8 years and £2.4m: the sum of Sum Studios

Part of the former Anns Grove School at Heeley is to re open as The Sum Studios.Pictured are some of The Heeley Development Trust at the nearly finished building
Part of the former Anns Grove School at Heeley is to re open as The Sum Studios.Pictured are some of The Heeley Development Trust at the nearly finished building

With reference to its history as a school, the community project about to open within its Victorian walls is to be called Sum Studios.

The name is appropriate in another way. For the future of the old Anns Grove School in Heeley will be the sum of its parts, offering a home for creative, digital and technology companies and local artists.

Supporters of the project see the area as fast becoming Sheffield’s creative neighbourhood - and there is relief and elation that the first phase of their ambitions is reaching fruition after eight years of planning and fundraising.

Heeley Development Trust secured £2.4m from Government sources so that one of three grade II listed school buildings could be stripped back before being transformed it into a business block.

Many of the original features have been retained and restored, and it is hoped that the new residents will find they have a stimulating base in which to grow.

“It has been a labour of love saving these buildings for the community and getting this project to where it is today,” said trust manager Andy Jackson. “We hope that many local businesses and creative people will be able to flourish here, in the heart of our community.”

The three buildings fell into a state of disrepair after the school moved to its new premises in 2006. With the council looking to sell the property, the trust stepped in, eventually winning grants from two Government pots, one of which involved a Dragon’s Den style process in London.

“We were able to demonstrate that local people genuinely wanted this to happen,” said Andy.

Several tenants are waiting to locate to the first school building, including creative communications agency Peter & Paul, which signed up for a studio after being given the job of branding and designing communications for the development. They came up with the name.

Managing director Peter Donohoe said: “We wanted to retain some reference to the past without being too obvious. We needed enough distance for this to feel like a fresh start, a whole new chapter. I think Sum does that, with a gentle link to its academic past, but it also refers to the value of the place and the people that will make it. This is going to be a thriving, busy little community and we’re really looking forward to being part of this.”

Also moving in are two other agencies - The Brand New Idea and CurvCreative.

“The building is amazing,” said trust finance manager Simon Bartles. “You get a sense of the history and the craftsmanship.”

The next block is due to provide accommodation for artists, ReCycle Bikes, Heeley Online Centre and Heeley Development Trust Head Office, and the third for community groups and events. There are also plans for a café promoting local produce.

“We have got two more buildings and a lot of fundraising to do,” said Andy. “But it is really exciting. We can’t quit now. We have got to keep going.”

Sum Studios will have an open day on Saturday, May 4 as part of Heeley Millennium Park’s Big Environment Day. Local residents and potential tenants are being invited to look around.