SHEFFIELD TELEGRAPH VOICES: Should the Sheffield City Region bid for UK City of Culture status?

Richard Wright.
Richard Wright.

Proposals have been revealed for the Sheffield City Region to put forward a bid to become the UK's City of Culture.

The idea was put forward by Barnsley Central MP Dan Jarvis prior to his election as Sheffield City Region mayor in May and it is understood a bid will be submitted to receive the status in 2025.

Sheffield City Region mayor Dan Jarvis. Picture: Andy Roe/Sheffield Star

Sheffield City Region mayor Dan Jarvis. Picture: Andy Roe/Sheffield Star

In our latest Sheffield Telegraph Voices feature we asked business, civic and community leaders: 'Should the Sheffield City Region bid for UK City of Culture status?

Richard Wright, executive director of Sheffield Chamber of Commerce and Industry

As a chamber we think it is a great idea for a number of reasons.

Firstly, it could act as a great catalyst to getting some of our political leaders to work together on a common objective which is both exciting, visible and forward looking.

Helen Featherstone.

Helen Featherstone.

We all know there are issues within the region. As a business community it frustrates us intensely because all the parochial infighting, the aspirations to something that is not yet on the table or proven (Yorkshire Devolution) and an inability to separate an economical boundary from a political boundary is only hurting one thing – our economy and our residents.

Secondly, and despite the above, there is a real note of optimism around us and a culture in many business leaders and others that we have it in our own destiny to do well.

The culture has changed over the last few years from being victims of the demise of steel and coal into one of ‘we can make our own way in this world and it’s in our own hands’. In my opinion Brexit will not knock this off course.

There is a big world out there and we want to be part of it. City Region of Culture status will get our name out there and just add to our belief in our self-worth.

Paul Blomfield MP.

Paul Blomfield MP.

Thirdly, and aligned with my second point, City of Culture status would be one of the best marketing tools I can think of. It is a vehicle on which we can raise the perception of what we really are – a vibrant, modern, forward-looking and energetic region that is good to work, play and live in. We must continue to get this message out if we want to attract investors, students and visitors and we have so much to offer with our theatres, museums, universities, and open spaces.

In my opinion we need to differentiate ourselves (but not separate ourselves) from things like Welcome to Yorkshire, the Yorkshire Dales and The Yorkshire Moors. The Peak District is so much more important to us economically. In truth we need our own identity and it needs to be recognised in the world.

So yes – we believe the City of Culture would be a real achievement for us and we applaud the mayor for backing it and starting the process. It’s a big task and the question will be when, but time will not diminish the prize. The very process of working together on the bid will be good for us.

Dan Jarvis MP, Sheffield City Region mayor

Coun Hannah Chaplin.

Coun Hannah Chaplin.

Here in the Sheffield City Region, we have incredible cultural assets.

Our artistic, literary and musical heritage is world-class, and our theatres, galleries and fantastic local and national parks mean that we have much to offer and be proud of.

Culture is crucial for everyone. For economic growth, for giving every child the best possible educational opportunities, and for creating a truly great place to live.

Our region has produced some of the most successful musicians from all genres; from the Arctic Monkeys through to Kate Rusby, Louis Tomlinson and Bring Me The Horizon.

It's home to artists, makers, sculptors and performers, who can put on a show everywhere from the smallest independent theatre to the largest theatre complex outside of London.

And then there's the growing digital media industry. We are campaigning to bring a Creative Hub for Channel 4 here and just this week, Warp Films announced that they'll be making a film version of the West End hit musical "Everybody's Talking About Jamie" - casting people from across South Yorkshire and shooting it right here in Sheffield.

Alex Deadman.

Alex Deadman.

It's clear that we already live in a place steeped in culture and the arts.

From our local authorities to our communities, businesses and universities, there is already a great deal of effort going in to preserving and promoting our culture and heritage.

So we must build upon this and work together to highlight our cultural contribution to the UK and beyond. I plan to enter a Sheffield City Region bid to be the next UK City of Culture, bringing together South Yorkshire’s cultural offer to showcase ourselves to the UK and the world.

