FAVOURITE THINGS: Indulge yourself in Steel City's arts and culture

Sara Unwin has always lived in Sheffield but worked across the North.

Thursday, 22nd September 2016, 2:26 pm
Updated Tuesday, 4th October 2016, 1:03 pm
Sara Unwin works for the public engagement team at Sheffield University - she has written this week's Favourite Things feature for the Sheffield Telegraph, tying in with the university's Festival of the Mind. One of her choices is the 'spiegeltent' in Barker's Pool. Picture: Chris Etchells

She is a public engagement manager at the University of Sheffield helping to engage the public in the research that helps us to understand the world around us. She is working at the Festival of the Mind running in the city until September 25 and is part of the team whose bid got the Sheffield City region shortlisted to host the Great Exhibition of the North 2018.

She previously worked as a freelance cultural producer and ran Galvanize Sheffield celebrating contemporary metal design and innovation. She is married to James, a Lancastrian, and wondering about getting some chickens.


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Like a spaceship from the sky the Spiegeltent lands every two years signalling the arrival of Festival of the Mind and graces Sheffield with its European charm.

This year it’s the beautiful Idolize who will host amazing talks, films, demonstrations and performances to share the world changing research happening at the University of Sheffield. Idolize is truly lovely structure with intricately carved columns and a dazzling mirrored interior. I wish she could stay longer.

Tudor Square

I remember Tudor Square when it was a scruffy car park with a neglected Lyceum forlornly standing alongside.

In fact I had my ears pierced in a long forgotten jewellery shop in what is now the Lyceum foyer. I love it now, bristling with life and events like Doc/Fest and people streaming into the theatres to see brilliant plays and performances from some of the best UK actors. Sheffield City Region has just been shortlisted to host the Great Exhibition of the North in 2018 and Tudor Square would be a bustling creative hub of activity if it comes here showcasing art, design and innovations of the North.

Millennium Gallery

It’s free it’s fab and I love being in the Millennium Gallery.

It’s a platform for so much great art and craft and I know how hard the curators and technicians work to give us Sheffielders access to brilliant work in ever-changing exhibitions. I see people coming alive when they walk into the Made in Sheffield exhibition there right now and people are buzzing with pride about the range, volume and beauty of things we make here. We truly are a City of Makers.

Tinsley Art Project

I loved our Tinsley Cooling Towers - I saw the Full Monty again by chance last week and there they were still standing - but I’m thrilled that artist Alex Chinneck is spending so much time in the city conjuring up plans for his art work that will stand in this place soon.

It’s such a beautiful spot – once the heart of heavy industry and now home to butterflies, otters and kingfishers – it’s filled with promise for the future and I can’t wait to walk along the towpath when Alex’s work is in place.


When people come to our city they don’t seem to expect it to be beautiful so I like to take visitors into the Cathedral on Church Street which is an oasis of calm and often displays contemporary art like the Going Public exhibition last year that brought people from across the UK.

I’ve been involved in some metalwork commissions for the collection here - go see Chris Knight’s Chalice in the shape of the iconic cooling towers - and as a child, we had a Brylcreem jar in our house filled with gold dust that was being installed on the roof as my dad was working there in the 60s.

Portland Works

When we did tours of Portland Works through the Galvanize Festival back in 2008, it kick-started a campaign to save the Works and now it’s a thriving space for makers and artists.

There’s an incredible range of people working there now – a rug maker, musicians, engravers, gin makers and of course my favourite knife maker of all time, Stuart Mitchell. You can see his work in galleries and at the Cutler’s Hall - and in my kitchen drawer too – best chopping knife ever that sits alongside my Ernest Wright & Sons kitchen scissors!

Railway Station

My sister comes back up from London and can’t believe the changes in the city since we were young and they start at the station.

The Cutting Edge tells the story of steelmaking and I love that it was designed by three amazing silversmiths all based at Yorkshire Artspace - Chris Knight, Brett Payne and Keith Tyssen - and it brings in running water which I think is vital for the city centre along with the lungs we have in our parks, peaks and woodlands. If the Great Exhibition of the North comes here, visitors will have a beautiful welcome from our people and our gorgeous public spaces like this and the city would be our canvas.