Setting the agenda for five years of culture in Sheffield

Culture chiefs in Sheffield have joined forces to steer the city's arts agenda for the next five years by drawing up a new, wide-ranging masterplan.

Thursday, 16th November 2017, 7:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 12th December 2017, 8:05 am
4 July 2016....Museums Sheffields Exhibition and Display Curator Louisa Briggs installs a ''tool explosion'' a large, dramatic display of handtools suspended from the ceiling of the gallery. The tool explosion features Sheffield manufacturers including Burgon and Ball, Ernest Wright, Robert Sorby, Thomas Flynn and Henry Taylor Tools and goes on display as part of Made in Sheffield, a new exhibition opening at the Millennium Gallery on 6 July 2016.Picture Scott Merrylees

The Sheffield Culture Consortium has published a blueprint – the first document of its kind produced by the group – setting out its ambitions and goals until 2022.

Members, including arts bosses, both universities and the council as well as others, have pledged to make Sheffield ‘even more festival-friendly’, champion new landmark public artworks, to ensure every child and young person in the city learns about culture and takes part in creative activities, and to make the case for building important venues and facilities.

Kate Dore, the consortium’s chair, said the plan was a ‘statement of intent’.

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“We’re not saying we want library users to increase by 200 per cent. What we are saying is that we’d like to raise the profile of culture in the city by working in partnership with leaders of different groups and networks.”

The consortium will be collaborating with the Sheffield Cultural Education Partnership ‘to put culture back on the curriculum for all 78,000 and counting Sheffield schoolchildren’, said Kate, who also runs the Yorkshire Artspace complex of studios.

“They are all things that we as individuals round the table actually think we can achieve over the next five years.”

The plan lists four ambitions, beginning with an aspiration to attract ‘engaged and inspired’ audiences who ‘book months in advance’.

Sheffield - a ‘city of makers’ - also needs to offer creative practitioners clear career paths and ways of selling their wares, the document says. The third and fourth ambitions cover infrastructure and influence.

“Our cultural offer is anchored by world-class facilities and venues, but there are relatively few large cultural organisations for a city the size of Sheffield. Working together as a consortium we have developed projects and secured culture funding for the city that we could not have done as individuals. With this track record the time is right to extend our ambition and reach to working effectively with non-culture partners in the city and extending our impact regionally, nationally and internationally.”

Seven goals are also laid down - enhancing wellbeing; championing diversity; inspiring children and young people; celebrating festival city; forging connections; promoting cultural visibility and developing leadership.

Consortium members will be supported to become cultural leaders on a national scale, according to the plan.

Kate admitted that ‘visibility is an issue’.

“We deliberately don’t do things behind closed doors but this is the first time we’ve gone out there and said what our intentions are.”

Sheffield’s venues and galleries have become ‘beacons’ across the region and beyond, the plan says, while the universities play a ‘growing and essential’ part in cultural life, having both taken over the Off The Shelf literary programme from the council.

The Crucible, Lyceum and Studio theatres play to over 400,000 people annually, a year-round festival season encompasses Tramlines, Doc/Fest and Sensoria, and studios are occupied by more than 360 individual artists.

A core of ‘fiercely independent’ smaller organisations, many with big plans for growth, are identified as Sheffield culture’s ‘beating heart’, among them Site Gallery, CADS and Theatre Delicatessen.

The plan’s timespan will coincide with a period of increased funding for the arts in Sheffield. From April extra money is coming from the Arts Council, which awarded the city more than £13 million - a 21 per cent rise - earlier this year. Eleven local organisations were granted National Portfolio status, winning grants ranging from £160,000 to £5.2 million.

In June the council’s chair, Sir Nicholas Serota, explained that the funding body wanted to invest in more venues outside London. Eight months ago Serota also launched a commission looking into the best ways of nurturing creativity in young people, an aim reflected in the consortium’s plan.

Kate said there was much to look forward to in Sheffield, such as the arrival of the Little Northern Contemporary Craft Fair, another large-scale public art project - the details of which are under wraps - and the development of S1 Artspace’s proposed new £21 million base at Park Hill, which will take up the entire northern flank of the regenerated housing estate.

The consortium alone has raised more than £2 million for Sheffield, but members want to ‘reach out’ to the Local Enterprise Partnership to strengthen links with business. Last year’s Made In Sheffield exhibition at the Millennium Gallery, featuring work by over 100 leading companies, was a ‘fantastic example of art and business coming together’, Kate said, and set a template for a mutually beneficial relationship. The Great Exhibition of the North, happening next summer in Newcastle and Gateshead after Sheffield’s shortlisted bid was rejected, is also taking a business-minded approach. The Government has asked LEPs to decide which projects go forward for inclusion from each region.

The plan is to be officially launched at an event tomorrow (Friday).

n Telegraph Voices, p8-9