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Posts tagged ‘creative’

Our right Royal networking knees-up!

Madame Zucchini's Kate & Wills. Photo by Richard Bolam http://richardbolam.net/

On the eve of the recent Royal nuptials – last Thursday, 28 April 2011 – we were delighted to swing into celebration mode for an altogether different reason. That’s right, it was time to host another of our informal business socials we arrange in collaboration with Sheffield-based illustrator Richard Smith.

Back for a third round of business buzz, for Network Hub 3 we decided to choose a different location yet again – an independent bar in the heart of Leopold Square in the city’s centre, the rather swish La Foret. With a smart outside terrace area to enjoy, we also virtually had the run of the contemporary space inside, thanks to the generosity of La Foret’s owner, Sam Cooper. Cheers Sam!

Photo credit: Richard Bolam http://richardbolam.net/

From the positive feedback I had on the night – and have received since – the 70-odd strong crowd who came along not only relished the informal, relaxed atmosphere but also cemented existing connections & made fresh contacts on the night – and I’m pleased to say so did I.

Dr Rob Speranza, left, Head of Operations at South Yorkshire Filmmakers Network, with, right, crowdfunding enterprise Sponduly.com founder Jon Covey Photo credit Richard Bolam http://richardbolam.net/

While we didn’t have a strict policy of ‘no talking shop’ the pressure I think many people feel at networking events – the idea of ‘selling’ yourself – tended not to rear its pushy head at this Network Hub, or at the previous two nights we’ve hosted.

Perhaps that’s because I’m a great believer in finding out about the person behind a business, not simply the business itself.

As for Will and Kate, they weren’t entirely forgotten. Instead the couple were especially honoured on the night by Sheffield’s wonderful vegetable theatre performer, Madame Zucchini, who brought her own delectable edible version of the duo along for the networking ride.

So three cheers to Network Hub 3. Long live Network Hub!

Sheffield tops bill as UK’s most productive Creative and Digital City

Ventana House at Sheffield Digital Campus, image supplied by Creativesheffield

Sheffield is the leading city for Creative and Digital Industries (CDI) in the UK and the most productive of all the cities assessed, according to a recent study.

Between 2003 and 2009, Sheffield’s CDI sector grew at a faster rate than the UK average and all 5 comparator cities – Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle and Bristol says the report by Trends Business Research Ltd.

James Wilson, Investment Manager for the Creative and Digital sector at Creativesheffield, said: “These fantastic results reinforce the fact that Sheffield excels in the Creative and Digital Industries and is real testament to the hard work and commitment that the companies who operate in the city devote to their work.

“This growth is also reflected in the take up of office space within the innovative Sheffield Digital Campus. The latest high-profile edition to Ventana House at the Digital Campus is the entertainment and communications giant Sky who is creating over 500 new jobs in the city. This has been a welcome boost to the city’s economy and the profile of the sector.”

Toby Hyam, Managing Director of Creative Space Management, added: ““Our specialist centres such as Electric Works at the Digital Campus are, despite everything, seeing higher levels of occupancy than ever before. There is no doubt that, for many small businesses, competition is particularly tough and trading conditions remain uncertain. Yet despite these challenging conditions, it is impressive to see businesses investing in new workspace both to improve their competitive edge and to create opportunities for growth.”

The report found the digital sector in the City Region to contain over 6,000 CDI firms, employ 20,900 people and create a turnover of over £1bn. The largest sub-sector was found to be Hardware and Computer Services, followed by Software. Sheffield exhibits particular distinctiveness in relation to the Craft and Design sub-sectors – providing a nod to the city’s manufacturing heritage.

Wilson continued: “The CDI companies within the city have achieved some fantastic accolades. A few examples include: Zoo Digital, which makes software for interactive DVDs, is gaining recognition in Hollywood; digital communications from QUBA has helped organisations like the BBC, Channel 4, Land Rover and the Carbon Trust to embrace the digital age; and WANdisco, a world leading infrastructure software provider based in Silicon Valley, established their European headquarters in Sheffield in 2008 helping Sheffield to become a world leader in replication software technology.”

