The Sheffield Modern festival is back – here's what’s happening where

A witty individual once remarked that dancing about architecture was as impossible as writing about music – but fans of fine buildings will be doing the former in style when a festival returns for its second year in Sheffield this weekend.

Wednesday, 20th November 2019, 3:00 pm
Updated Wednesday, 20th November 2019, 4:50 pm
A scene from Standing At The Sky's Edge, which ran at the Crucible in 2019 - playwright Chris Bush will be talking about the Park Hill-themed musical as part of Sheffield Modern. Picture: Johan Persson.

Sheffield Modern celebrates the city's post-war structures, from the Brutalist flats at Park Hill to the monolithic Moore Street substation and the soaring university Arts Tower.

On Friday, Saturday and Sunday events ranging from exhibitions and talks to tours, workshops and film screenings are happening at several venues.

Organised by listings website Our Favourite Places, with support from partners such as Arts Council England, Sheffield Hallam University and the Sheffield Society of Architects, the festival's 2019 edition has two main strands.

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The Sheffield Modern architecture weekender takes place from November 22 to 24 in 2019.

Social Housing at 100 will consider questions about today's homes, a century on from the Housing Act which paved the way for the first large-scale council estate, while Return to the Workshop takes its name from the teachings of Germany's Bauhaus art school, which called for artists to bring the spirit of architecture to other creative forms.

Highlights include the Bauhaus Ball – a Saturday night fancy dress party where dance really will meet architecture at the Sidney + Matilda gallery – and Sonic Intrigues, a sound installation at the David Mellor factory in Hathersage. Created by the SONA collective, the latter will use sounds from the stages of cutlery-making such as stamping, filing, grinding and polishing.

On Sunday evening a screening of Andrea Luka Zimmerman's documentary Estate, A Reverie, will shift the focus to east London, charting the final seven years of a housing estate prior to its demolition. Meanwhile, on Saturday afternoon at the Crucible theatre, dramatist Chris Bush plans to share her experience of researching and writing Standing At The Sky's Edge, the musical about Park Hill with songs by Richard Hawley, alongside a panel of architects and residents.

One event has a much longer run, launching on Friday and taking place until December 22. 100 Mile City and Other Stories, at Hallam University’s Institute of Arts, is an exhibition by British architect Peter Barber who has spent much of his working life designing social housing. The images and items on show examine issues raised by the UK's housing crisis, and the role design might play in creating more humane cities.

A still from Andrea Luka Zimmerman's documentary Estate, A Reverie.

A walk around the Gleadless Valley estate – described in the festival programme as ‘first-rate council housing in an exceptional setting amongst ancient woodland’ – is happening on Sunday, and on Friday a panel of guests will gather at the Site Gallery to talk about the impact of social housing on music.

Families are well catered for at Sheffield Modern. On Saturday afternoon there will be free activity sessions at Site and Yorkshire Artspace, using play to learn about construction. This will include the chance to make a 'fantasy cityscape' out of cardboard and Lego.

People are also being invited to contribute to the Giant Dolls' House Project, an installation by architect Catja de Haas which involves creating a community of dolls' houses made out of shoeboxes. Completed houses will be assembled onto a blank canvas and linked with ropes, ramps and ladders, before being kept on display at Yorkshire Artspace until November 30. Since 2014 the project has been to Dubai, North Carolina and Goa in India as well as forming part of the London Festival of Architecture.

All workshops are free, with donations welcome to ASSIST, a Sheffield-based charity supporting destitute asylum seekers.

Council homes in and around Parson Cross, Sheffield. The 100th anniversary of the first large-scale social housing estates is being marked at Sheffield Modern. Picture: Scott Merrylees.

"Sheffield's experiments in modern architecture have played a significant role in defining not just the skyline but also the character and culture of the city," the festival's organisers say. "Looking at the past and present of the city's design and developments, the second Sheffield Modern weekender aims to get people thinking about the shape of the city in new ways."

See for more information and full times.

Catja de Haas' Giant Dolls' House Project.