In defence of the Showcase project

From: Coun Ian Auckland

Cabinet Member for Business, Transport and Skills, Sheffield City Council

I would like to respond to the letter from Arthur Baker ‘Limited Value of Showcase Scheme’ in the Telegraph of February 3.

Arthur Baker is correct in stating that the City Council is investing in the Showcase since its launch July 2009. But he is wrong to suggest the only rationale for the project is to ‘avoid the sight of rows of derelict looking shops’ or that it is mere ‘window dressing’ for its own sake. The Showcase is providing much more than that.

It was launched with a view to fostering precisely the local distinctiveness Mr Baker rightly identifies as important in the future of Sheffield. The project is providing opportunities and encouragement for independent retailers, businesses, artists and community groups (over 100 so far with a long waiting list) to use the windows to promote their goods/services and ideas to a wider public. Many will then enjoy increased sales or contacts through the internet but some have also gone on to secure short term leases on vacant units owned by Hammerson UK and Homes and Communities Agency - such as the revitalised Henry’s and the Street Food Chef on Pinstone Street. Their success will only strengthen the case for provision/inclusion for independents in future redevelopments.

What Mr Baker did not acknowledge are the training and employment opportunities the Showcase provides for the people of Sheffield. At a time when we need to provide opportunities for young people the Council support has allowed The Source to access funding to employ retail apprentices, gaining invaluable experience and qualifications in visual display and retailing often leading to full time employment.

Wider support for the project is evident in the many testimonies from the independent/local businesses, organisations and artists benefitting from the Showcase, all of whom are contributing to a distinctive and imaginative solution to managing temporarily vacant properties in the Sevenstone area which in future can be called upon to deal with other areas of the city centre affected by redevelopment. Its not hard to see why the Showcase Project gained international praise when students from the Showcase won an international award at the World Retail Congress in Berlin last year.