begin in Sheffield - and it’s never been more needed, a meeting of business leaders heard.

Gordon Bridge, chairman of Museums Sheffield, said he believed the city was poised to become a major global player again thanks to emerging powerhouse companies - harking back to a time when Firth, Jessop and Graves were leaving their mark.

And he urged bosses to continue that tradition by supporting his cash-strapped organisation - on the basis that a healthy cultural scene was good for the city and good for business.

Speaking at the launch of the Museums Supporter’s Club at the Millennium Gallery, he said it had been forced to deal with savage cuts and inequalities.

The Arts Council spent £20 per head in London compared to £3.60 in the regions while the Department for Culture Media and Sport spent £45 per head in London and just £1 per head elswhere.

The former AESSEAL chairman added: “Sheffield was one of the most powerful cities in the world and from that came some wonderful philanthropy.

“I think our international clout is returning, there are some real powerhouses emerging and a new era of philanthropy could return.”

Museums Sheffield runs the Millennium Gallery, which saw 800,000 visitors in the last year. It will have a £300,000 revamp in December. Weston Park Museum is set to have a £750,000 refurbishment to make it more easy to change displays - there are nearly a million objects in storage.

There are also plans for a £45m revamp of the Central Library on Surrey Street - home to the Graves Gallery - which would turn it into a 24/7 digital hub and the “heart of the civic city”, according to Kim Streets, chief executive of Museums Sheffield.

She added: “The Museums Supporter’s Club is a new opportunity for Sheffield’s businesses to directly support the city’s museums and galleries. Having a strong cultural offer is good for business in the city, so there is a natural fit and we look forward to working even more closely with Sheffield’s business community in the years to come”

Gripple boss, Hugh Facey, told the meeting he rented a painting for £1,000-a-year.

He joked: “That was 14 years ago - it would have been cheaper to buy it. But it’s fantastic, you can have a magnificent painting in your boardroom, office or home and put money into Museums Sheffield.”

Companies joining include AEESEAL, Henry Boot, OSL Holdings, PwC and Gripple.

Contact Ceris Morris on 0114 278 2610 or email ceris.morris@musesums-sheffield.org.uk