4 November 2015

Sheffield’s Cultural Industries Quarter (CIQ) is set to get a major boost as two proposals to support the area are being considered by the city council’s cabinet next week (Wednesday, 11 November).

The first report is a proposal to lease an area of underused open land at Charles Street (next to the Hallam Students Union building) to Sheffield Hallam University (SHU) as an events space. It would give a greater opportunity for outdoor events to be held in that area – such as during DocFest, Tramlines and other similar events.

The university would also take over the future maintenance of the space with revenue savings to the council. This investment is one of a series of proposals that will add to the cultural attraction and reinvigoration of the CIQ and city centre.

The proposal to grant a lease for 25 years will include an investment from SHU of around £400,00 and will save the council approximately £1,000 a year in maintenance costs.

The second paper is a proposal to support the Site Gallery to expand its premises on Brown Street by offering a peppercorn rent on the lease, as the council’s contribution to an Arts Council bid. It is dependent on the Arts Council bid being successful, but this should be known ahead of the cabinet meeting next week.

The proposal to grant a lease for 22 years at a peppercorn rent will unlock a grant from the Arts Council of just under £1m towards a £1.7m project.

The refurbishment of the open space and property will benefit the council-owned assets that are currently in a poor state of repair.

Cllr Sioned-Mair Richards, the Council’s Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods said: “The proposed expansion of the Site Gallery and improvements to the open space, along with other investments in the area, will be a major boost to the attraction of the city centre and the CIQ in particular.

“This has knock-on economic benefits in terms of making the city an exciting place to locate, and then attract talented staff, for businesses in the creative and digital industries – which is a key growth area.

“It also adds to the great quality of our open spaces in the city centre making it an even better place to live.”

There are more than 300 companies in the CIQ and most of them are connected to creative or cultural industries, such as film-making, music production, software design, broadcasting, new media, architecture, art and traditional crafts.

The area also includes the city centre campus of Sheffield Hallam University and a growing residential community that includes a large number of students.

Despite its success as a trail-blazing example, there is now a feeling that the CIQ has lost ground to similar clusters of creative businesses in other cities and that it needs to refresh and update – both its cultural and commercial offer and public space for a growing resident and business population.

 

Ends

Notes for editors:

Site Gallery is located in the part of the city centre known as the Cultural Industries Quarter (CIQ). For over 200 years the CIQ has been an area for light manufacturing.

As these traditional industries declined, the CIQ attracted creative businesses, cultural organisations and artists seeking good value accommodation near to the city centre.

In the mid-1980s the City Council recognised the economic, cultural and social value of the cultural industries and set out to actively support and encourage the growth of the sector. This included the establishment of the Audio Visual Enterprise Centre (AVEC) in a group of former car showroom buildings of which Site Gallery forms part.

AVEC also includes the Council operated Red Tape Studios; a group of private commercial recording studios and next to Site Gallery is the former Sheffield Independent Film (SIF) studio which has been vacant for some time, but is currently let to Sheffield Hallam University (SHU).

Site Gallery opened in 1978 as Untitled Gallery in Walkley subsequently moving to the current property which is leased from the Council in 1988. The launch as Site Gallery in 1995 was a new direction for the gallery’s programming of exhibitions and events, incorporating new and experimental art, digital and multi-media alongside traditional forms of image production.

Since the major expansion and redevelopment of the building in 1998, the gallery has become a key national player within the UK’s visual arts sector, having developed a unique contemporary art programme with an international reputation through extensive exhibitions, commissioning and residency programmes and innovative education and training activities.

Site Gallery is a key national player within the UK’s visual arts sector with a unique contemporary art programme with an international reputation for its extensive exhibitions, commissioning and residency programmes and innovative education and training activities.

However the current property is relatively small when compared to similar contemporary art venues in other cities. This limits the possibilities to generate income to sustain the operation of the gallery. It is vital that arts venues earn more external revenue to support themselves in future as funding from Arts Council England (ACE) and other funders continues to decline.

Site has identified the adjoining former SIF premises as being ideal for the expansion space that the gallery needs in order to increase its capacity for artists and audiences and to develop its business model, increasing and diversify its income. Their proposal will also greatly improve the environmental credentials of the building. This is entirely in line with the Council’s aspirations to re-energize the CIQ.

In November 2013 Site submitted a bid to ACE for a substantial capital grant to carry out a comprehensive refurbishment of the SIF property and remodelling of Site Gallery to expand into the SIF property. The proposed works include larger exhibition spaces which will help to attract major exhibitions; further space for events and education; additional studio space and an expanded café that will underpin income generation and sustainability for the organisation into the future.