Sheffield culture strategy push to develop sector worth £900m to city

Work to develop a culture strategy for Sheffield aims to create far better support and development of the sector which is worth £900 million to the city’s economy.
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Sheffield City Council’s economic skills and development committee got an update on progress with the strategy at a meeting last week (February 19). This involves a Sheffield Culture Showcase of events that are set to take place across the city in the coming months.

Events will include a touring Cultural Caravan created by the city Roma community and workshops and performances by Sunrit Culture of South Asian dance. Other workshops and performances will come from Stand and Be Counted Theatre of Sanctuary, which involves asylum seekers and migrants, and A Mind Apart Theatre, which works with people with additional needs.

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The showcase will be involved with Migration Matters and Sensoria festivals in the city and will put on its own weekend festival of performances. A bid has been submitted for £635,000 of Arts Council funding, with a decision expected in April or May.

Birley Spa Bath House was mentioned during a meeting discussing Sheffield City Council'sc ulture strategy. Picture: Molly Williams (LDR)Birley Spa Bath House was mentioned during a meeting discussing Sheffield City Council'sc ulture strategy. Picture: Molly Williams (LDR)
Birley Spa Bath House was mentioned during a meeting discussing Sheffield City Council'sc ulture strategy. Picture: Molly Williams (LDR)

The aim is for the showcase to reach all parts of the city, the committee heard.

The committee launched its new culture strategy for Sheffield in September. It first adopted the Sheffield Culture Collective’s strategy before beginning to create its own strategy, which outside consultants, council teams and councillors have all been working on.

Consultation

The aim is to put forward a “guiding vision for everyone involved in culture or creativity in Sheffield”. The council would start to “take a leadership role in applying for funds for culture and finding ways to direct external funding to cultural groups and activities”, said a report to the committee.

Coun Minesh Parekh, deputy chair of Sheffield City Council's economic development and skills committee. Picture: Sheffield Council webcastCoun Minesh Parekh, deputy chair of Sheffield City Council's economic development and skills committee. Picture: Sheffield Council webcast
Coun Minesh Parekh, deputy chair of Sheffield City Council's economic development and skills committee. Picture: Sheffield Council webcast
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Consultation has been taking place with people and organisations working in the sector.

The report said: “There is some criticism of Sheffield City Council in the feedback, mainly focused on a historic lack of leadership and investment – this is no surprise and has featured in previous engagement with the sector.

“The cultural strategy development, alongside other recent developments being led by SCC (Sheffield City Council), provides a platform to start to change those perceptions.”

An audit of the culture strategy carried out for the council showed that there are 2,255 cultural and creative businesses registered in Sheffield, employing 9,700 people, bringing in £907,741 in gross value added (GVA) – a figure that measures the contribution of businesses to an economy.

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The audit also showed that, while small, the sector is showing strong levels of growth, although it lags behind Manchester, Leeds, Bristol and Newcastle.

Inequalities

The sector’s businesses and infrastructure are concentrated in the city centre, south and west of the city. As a result, people in the south-east and north of the city have the lowest engagement with the cultural sector, the audit said.

Coun Kurtis Crossland, who represents Beighton ward, commented on the inequalities, adding: “But in the south-east we do have Birley Spa Bath House, which is a massive cultural asset and one of the only buildings of its kind in the country.

“But unfortunately it has been left to ruin, despite the local community ready and able to take it on, and they want to see it flourish.”

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He criticised the way the council is treating other older cultural assets, including the now-demolished Market Tavern, the Rose Garden Cafe and Beauchief Abbey barns, saying: “It’s not on”.

Rebecca Maddox, head of business development for culture, pointed to the council’s joined-up heritage strategy adopted earlier that day by the strategy and resources committee. It was developed by grassroots heritage groups with support from the University of Sheffield.

She said it was a great example of how the council can work alongside others in a shared endeavour to reach shared goals.

Leadership

Committee deputy chair Coun Minesh Parekh said: “That figure of over £900 million GVA created through cultural and creative industries is impressive. But more so, I think we all value the culture sector because it grows the soul.

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He added: “There is a challenge for us in here, from the culture sector, about the historic lack of leadership and investment from the council. Which is something we’re all aware of, and the reasons for that – austerity budget over 14 years.

“But it’s a challenge that I think we’re all keen to rise to. It’s really positive that this strategy will be a partnership, that we have such significant support from SYMCA, the Arts Council and our universities. And the joined-up approach to culture we’re taking hopefully shows how seriously the council is taking this.”

Committee chair Coun Martin Smith said that the council has to take the criticism about the previous lack of leadership on board.

Coun Smith also pointed to the city hosting the recent MOBO (Music of Black Origin) Awards at Sheffield Arena. He said: “Anyone that attended the fringe events associated with the MOBOs will have seen first-hand the power of a cultural event to bring people together, particularly the event in the Winter Gardens.

Power

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“I think I have been in Sheffield 28 years – I think that was the most impressive event I have seen. We cannot underestimate the power of events like that to bring together people from all walks of life and all parts of our society, it was absolutely brilliant, so everybody that helped organise that deserves our thanks.”

The committee also heard that a Cultural Pipeline Fund of £250,000 has been put in place.

A report explained that this has been created “specifically to help arts groups to develop through feasibility studies, business planning, funding advice, professional advice, mentoring and other activity which will help their organisation to develop.

“The fund is especially designed for smaller, newer groups who may not have accessed funding before, from all parts of the city.”

The fund is now open, with two rounds, closing on February 29 and July 2.