Sheffield is also part of the Digital Region – the first major regional deployment of superfast broadband in the UK. “This provides Sheffield with a unique opportunity,” added Wilson. “Sheffield is quickly becoming the most connected city in the UK and has proved itself as a genuine leader in the Creative and Digital Sector. Therefore, in an age of austerity, Sheffield faces a bright future. The challenge for the city is to ensure that it continues to innovate and grow in order to capitalise on the USP that this creates.”

http://www.electric-works.net/

http://www.quba.co.uk/

http://www.zoodigital.com/

http://www.wandisco.com/

Holy Smoke! Why I thank Sheffield for my divine DIY events trinity

Are you familiar with the idea of the power of three? Don’t worry, I’m not getting all mathematical on you.

I’m talking about the generally well-accepted principle that when it comes to effective communications, our brains are best at grasping information as a trio.

Of course, most of the time we aren’t conscious of the fact that many of the most inspirational speeches and phrases of our age are peppered with examples of this oral ‘trick’; ‘I came, I saw, I conquered’, ‘hook, line & sinker’ and (here comes that crucial third point) ‘signed, sealed, delivered.’  You get the idea…

Well over the last three weeks, my calendar’s certainly been shaken up (in a fantastic way) by three great events, which have definitely left their mark in my thinking.

The first one was self-generated, born out of a casual chat a few months ago, over a drink with my self-employed illustrator friend Richard Smith. ‘Why don’t we hold an evening business social, inviting contacts from the creative and commercial sector?’ we asked ourselves.

Before you can say ‘How hard can it be?’, the venue was booked, invites sent and the night was upon us. Held at Henry’s bar in Sheffield city centre, the 130-something guests we’d invited duly turned up in their droves and created an incredible buzz, no doubt buoyed by a free glass of bubbly and some complimentary nibbles.

On a serious note though, both myself and Richard were completely blown away by the response we had from our guests – and judging by the string of enthusiastic comments I had on the night and since (‘You got exactly the right vibe going – it felt friendly and inclusive which is a rare thing indeed. Best networking bash I’ve ever been to!’ Justine Gaubert, founder of social enterprise Silent Cities) it looks as though another one may well on the cards…so watch this space!

Yours truly at our event at Henry's. Photo credit: Justine Gaubert

Roll call of special thanks goes out to AV events firm CVC Event Services, who provided the PA equipment FOC, and the following local businesses who kindly donated a prize to our raffle and helped us raise £61 in ticket proceeds, in aid of Weston Park Hospital Cancer Charity – We Love Sleep, Integrate Nutrition, Richard Smith Illustration, The Heavenly Cheesecake Company, PJ Taste, Tender Loving Care (TLC) and Fix-my-PC.net. Check out their links at the bottom of this post…

Back to that trinity again and the following week, I was invited to another free Sheffield event, which perfectly encapsulates the DIY ‘can do’ spirit of the city’s business and creative community – the launch of The Blue Shed, a 1,500 sqm arts venue (with performance space and fully-licensed bar), which has been converted from an old workshop by engineering firm Ekspan.

Paul Scriven Sheffield Council leader with Ekspan CEO Matthew Dronfield

Sheffield Council leader Paul Scriven officially did the honours with the unveiling of this new brand – the space was previously up-and-running under the name of the Brightside Project – and again I found myself with bubbly in hand and an unexpected spring in my step.

I was struck by the energy and goodwill – and dare I say it excitement – palpable in the air in respect to this forward-thinking enterprise. Here’s a video snapshot of the night, created by Richard Bolam Digital Media: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ioBKhqNX2Dc

My trio of positive experiences – in the very same weeks when the deep government cuts were slowly trickled out – ended this Friday morning, at a fantastic networking event, organised by Time2Network (http://twitter.com/time2network), held at probably the most famous eaterie in Sheffield right now (thanks to their well-deserved success in becoming semi-finalists in Gordan Ramsey’s Best Restaurant TV show), The Milestone.

