From Brooklyn Works to Brooklynism

The six-week ‘takeover’ at Kelham Island Museum involved a series of events, temporary exhibitions and installations to explore issues such as gentrification, heritage, and art and culture-led regeneration. This took place from 18th June to 24th July, 2019.


The Kelham Island neighbourhood furnished a resonant case study having evolved from the mostly industrial area in which the original Brooklyn Works (one of the first industrial buildings in Kelham Island to be transformed into residential accommodation) was located, to embodying Sheffield’s very own version of ‘Brooklynism’ (defined by one commentator as ‘the hipster stage of late capitalism’).

The programme brought academics in the Faculty of Arts and Humanities together with artists, developers and other place-making professionals. Using the Kelham Island experience as one example of place-making, the programme explored how development can be viewed as positive or negative, and broader themes of ‘gentrification’; neoliberalism; the greening of post-industrial space; hipster culture, authenticity, community-led urban activism; heritage, memory, materiality and urban erasures.

This project created a new partnership for both Faculty and the University of Sheffield with Kelham Island Museum. Located in one of the city’s oldest industrial districts, Kelham Island Museum stands on a man-made island over 900 years old. The museum was opened in 1982 to house the objects, pictures and archive material representing Sheffield’s industrial story. The interactive galleries tell the story from light trades and skilled workmanship to mass production and what it was like to live and work in Sheffield during the Industrial Revolution. 

The focus of the programme was very timely and drew on lively debate in the city concerning the transformation of this area. Kelham Island has been crowned the best neighbourhood in the UK and Ireland. The former industrial area has been reinvented in recent years to become one of the hippest areas in the country, and now its transformation has earned it the title of best neighbourhood in the UK and Ireland at the 2019 Urbanism Awards.

Events at the University

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