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Social media and events taking centre stage for new Culture Forum

Silversmith Owen Waterhouse with candlestick, at Culture Strategy Launch Event. Photo supplied by Sheffield City Council

Sheffield City Council’s recently-launched culture strategy is to be supported by three special cultural events and a dedicated social media online presence, over the next 12 months.

Funded by the Council, these exclusive events and digital channels are designed to enable individuals and organisations within the grassroots cultural community of Sheffield to stay connected with each other, under the banner of a Culture Forum for the city.

Two Sheffield-based businesses have been appointed on a freelance basis by the Council to support the Culture Forum. Ben Duong, founder of The North marketing agency, is co-ordinating the three events, under the banner of The North Culture Club. While Stella Eleftheriades, director of copywriting and social media specialists, stellamedia, is taking charge of the social media and blogging accounts.

Amy Carter, Head of Arts, Museums and Cultural Promotion at Sheffield City Council says: ‘The three events will be themed around the main objectives of the cultural strategy with the first being ‘Economic Impact’ on 12th May, and will be held in conjunction with the Site Gallery. We will be showcasing a diverse range of Sheffield based creative individuals/businesses that have done some amazing work outside of the city, not just in the UK, but also internationally. For example, Human Studios currently have an exhibition of their work in a gallery in Tokyo; Nick Deakin created an illustration character for a Coca-Cola advertisement; and Forced Entertainment, a theatre performance group, will be going on a European tour from April.’

The other two events are set to take place on 8th September 2011 and 19th January 2012 and will be themed around ‘Excellence’ and ‘Participation’. During the events, follow live tweets on (hashtag) #sheffieldculture.

To join the Culture Forum on Facebook search for ‘Sheffield City of Culture’, to follow on Twitter use @sheffculture and blog posts and further information will be featured on:

Listings and notifications of events, workshops and exhibitions can be sent to

Sheffield City Council’s culture strategy is a direct follow-on from Sheffield’s 2010 UK City of Culture bid and is a call to action for the people of the city to get involved and participate in cultural activity.


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 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:

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 (, 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.


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.


We Love Sleep:

Integrate Nutrition:

PJ Taste:

Richard Smith Illustration:

The Heavenly Cheesecake Company:

Tender Loving Care (TLC):

CVC Event Services:

Weston Park Hospital Cancer Charity:

Silent Cities:

Henry’s bar:

Richard Bolam Digital Media:

The Milestone:

Compass Distribution:


Theatre review: Pool (no water) by Sheffield University Theatre Company (SuTCo)

Photo: SuTCo

Venue: The Drama Studio, University of Sheffield (date of show 22 October 2010, performance ran from 20 to 23 October 2010)

The thin line which straddles love and hate doesn’t just get crossed in Pool (no water) – by leading British theatre company Frantic Assembly – it gets positively trodden and stamped on, in this startling and thoughtful exploration of the notion of friendship and love.

Originally devised with acclaimed writer Mark Ravenhill, (The Cut, Shopping and Fucking) this vibrant physical theatre piece centres around the tangled, complicated emotional dynamic between four obscure artists and their rich, famous friend, Ellie.

After many years apart, the group visit Ellie, a talented and feted artist, at her luxurious home – complete with outdoor pool – and a night of celebration leads to their hostess suffering a terrible freak accident. It’s only then, the dark underbelly of the true, visceral feelings of the visting quartet for their estranged ‘friend’ come to vivid light, unravelling in disturbing and twisted ways.

Despite the sometimes confused and disjointed use of symbolism, the physicality of the performers is well-paced and musical interludes add an additional, haunting layer to the show. Although the script merely skims the surface of the world the characters exist in at times, Pool (no water) is overall a brave and bold production, which is well worth a dip for fans of challenging, entertaining theatre.

Sheffield’s big conversation

Image: An illustrated example of one of the ideas received.
Source: Sheffield City of Culture team

Once a journalist, always a journalist. Talking to ‘ordinary people’, finding out what the real story is, watching an organic, exciting event come to life – I’ll never get tired of being in the thick of these sweet slices of life.

And last week, I was thrilled to witness this spirit was alive and well in Sheffield, at ‘What’s Your Big Idea? event, held by the Sheffield City of Culture 2013 team.

Sheffield, keep on speaking up!

Here’s more about the event, from the SCC team:

The team behind Sheffield’s UK City of Culture bid undertook the largest arts and culture consultation that the city has ever seen last week. The ‘Sheffield City of Culture: What’s Your Big Idea’ event, which took place on Friday 16th April at The Circle from 8.30am – 8.30pm, saw hundreds of people of all ages and walks of life turn up to share their ideas for arts and culture in Sheffield – well exceeding the target of 1000 big ideas!

Amy Carter, Head of Arts at Sheffield City Council, was thrilled by the enthusiasm and ingenuity of the Sheffield public: “People seemed to come in their droves, full of great thoughts and ideas for the city. Some people were waiting outside for the doors to open at 8.30am! Many simply wrote their ideas down, however others drew pictures, created collages and even sang their ideas to us.

“Some people were engaged in long conversations and constructive debates with members of the bid team, and guest facilitators from the cultural sector, including leading artists, festival directors, choreographers and musicians, were on hand to discuss the bid and help capture and explore people’s ideas.”

Visitors were encouraged to think broadly, use their imaginations and think beyond restriction to come up with exciting programme ideas for 2013. An impressive 41 blank canvasses were filled, 11 huge paper table cloths were covered in ideas and the suggestion box was over flowing.

The ideas received encompassed:

supporting and showcasing Sheffield’s new talent
taking the city’s existing great events to a new level
capitalising on the power of dance as a way of bringing people together
a range of ideas about how art can improve people’s health
using the cities topography as a stage to promote community arts and music
reflecting the city’s reputation for independent thinking in the 2013 programme

The very best of the ideas will be included in the final bid to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport which will be submitted on 21st May 2010.

Amy concludes: “It was fantastic to see such enthusiasm for the bid and a real desire from the Sheffield public and businesses to make the bid a success. We look forward to carrying the ideas forward, developing them and really creating something amazing in 2013!

“If you have an idea that you would like to share with us, then you can still do so by visiting”

Change begins from the ground up

ROAR imageThe old saying that no-one ever wanted to become a journalist for the money, still holds true today. Often we wouldn’t win any popularity contests in the eyes of the general public either. But I’ve always believed being a hack can be an immense force for good. We reach into people’s lives and reflect what ‘real’ people want, feel and think. Journalism is all about working from the ground up – finding the story behind a press release, talking to people on the streets, giving them a powerful voice.

With this spirit in mind, I recently had the pleasure of meeting Karen Sherwood, chief executive of ROAR(Rotherham Open Arts Renaissance). The aims of ROAR are: to provide support for artists living and/or working in Rotherham, to provide a ‘one stop shop’ for schools statutory bodies, community groups and businesses wanting to access and employ artists, as well as to establish a sustainable independent working arts centre in Rotherham.

As we toured around the city centre, there were clear signs of deprivation – but we also met others who share Karen’s drive and passion to provide the people of Rotherham with a positive future, through the power of creativity. Now that’s really something to ROAR about.