Three elements (of course!) made the meet work well in my eyes – there was a diverse mix of proactive people, the venue suited the informal format and as you’d expect the breakfast was spot on. Hats off to organisers Alan Fenn, of Compass Distribution and Jon Covey of Sponduly.

So…

yes, the cuts are here

yes, our financial belts are set to get pinched like nobody’s business

YET there’s still spirit to the power of three in this city I’m proud to call my home.

Links:

We Love Sleep: http://www.welovesleep.co.uk/

Integrate Nutrition: http://www.integratenutrition.co.uk/

PJ Taste: http://www.pjtaste.co.uk/

Fix-my-PC.net: http://www.fix-my-pc.net/

Richard Smith Illustration: http://www.richsmithillustration.com/

The Heavenly Cheesecake Company: http://www.heavenlycheesecakes.co.uk/

Tender Loving Care (TLC): http://www.tlc-childcare.co.uk/

CVC Event Services: http://www.cvceventservices.co.uk/

Weston Park Hospital Cancer Charity: http://www.wphcancercharity.org.uk/

Silent Cities: http://www.silentcities.org.uk/

Henry’s bar: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=364882495011

Richard Bolam Digital Media: http://richardbolam.net

The Milestone: http://www.the-milestone.co.uk/

Compass Distribution: http://www.compassdistribution.co.uk/

Sponduly: http://sponduly.com/

Welcome to Silent Cities – a new social enterprise in Sheffield

Ladies and gents, let’s partake in a virtual drum roll please. Last week, after a good few months of hard renovation graft by volunteers, family & friends, Silent Cities (a fresh creatively-charged social enterprise) finally started getting its feet under the table of its new snazzy space.

We’re bang in the heart of Sheffield’s very own BoHo-style district, Neepsend, and have decked out our new space with an eclectic mix of reclaimed and characterful furnishings.

What’s more, we’ve even bagged a retro tea trolley, which I’m sure will become a vital cog in our wheel of non-profit fortunes.

There’s still a bit of work to do, but it felt fantastic for myself and the other directors to be able to hold our fourth board meeting there last Thursday.

Now our vision has a home. And a kettle. Now all we need is some decent biscuits!

To view more photos please click the link below, which will take you to a Silent Cities photo album on my Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=287821&id=68892803342

http://www.silentcities.org.uk/

Silent voices speaking out

Sometimes it’s hard to see qualities in yourself which might seem obvious to others. In my working life, I’ve met plenty of fantastic journalists – people who have spent their careers crafting and weaving text to educate and entertain – who visibly balk at the mention of the ‘c’ word. As soon as it’s uttered, I have watched them recoil in horror. ‘No, I’m not like that,’ they shudder. ‘Not one of those…’

And no, before you think I’m being horribly rude, I’m not talking about that ‘c’ word. Dear readers, I’m actually waxing lyrical about what is too often regarded as an ‘airy fairy’ aspect to our characters. It’s a natural human trait, elevated to a higher value before we hit adulthood, why does the idea of creativity get a pretty raw deal in ‘grown-up’ sectors of society?

I can understand why the phrase ‘creatives’ induces this indifferent attitude. But I don’t buy into the idea that there are some people will never have this ‘gift’ – that only the elite, certain sophisticated souls, can possibly be creative.

Everyone can harness this capacity if they are given the opportunity and space to let their imagination and confidence grow. So when my inspirational friend Justine Gaubert (http://twitter.com/SilentShe) asked me to become a voluntary board member of a new social enterprise she was setting up, which builds creative environments where silent voices can flourish, I jumped at the chance to be involved.

So, drum roll please, may I introduce you to Silent Cities – http://www.silentcities.org.uk/

As Silent Cities has just been born, I’m all too aware we are at the beginning of a long rollercoaster journey but as a board we are full of purpose, hope and commitment…. and of course creativity! Watch this space for more news about Silent Cities – we are starting off by piloting the scheme in Sheffield, so if you are in or live nearby the Steel City and would like to get involved as a volunteer in any capacity please register your interest on the website.

