Access to open spaces

Jake Harries first visited Sheffield in spring 1980 and it was the vibrancy of the electronic and experimental music scene that persuaded him to make it his home six months later.

During the 1980s he was a member of industrial/electro band Chakk and a partner in FON, Sheffield's first large commercial recording studio. Since 1991 he's been a member of 'freestyle techno' trio Heights of Abraham with Sim Lister (Steel Tiger Records) and Steve Cobby (Fila Brazillia).

He is currently a sound artist and is digital arts programmer at Access Space, the UK's longest running open access media lab which runs exclusively Open Source software on recycled computers.

This weekend, as part of the annual Lovebytes digital arts festival, Access Space hosts multimedia software developers GOTO10 who are giving Open Source video workshops.

Kinder Scout

Not strictly in Sheffield but the nearest thing we have to a mountain around here. I try and get out there as often as I can. The plateau of black peat bog above Edale in the Peak Park is the highest place for miles in any direction, the beginning of the Pennine Way, and has not only amazing views at its edges but has particular challenges in terms of the weather as it is so exposed.

It's fairly easy to get lost in low cloud, the almost featureless interior giving no clues as to were one has come from nor where one is heading if you've strayed from a path. It's always a good idea to take a compass and a map, although it can be difficult to pinpoint one's position even then.

In summer the peat bog surface can be dessicated and have the consistency of sponge cake, in very cold weather it can be frozen solid, but most of the time it is wet and er… boggy – one has to careful not to sink up to one's knees.

Kinder Downfall, the waterfall on the western side where the moisture from the bog plunges from the edge of the plateau, is often blown into a huge cloud of spray for hours at a time. It took me over two years to make a recording of it without any wind at all and even then it was just 40 seconds long. Great place at any time of year if you go prepared.

Train station

I seem to be doing a lot of travelling at the moment, not least because my partner lives in another city. It's that departing arriving thing – the great to go away and great to come home clich.

The sculpture/water feature has had mixed reviews with Richard Hawley jokingly calling it the largest urinal in Sheffield but, hey, when the pink steam billows out of the pools at 7pm you could almost believe you're on the set of Apocalypse Now. But also the train service along the Hope Valley is pretty good and a hassle-free way to get out into the Peaks. I particularly enjoy arriving at Sheffield station from London as it means getting out into a cleaner, less crowded place.

The Rutland/The Washington

As much as I like some of the newer bars in town, the Washington on Fitzwilliam Street and the Rutland Arms on the corner of Paternoster Row are the two places I generally meet friends in town.

The Washington has a special place in many a Sheffield musician's life.

I wonder how many bands have been formed by people who drink there? Impossible to say.

In the 1980s it was the hang-out for many of our friends and the place where many of our (mostly impossible) plans were hatched. It has changed a little over the years but the atmosphere is certainly similar to what it was.

The Rutland just across the city centre, on the other hand, is the pub nearest to many working in the Cultural Industries Quarter and a great place to gather after exhibition openings and other events in the area. The beer garden is probably my favourite in Sheffield.

Endcliffe Park

It is possible to walk from Hunters Bar to Stanage Edge, Burbage Rocks or much further from here, following the smaller parks up the valley of the River Porter to Ringinglow and then going a little way along the road to stiles which take one over the moors (and more peat bogs!). However, it is an urban or suburban park and as such it's a very good one in MHO, comparing it to those in London where I lived for a few years.

Botanical Gardens

The recent renovation has brought back the Victorian splendour to the buildings next to Clarkehouse Road. I've been going here since I was a student, particularly in the summer. Great for picnics with friends or just sitting on the grass reading. Watch out for the squirrels, though. Sheffield has never had a large indoor botanical garden like those in some other major cities. The Winter Garden in the city centre and the refitted glasshouses here redress the balance, albeit in a modest way.

Access Space

Access Space, a registered charity, was started by James Wallbank in 2000 and is the UK's longest-running open access media lab. James had the brilliant idea to turn on its head the proposal that just because you had no money to buy computers and to pay for software licences that you couldn't start to be creative with digital technology.

All the computers are built from recycled parts and the software is FLOSS (Free and Open Source Software). Every PC in the media lab runs Linux rather than Microsoft Windows.

Access Space recycles upward of 400 computers a year now. It gives participants the chance to learn to build computers and to get creative in a huge variety of ways.

I began coming here in 2003 because of my interest in Open Source audio-visual software, have spent time on the board of trustees and am now the digital arts programmer. Access Space encourages peer-to-peer learning between the people who come here. On top of this we run workshops, have space for art exhibitions and do outreach work. There's nowhere quite like it in the UK or anywhere else for that matter. .