City’s artistic merits

Claire McManus at her favourite place Green Estate, Manor Oak, Sheffield
Claire McManus at her favourite place Green Estate, Manor Oak, Sheffield

Clare McManus was born in Liverpool, moved to college in London and subsequently lived in Cornwall, Aberdeen, Paris and North Wales before ending up in Worksop with the intention of staying for two years, then moving back to Wales. Twenty five years later, she’s still there, working in Sheffield as director of social enterprise Eventus and Arts4Work Training, which uses experienced artists to benefit business. “My knowledge of Sheffield is based largely on the areas Eventus has worked in, particularly in regeneration, plus the city centre and particularly the area around the CIQ where we’re based,” she says.

View from the Workstation

From the Eventus fourth-floor office in the Workstation in Paternoster Row we have a panorama across Park Hill, the station, the sweet factory and the cholera monument. I love the way you can watch the weather sweeping across the city. We’ve watched the development of the new arboretum and amphitheatre in the new South Street Park above the station with great interest. The dry weather hasn’t helped the grass and tree planting but it’s greening up now. It will be great to see how the amphitheatre gets used.

Manor Oaks Studios

I’m on the board of Green Estate, which manages the Manor Lodge Estate. I first went there when I co-ordinated an event there for Sheffield Children’s Festival ten years ago. It’s fantastic to see how it’s developed. In addition to the restored Tudor Manor Lodge, there are now archaeological digs, a discovery centre, farm shop, and the studios. Green Estate is also responsible for those wonderful wildflower meadows to be seen around Sheffield. The studios grew out of Creative Places, a programme we were partners in with Arts Council England and the council, and are managed by the fantastic Yorkshire Artspace. The studios have a focus on ceramics, reflecting the heritage of the site, from Roman pottery to Victorian majolica ware. They recently hosted a residency by ceramicist Frances Priest who created tableware with local groups based on the Manor Lodge ceiling designs. Very elegant and desirable.

Fusion Organic Cafe

Rightly recognised in the Eat Sheffield awards, the cafe in Butcher Works in Arundel Street produces great organic food and has lovely, friendly staff. I particularly like the fish specials. I’ve loved Butcher Works since I first started working in the CIQ. It has real Victorian feel, and it’s wonderful to see such important buildings from Sheffield’s historical past being regenerated and brought back into use.

Sage Greenfingers allotments, Burngreave

This is a wonderful project providing therapy to adults with mental health issues through gardening. They’re also starting to use arts and crafts as well. I had the privilege of being invited to join a simple vegetarian lunch there made on site, with the most wonderful views over the city. Arts, food and the environment are recurring themes in my favourite places. Sage are members of Sheffield Well-being Consortium, 60 community based organisations tackling health inequalities, which I currently chair.


We ran the Full Circle project here for several years with European funding, exploring arts, heritage and environment themes with community. As in so many of Sheffield’s neighbourhoods, there were many fantastic local people working hard to regenerate the village, including an award winning environmental group which we had a hand in starting with the council’s environmental planning officer.

Britain in Bloom

I still get a sense of pride going past in the tram when I see the Timeworks compass sculpture opposite Crystal Peaks. It was really important for locals to have something that said ‘we were here first’ when they felt their identity was being swallowed up by all the retail developments.

The Thistle sculpture

Despite all the other fabulous public art in the city, I love this piece, tucked away in a courtyard behind Sheffield Science Park, off Arundel Gate. I don’t know who made it or how long it’s been there, or even its proper name, but I love the way it looks as if it’s just grown there. If you go past at night, it can look like an alien life form that’s about to come and get you.

Crucible Theatre

I recently had the privilege of appearing in Lives in Art, the inaugural production of the Crucible’s Sheffield People’s Theatre. It was an opportunity to focus on my own creativity instead of encouraging other people’s, and a delight to work with such a range of people, including some magnificent older women. Most of my time on stage was spent lurking in the shadows as part of a spider tribe, so that corner of the stage felt like home.

The Welbeck Estate

The estate, near Worksop, is easily reachable from Sheffield and is home to the Harley Gallery, a great place for presents with a changing contemporary collection and a small exhibition from the Portland Collection. It also houses artists’ studios, the award-winning Lime House Café and its gigantic scones, a farm shop selling bread from the Welbeck Bakery and the farm that produces the delicious Stichelton cheese.

Last year’s Christmas present was a day at its School of Artisan Food, making continental breads with the master baker. There’s a range of courses, from chocolate to pig in a day! It’s an interesting example of rural regeneration.