Community focus in £3m expansion hopes

A £3m fundraising drive is being prepared to take a major Sheffield community project to another level, adding a wide range of community and business activities as well as scope for arts and entertainment.

Already one of the Victorian buildings at the old Anns Grove School in Heeley has been turned into workspace for emerging creative, digital and technology businesses as the first stage of Sum Studios at a cost of £2.4m.

Now grants are being sought to restore two more buildings, also grade II listed.

In one, old classrooms would be used by artists and makers - such as in jewellery, wood and metal - and the hall for activities such as karate, dance rehearsal, youth clubs and Brownies and Guides.

In the other, partitions could be removed to create a large hall with a capacity of at least 200 for concerts and other performance. The combination of the hall and classrooms also opens up possibilities for the likes of yoga and computer classes for older people, pilates and art and sewing groups.

Heeley Development Trust, which secured £2.4m for the business block from Government-backed sources, has made an initial application to the Heritage Lottery Fund for the second phase.

It hopes to have secured the £3m by the end of the year, which it admits is ambitious.

But director Andy Jackson said: “We have got a track record, which will help us.”

The business block is already almost full, with 19 small and growing businesses, about 50 people, exceeding the trust’s expectations.

“We want to keep the momentum going and get the builders back in,” said Andy. “We are in a creative community with loads of artists and makers and talent.”

The aim is to integrate Sum Studios further into the community, keeping it busy during the day and night to help ensure its financial viability.

The two remaining school buildings have been made watertight ready for reuse.

The music venue is being planned on the back of successful nights at the smaller Heeley Institute, which is also run by the trust.

Performances by folk artists Martin Simpson and Chris Wood sold out. The next concerts will be by Neil McSweeney on March 7 and Curtis Eller on April 5.