See how photographers captured changing face of 1980s Sheffield

An exhibition of photography that aimed to capture huge social changes in the life of 1980s and 90s Sheffield opens later this month.

Monday, 12th October 2020, 12:00 pm

The Sheffield Project: Photographs of a Changing City will bring together images by acclaimed photographers at Weston Park Museum.

Sheffield in the last two decades of the 20th century were a time of great upheaval and hardship at the hands of the Thatcher government, which led to the miners’ strike, the decimation of the steel industry workforce, mass unemployment and widespread dereliction.

But the city also began to imagine its future, one that would include the Meadowhall retail development, the transformation of the lower Don Valley, the arrival of Supertram and the building of sports facilities to host the 1991 World Student Games.

Bill Stephenson. Hyde Park Flats, 1988 © the artist

Recognising the significance of the time, Sheffield’s Untitled Gallery, now the Site Gallery, engaged a series of emerging local and nationally-based photographers for The Sheffield Project, which sought to document the changes happening.

The photos were shown in a series of exhibitions at Untitled Gallery’s original home in Walkley and at its current base on Brown Street.

The new exhibition is curated by Matthew Conduit, director of Untitled Gallery from 1985-88 and initiator of The Sheffield Project.

It features work by Mike Black, Matthew Conduit, Berris Conolly, John Darwell, John Davies, Anna Fox, Graham Gaunt, John Kippin, Kate Mellor, Ken Phillip, Tim Smith, Bill Stephenson, Ian Stewart, Patrick Sutherland and Adrian Wynn.

John Kippin. Steel Man, 1989 © the artist

Many of the photographers have now gone on to earn reputations for creating arresting social documents of time and place.

Their work in the 1980s was made at a critical point in the development of British photography. New approaches to landscape and colour documentary styles emerged and became influential.

A new publication, Regeneration – The Sheffield Project 1981-1991, by Untitled Print Studio will coincide with the exhibition.

Tim Smith. Untitled, 1985 © the artist

Matthew Conduit said: “The 1980s was a turbulent but exciting time in Sheffield. Whilst the dire economic climate wrought havoc on the local traditional industries and people’s livelihoods, the city was fighting hard to forge a new identity and future and was culturally vibrant.

"It was one of the first cities in the UK to champion the development of the cultural industries, of which Untitled Gallery was a part.

“More than 30 years later, by anybody’s reckoning Sheffield is transformed. Revisiting these images has underlined that it was a city facing many severe threats, but those threats were punctuated by a surge in cultural output and soundtracked by home-grown synth-pop which became synonymous with Sheffield, all of which brought with it an incredible energy and sense of momentum.”

The exhibition runs from October 23 to May 3. Entry is free but pre-booking is recommended. Go to museums-sheffield.org.uk/visiting-weston-park.

Anna Fox, Regeneration 1, 1988 © the artist

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Iain Stewart, World Student Games, 1991 © the artist