And keep those imaginations flowing!

Taking stock and snapping smiles

Photo credit: Richard Bolam Digital Media http://richardbolam.com/

Even though I’ve built my career on writing, thirteen years on from my first paid work as a journalist I remain fascinated by the process of getting the words which start somewhere in your head down onto paper (or, more often than not these days, laptop screen).

At the risk of sounding as though I have a mild, somewhat geeky super-power, I can usually hear the text spoken somewhere in my grey matter before the words work down to my fingers. So I put this question to the other wordsmiths out there (just because I’m interested to know): How do you work your magic? Do the fingers start moving before you know how you’re going to finish the sentence? All comments most welcome!

I’m taking stock of this text-based creative process because, as from next week, I’ve been knocking out these weekly blog posts for your enlightment and entertainment for five uninterrupted months.

In the grand expanse of the bloggarati world, this represents a mere click of a mouse. In my world though, steeped in the grand old tradition of print media, this small personal challenge has loomed pretty large. You could say, dear reader, it’s been a case of no pain, no gain.

I’m glad I’ve stuck with blogging – without a doubt it’s paid off and breathed new life into my professional world. And as someone who’s worked solo for a long time, it’s been a fantastic boost to receive supportive feedback from contacts old and new, so thank you – and please keep them coming!

A great blog needs an authentic voice. For some who are further immersed in the techy/online world than myself, this translates to simply posting a series of links they found interesting/useful. The voice for stellamedia speaks is still organically forming but from the outset I’ve treated my postings in the same way a newspaper columnist gets their day job done. The constant question has been: ‘What do I write about this week?’

So that’s why I got to pondering the process of what happens to me when I’m faced with a blank screen every week. There I sit, fingers poised over keyboard, waiting for my super-power to kick in. Sometimes this happens fast, sometimes the ‘voice’ comes through as faint whisper.

This week I had a screamer. ‘Why not tell everyone about your Facebook group about smiley faces?’ So I’m telling you about it. It’s called ‘The first time I ever saw your face’ and was sparked by the rather odd but harmless habit I started forming of taking photos of ‘faces’ everywhere I went. Suddenly I found myself capturing visages in buildings, trees, gadgets, food…and so the list went on.

I soon discovered I wasn’t the only snapper who did this. Once I created the group and started posting my (mostly) smiley snaps, others soon followed suit. Today I’m proud to say there’s 115 members from many corners of the globe. If you fancy joining, please feel free: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=49347870969&ref=ts

Keep on smiling!

Why not wear your art on your sleeve?


There’s a distinct departure from my previous musings this week. Can you spot the change?

My voice might sound the same but for once the photo hasn’t stemmed from my own creative eye – unlike the rest of the images here on stellamedia speaks, which have been taken by my fair hands during various photographic adventures.

Instead, I’m thrilled to give the Sheffield City of Culture 2013 bid logo a good old twirl, to declare my support for my much-loved adopted home city’s campaign to win this crown. Go Sheffield!

Following on from last week – when I started waxing lyrical about the sharing aspect of the virtual world – I still can’t help marvelling at those small but life-affirming connections you can sometimes make with others online, which can so often delight and surprise.

I mean one minute you might be posting some obscure song from twenty years ago via YouTube. The next you’ve got ten people tripping over their ergonomically-designed keyboards to tap out their gushing witticisms in response.

Often these people are long-standing friends, who’ve never had the chance in real life to share this particular passion for a forgotten B-side with you. It’s easy to see how these missed cultural connections are made.

Even in the randomest of pub talks, to take such an unlikely detour into such dark, misty realms would mean stepping into small talk equivalent of a weed-shrewn dead end. And who wants to do that, while wolfing down a packet of pork scratchings?

YouTube’s only five years old but, as the Observer noted last Sunday, it’s hard to remember a time before we had this mind-boggling visual melting-pot at our fingertips.

Of course now the idea of something being ‘viral’ doesn’t necessarily have us fumbling around to grab quick-fix cold remedies.

