A cultural year in Sheffield that kept everybody talking
Sheffield has enjoyed a cultural year of renewal as well as consolidation.
Sheffield Theatres had its first year under the artistic directorship of Robert Hastie, beginning with a big hit - Everybody’s Talking About Jamie.
Directed by Jonathan Butterell, written by Tom MacRae and The Feeling’s Dan Gillespie Sells, and starring John McCrea, the new musical told the story of a 16-year-old aspiring drag queen from Sheffield. It swiftly transferred to the West End’s Apollo Theatre with most of its original cast intact.
Hastie’s own inaugural production at the Crucible, Julius Caesar, reimagined Shakespeare’s play as a contemporary political thriller in the age of Trump and ‘fake news’, starring Jonathan Hyde in the title role and Samuel West as Brutus.
Hastie also brought new work, directing Of Kith And Kin, a gay parenthood drama by Chris Thompson, in the Studio, while Desire Under The Elms - Eugene O’Neill’s epic American tragedy - was revived, directed by Sam Yates with a cast including Matthew Kelly, back in Sheffield for the first time since 2013.
There was also room at the theatres for touring productions of Northern Ballet’s Casanova, Dr Frankenstein, Jane Eyre, Matthew Bourne’s The Red Shoes and The Full Monty, in the film’s 20th anniversary year.
Museums Sheffield offered a fresh take on its collections at the Millennium Gallery. In What Can Be Seen, artists Tim Etchells and Vlatka Horvat presented a wealth of objects and images, some never exhibited, from pocket watches to Egyptian artefacts and early 20th century puppets.
Protest Lab, at the same venue, helped to kick off a project exploring Sheffield’s history of activism, while Ravilious & Co: The Pattern of Friendship – English Artist Designers 1922 to 1942 looked at the influence of Eric Ravilious and his circle.
At the Graves Gallery, An Earthly Paradise: Gardens In Art demonstrated how green spaces inspired artists such as Stanley Spencer, Paul Cezanne and James Tissot.
Weston Park Museum put some of the UK’s finest examples of Chinese craftsmanship on show in Stories From The East - The Grice Ivories, which took care to address the controversial impact of the ivory trade.
Also at Weston Park, Small Stories At Home In a Doll’s House took visitors on a journey through the history of the home via 12 intricately crafted dolls’ houses spanning over 300 years, in an exhibition on tour from the V&A Museum of Childhood.
Meanwhile, the Doc/Fest in June set a record for its audience numbers, with over 72,000 people seeing films and attending events. Highlights included the opening night premiere of the BFI-backed documentary Queerama, with a live performance by John Grant, one of the film’s soundtrack artists, and the first showing of Nick Broomfield’s Whitney Houston documentary, featuring a Q&A with the director.
Tramlines booked its biggest headliners to date - The Libertines, Primal Scream and Metronomy - and focused solely on outdoor stages for the first time. The Sensoria festival served up the usual eclectic mix for its 10th outing – Factory Floor played a live soundtrack to Fritz Lang’s Metropolis at Magna and the BBC’s Radiophonic Workshop was celebrated.
Off The Shelf was led by Sheffield’s universities for the first time, with writers Lee Child, Melvyn Bragg and Hollie McNish among the speakers, while Lush Spectra, curated by electronic artist Mark Fell over two days, brought multichannel audio works and acoustic music to the Samuel Worth Chapel in the General Cemetery.
The Roco, on Glossop Road, hosted The Body Electric, the first exhibition in its Blank Space gallery, this year, and Theatre Delicatessen moved from The Moor into a bigger venue at Eyre Street. Sheffield finally learned what the art project to replace the Tinsley Towers will look like - a row of sculptural chimneys by Alex Chinneck - and a 3D performance by synth pioneers Kraftwerk at City Hall crowned 2017’s gig calendar. The Sheffield Culture Consortium launched a wide-ranging plan for the next five years and Arts Council England awarded £13m to city organisations - a 21 per cent increase.