We've seen what the City of Culture title did for Hull, and what the crown of European Capital of Culture did for Liverpool.

Being Sheffield City Region of Culture would demonstrate our incredible assets on a national and international scale.

But it isn’t just about a title, it’s about putting culture at the heart of our region. There's a real drive to make this happen. And that drive begins now.

Helen Featherstone, director of Sheffield Industrial Museums Trust

Bidding for City of Culture is undoubtedly a great opportunity to highlight the culture that already exists in a place, to galvanise community interest and enthusiasm, and attract investment. Whether you win or not, the momentum created can provide a platform to further connect people with the culture in their place. Culture after all defines who we are.

Culture helps us articulate and express our identity, to connect with our heritage, our past, and with where we live. Indeed, Hull's recent success led to football fans chanting: "you're only here for the culture!”

Industrial heritage directly connects with a large proportion of people who live in Sheffield City Region. It’s something to be fiercely proud of and to be celebrated. It has created the concentration of skills we have in engineering and manufacturing which has led to leading companies in aerospace, steel, and surgical implements being based in the City Region today.

The industrial heritage offer in the City Region is one of the strongest in the country with Sheffield Industrial Museums Trust. Kelham Island Museum is home to the mighty River Don Engine - which is truly mesmerising and an experience you'll never forget - Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet, a rural scythe and steelworks powered by four working water wheels, and Shepherd Wheel an exemplary water-powered grinding hull.

Across the city region there is Worsborough Mill, Elsecar, and voluntary-run Wortley Top Forge - all of which offer quality experiences connecting us with our industrial past while providing context for today.

Sheffield, of course, did bid to be City of Culture in 2013. The legacy of this resulted in greater awareness of Sheffield as a culturally vibrant city - its music, theatres, galleries, museums, street art, and of course festivals.

This year sees the first 'Sheffield Modern' festival; a celebration of modernist architecture. Next year, Museums Sheffield will host the world class Leonardo da Vinci exhibition. Sheffield boasts the largest theatre network outside London. Yellow Arch Studios in Kelham Island is the city's largest 'creative industry', and where it all began for the Artic Monkeys.

Doncaster is home to Cast, a beautiful mid-scale theatre, ‘The Point’ which houses Darts, a fantastic community arts organisation, and 'Right Up Our Street', a long-term project all about reflecting and connecting local communities with art and culture. Barnsley has ‘The Civic’, a gem for arts and theatre, and one of the few places in the city region regularly programming contemporary dance. Grimm & Co in Rotherham, is a writing charity for young people and has benefitted from recent Arts Council investment.

These are just a few of the strong cultural assets we have to be proud of.

Culture is already one of the City Region’s greatest assets. It attracts positive publicity, raises profile and generates economic impact.

Whether or not we bid to be UK City of Culture, this needs much greater recognition within the City Region, and Local Enterprise Partnership.

We need to use our outstanding culture as a driving force and agent of change to promote our region. If we do, then this will put us firmly on the map nationally as the culturally vibrant place to live and work we all know it is.

Sheffield Central MP Paul Blomfield

There’s no doubt that being a ‘City of Culture’ brings huge benefits and, with the breadth and strength of our cultural offer, we are well placed to win the designation.

Hull’s year as City of Culture in 2017 produced more than 2,800 events, activities, installations and exhibitions - with a total audience of 5.3 million people adding more than £300 million to the economy. As Arts Council England’s Chief Executive Darren Henley said: “Hull’s year in the spotlight has been an unmitigated, rip-roaring, awe-inspiring, life-enhancing success.”

Just think what Sheffield could do.

The Crucible, with the Studio and the Lyceum, are recognised as among the very best regional theatres in the country – for both the quality and diversity of their programmes – and newer initiatives like Theatre Deli reflect the rich creative talent in the city.

Some great music venues have provided a platform to develop local talent over many years, and events like Tramlines have attracted audiences from all over the country. Other festivals have shone a light on the city, with ‘Doc Fest’ establishing an international reputation and ‘Off the Shelf’ going from strength to strength.

