‘Unity is the way to boost Sheffield’s heritage and culture’

Vanessa Toulmin
Vanessa Toulmin
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A co-operative mindset is helping to promote Sheffield’s culture and heritage, and bringing in hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Organisations such as Sheffield Culture Consortium and events including the recent heritage conference show a way of thinking that aims to benefit the city as a whole.

It’s a ‘club and country’ attitude, according to culture consortium chairman professor Vanessa Toulmin, who makes no apology for using a football analogy to describe how the organisation works.

“When you walk into the room you play for your country, which is Sheffield,” she said. “You put aside your club allegiances for the good of the city.”

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The consortium was formed in part as a response to the failed 2011 bid for Sheffield to become a City of Culture. It brings together people from music, art, heritage and many other areas to lobby for funding for city projects and act as a champion for Sheffield’s rich creativity.

“What’s interesting is we don’t really splash our name,” said professor Toulmin. “It’s more about working together to make the city a better place.”

The consortium has so far secured just over £1m for projects in Sheffield, much of which has come from the Arts Council. It has supported events such as Tramlines and Sheffield Doc/Fest, and set up projects including the Year of Making. The money is spent according to priorities raised by groups across the city.

“It’s really important because it shows unity,” said professor Toulmin. “We are seen as a national exemplar by the Arts Council.”

And while rapper Dizzee Rascal, headlining Tramlines in July, may not have much in common with Sheffield Castle, culture and heritage have a large overlap. The success of the culture consortium has led to the formation of a similar body to focus on heritage. A recent heritage conference, Making History for a Successful City, was a sign of what’s to come.

More than 120 heritage organisations, community groups, individuals and professional bodies from across Sheffield took part in the event in April. It was set up by Joined Up Heritage, a team of 20 societies who believe a strategy could increase visitor numbers, and potentially bring in funding worth millions.

Professor Toulmin said: “We are doing this to make sure our museums, galleries and world class entertainment offer in the city continues.”