On a recen t Saturday night in Sheffield, I encountered a country house murder, a disturbing scientific experiment and a riot complete with explosions, armed police and a tank, all within a few yards of each other.
But the rule of law hadn’t broken down.
The murder took place on stage at The Lyceum, where Agatha Christie’s hardy perennial The Mousetrap was playing as part of its national tour.
The scientific experiment came courtesy of The Effect, Lucy Prebble’s critically acclaimed play about a clinical drug trial directed by Daniel Evans in the Crucible Studio.
And the riots and explosions? Well, they were part of an epic production of Camelot involving a cast of 150 local actors staged by the Crucible and the innovative Leeds-based theatre company Slung Low.
The rich diversity of offerings from Sheffield’s theatres is just one of many reasons why the city is enjoying a cultural boom right now. Other cultural gems include the thriving artists’ studio scene led by Yorkshire Artspace, internationally acclaimed theatre companies Forced Entertainment and Third Angel, the contemporary galleries at S1 and Site, and the wealth of treasures in the museums including the beautiful recently refurbished Metalwork Collection at Museums Sheffield.
At Arts Council England, we’ve invested £23 million in Sheffield’s cultural life over the past five years. And when you widen our investment out to the whole of Yorkshire, that number jumps to £260 million.
Good things don’t happen by accident, but ecause people share a vision and work together to make that a reality. So, at the Arts Council we work alongside Sheffield City Council in helping to ensure that people who live in this great city get to see and hear the very best.
Against the background of further cuts the council’s investment in the area’s arts organisations, museums and libraries is vitally important, as is the support given to the city’s cultural life by the city’s universities.
At the Arts Council, we believe great art brings opportunities educationally, socially and economically for us all.
We want the arts to be a part of everyday life, so that no matter who you are or where you live, you too can celebrate the arts and culture on your doorstep.
We’re not just about the arts today though, we’re also about developing the talent of tomorrow. This begins with funding for children and young people in and out of school, through the opportunities we offer to young people to make the arts a part of their lives, as artists or audiences.
At the moment, creative talent is everywhere, but opportunities for that talent to reach its potential are not. So, the work of organisations like Sheffield Music Hub, which receives more than £750,000 of funding from the Arts Council and the Department of Education each year, makes a massive difference in enabling young people to unleash their creativity.
In the years to come, these youngsters will form the new generation of professional directors, musicians, actors, dancers and writers creating new dramatic spectacles that fill Sheffield’s theatres, just like the ones that I saw played out recently.
And there’s no better argument for investing in arts and culture than that.
* Darren Henley, Arts Council Chief Executive