We have some truly innovative museums and galleries, a strong Cultural Industries Quarter and more professional artists than any city outside of London. And that’s before we start.

Being a ‘City of Culture’ would not only be a huge boost to our economy for a year. It would also help market the city as an attraction for visitors and leave a lasting legacy.

Sheffield City Region Mayor Dan Jarvis is right too when he says that the bid should extend beyond the city, celebrating and building the cultural offer for Doncaster, Rotherham and Barnsley too.

As a region we have so much to offer. Let’s recognise it and add to it. City of Culture status provides just the opportunity.

Hannah Chaplin, who represents Oughtibridge on Bradfield Parish Council

If a bid is feasible and the teams needed to execute this are willing, then this could be a great thing for the city. Sheffield has so much to offer and having the chance to become the UK’s City of Culture would firmly place the spotlight on the diverse and welcoming city we are lucky enough to be part of.

I moved to Sheffield aged 6 and now own a business in the creative industries sector in the fantastic area of Kelham Island. It’s been wonderful seeing the area blossom alongside the buildings that remind us of the city’s past. A large part of this has been driven by the many small, creative businesses in the area.

Over the years, I’ve been fortunate to be involved in a lot of what Sheffield has to offer. I’ve greatly valued the experiences I’ve had in music and the arts as I grew up here. It’s the city’s culture that creates a sense of belonging and community.

I’m passionate about young people getting the opportunities they deserve; we need to continue to support community groups and nurture talent by creating opportunities in the cultural sector.

While the previous bid in 2010 was unsuccessful, the consultation process brought together many people including leaders from the cultural sector across the city - it acted as a positive catalyst and raised the profile of the city. As a result, The Sheffield Culture Consortium was formed and has continued to build on the work that was done.

This would give us a great basis for a further bid if it would be beneficial to Sheffield.

You only have to walk around Sheffield to see how much we have going on. From amazing street art, music, festivals and theatres to active community groups, museums and galleries - there’s a lot to be celebrated. A bid to become the UK City of Culture should enhance and highlight the good work that already goes on.

After all, It’s the culture in Sheffield that binds us and brings us together. That’s something we should be really proud of and continue to support, regardless of whether or not a further bid is in the city’s future.

Alex Deadman, of Sheffield Tramlines Festival

Tramlines Festival started in 2009 when many different forces came together to put the Music City on the map. The city’s musicians were keen to show just how significant music was for Sheffield.

Matt Helders, drummer with the Artic Monkeys was prepared to interrupt a busy touring schedule to go into the Town Hall and meet with city officials to make the case for the festival and remarkably the council were willing to listen at a time of severe budget cuts and a global recession. Two years later Tramlines won the Best Metropolitan Festival Award at the prestigious UK Festival Awards ceremony and has brought millions into the local economy.

It was the connections between sometimes disparate people and organisations and their intense loyalty to the city and the region that made Tramlines an immediate success. Just imagine what would be possible if these networks were allowed to flourish further. Now we have the fantastic new Lord Mayor, Magid Magid (a keen Tramlines supporter), he is proof that things are changing.

People who have been on the periphery are now in the centre. It’s essential that the deep roots of the creative industries are brought to the table, this is where the magic happens.

The youth of the city are faced with a serious lack of opportunities, there is real desperation out there. We know that the creative industries can engage and inspire our youth. A celebration and a strengthening of these industries must not be limited to the traditional big ‘C’ Culture but give resources to every musical genre, all the artistic disciplines and every form of expression without ‘highbrow’ prejudice.

We need opportunities and we need employers, particularly in our neighbouring towns which suffer even more from an undervaluing of their creative potential. If becoming the City of Culture can help with this, then I’m all for it.

During the Tramlines weekend Sheffield feels different. For me, it is a celebration of the city and everything we excel at. Our musical heritage is second to none, from the shoe-gazers to the bassline ravers we have contribute a huge amount to the national and international music scenes.

I want Sheffield to feel like this 365 days a year. Tramlines gives an opportunity to showcase the city and brings people in from afar to participate in our cultural activities.

This exemplifies both why we should be the City of Culture and how we could best utilise the opportunity.