In the global village, you’re never more than a few clicks away from whatever your art desires. Does this make us less or more cultural?

http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2010/apr/11/youtube-web-video-stars

Happy clicking!

Two portions of culture with chips & mushy peas please!

Fountain detail @ Peace Gardens, Sheffield, UK

Some influences in our lives seem like the holy panacea of Omega 3-rich fish. Most of us have had experience of listening to the ubiquitous, humdrum mantras telling us X, Y or Z is ‘good for us so incorporate more into your life…’

 

But let’s face it, we’re still a nation where Mr or Mrs Average feel much more comfortable when they’re consuming their seafood in one state and one state only – once it’s been battered, deep-fried and served up with a mammoth portion of chips (and don’t you dare forget the mushy peas if you’re ‘oop north’).

Often the intention’s there to go for the saintful salmon menu option. Maybe that’s when the ‘good for you’ mantra replays through their head like one of those invasive radio commercials that never seem to be off the airwaves. The next thought then comes. ‘Oh but I know what I like!’ So they order the cod with all the trimmings instead, same as ever.

Just as this tentative attitude to our scaly friends runs through society, the idea of culture can be a slippery concept to catch for many a woman or man in the street, who don’t actively participate – whether it’s work or play – in this, what they might call ‘arty-farty’ arena.

As someone who’s naturally drawn to many creative activities, including music, art, books, photography, film and dance, I don’t suffer from this mental mindblock. To me the word ‘culture’ sums up any response to an activity which serves to elevate me out of my every day thoughts and stirs up new ideas and emotions.

That’s why I’ve been avidly following and supporting the bid Sheffield – the city that’s become my much-loved home since moving here from London three years ago – is making to become the UK’s first City of Culture 2013. http://www.sheffieldcityofculture.com/ Twitter:#shefcityculture Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Sheffield-City-of-Culture/194649648888?v=app_4949752878

As part of this campaign, last Sunday an open-to-all Culture Debate was held in the lofty surroundings of City Hall in the centre of town. I was an audience member in this debate, where seven speakers, who in my view represented a pretty broad brush-stroke of Sheffield’s cultural heritage, discussed ‘the big questions’ surrounding culture(starting with, not surprisingly: ‘What is culture?’)

And so the debate rumbled on…..while the audience slowly warmed to the idea of piping up with welcome questions or comments (the general consensus aired to explain this initial reticence, was Sheffielders had a tendency to be shy about their talents) I was struck by the number of empty seats at this free and accessible event.

Perhaps the fresh bout of snow had put the mildly-curious off attending. I also found myself wondering if Mr and Mrs Average of Sheffield were aware the debate was happening at all, as I hadn’t seen much evidence of prior high-profile promotion of this event throughout the city.

For those that don’t know much about the city of Steel, beyond the stereotypes of The Full Monty and those famous but now-departed cooling towers, here’s a few cultural facts about this glorious place which may surprise you:

• 7.2% of the population is employed in the creative industries – that’s twice the national average
• The city’s Showroom is the UK’s second-largest independent cinema www.showroomworkstation.org.uk
• Sheffield boasts the largest number of active art spaces (studios/workshops) outside of London.

I could go…..I might even shout about it, just to make up for Mr and Mrs Average who might be too shy to speak up! At least I’m not the only voice who’s hollering away. Here’s an interesting article by one of the Culture Debate panellists, BBC Radio Sheffield presenter Paulette Edwards, about the bid and culture in general(and all that arty-farty, fishy business!): http://news.bbc.co.uk/local/sheffield/hi/people_and_places/arts_and_culture/newsid_8528000/8528251.stm

Just days after the debate, I had something else to make some noise about when the Department for Culture, Media & Sport announced Sheffield made the shortlist for the UK City of Culture 2013 title, along with just three other contenders – Birmingham, Derry and Norwich.

Looks like I’ve got loads more yelling to come but I have a voicebox and I ain’t afraid to use it. Go, go, go Sheff!