'˜Time to use Sheffield's past to inspire its future'
It's time to use Sheffield's great heritage to inspire the future, according to the people whose passion is caring for our past.
It’s time to use Sheffield’s great heritage to inspire the future, according to the people whose passion is caring for our past.
The Star invited representatives from city trusts, museums and attractions to discuss how heritage can be better promoted and protected.
There was a clear desire to work more closely together. But the key message that came from the round table – part of The Star’s Pride in Sheffield campaign – was the need to combine the past with the present day, and use heritage to tell the story of where we are now.
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John Hamshere, Sheffield Industrial Museums Trust chief executive, said: “The basic point we want to make is the reason these museums and attractions exist is to use the past to inspire the future.
“That’s the vision I came up with at Kelham Island Museum and it’s a much better sell to engage people. The continuum from the past to what we do now with the universities and aerospace. That’s the message.”
Ruth Nutter is producer for Ruskin in Sheffield, which promotes the legacy and collection of renowned thinker, writer, artist and social reformer John Ruskin.
She said the success of heritage assets could drive economic regeneration, adding: “Ruskin donated this amazing collection to Sheffield and was quoted as saying workers in Sheffield were the best in the world.
“That’s what we are doing now with the Year of Making – saying these people still have these skills.”
A running thread of the discussion was the need to work better together to promote heritage across Sheffield. There is already a move to do that, through the Joined Up Heritage group. A conference was held earlier this year and organisers are now trying to come up with a structure for the new organisation.
Claire Thornley, of Eleven Design, founded the Our Favourite Places guide, which ties heritage, culture, retail and food and drink together to try to give people more reasons to visit Sheffield. She said it was important to look at heritage as part of a wider package.
“We try to give people material reasons to visit. If someone is looking to come here for a show, we always talk to them about what’s on at the galleries and what restaurants are nearby.”
She said the guide was tied in with the Outdoor City brand, which was recently successful with a bid to Sport England to create running routes, one of which passes near Manor Lodge – a great example of mixing heritage and recreation.
Ruth Bacon, marketing manager at the City Hall, said she was keen to shout louder about the heritage aspects of her venue. She pointed to the number of young people who come through the doors for gigs and are blown away by the architecture of the building.
On the wider message, she said: “Consistency is key. We are all doing a lot, but in silos. We do the Heritage Open Days weekend in September – it’s huge and then it goes away.
“Sheffield Culture Consortium keeps that consistency. It feels like there’s not a vehicle for heritage.”
The issue of protecting heritage was also raised, with Sheffield Council’s new heritage champion Coun Ian Saunders on hand to answer questions. There was some discussion about the future of Leah’s Yard, which is part of the new retail quarter area.
Nick Roscoe, of Hallamshire Historic Buildings, has previously taken the council to court over the plan to knock down shops in Devonshire Street.
He said: “We’ve got a huge development in the city centre which will trash Cambridge Street and a lot of lovely, characterful buildings.”
Mr Roscoe said it was important to celebrate Sheffield’s heritage within new developments – a point which Mr Hamshere, based in Kelham Island, agreed with.
“There is some architecture there which is just great big red brick buildings,” he said.
“But more recently some of the buildings there are really interesting shapes. They are modern buildings using industrial finishes, all set within the industrial borders of the red brick walls.
“Some of the really nice buildings are going to end up in a really exciting, interesting area. It can be done.”
On the subject of redevelopment, the Castlegate area was brought up. The Friends of Sheffield Castle and the council are leading a plan to uncover the old castle ruins, hoping to create a brand new attraction. But there is more to that area.
Valerie Bayliss is chairman of the Friends of Sheffield Old Town Hall. She said: “I think it’s going to be quite difficult. That area has huge potential. The footfall has gone and we have to work out a strategy for getting it back.”
It was clear from the discussion that there are challenges ahead, but also that Sheffield’s heritage is in the capable hands of some very passionate people.