Empty department store to thrive once more as creative hub during University’s Festival of the Mind

  • Former Co-operative department store at Castle House re-opens for University’s flagship event
  • Sheffield Bazaar will feature 20 specially-commissioned projects by city’s creative community
  • Festival of the Mind showcases ground-breaking collaborations between staff and students from the University of Sheffield and the City
  • Initiative to redefine historic Castlegate Quarter launched as part of innovative partnership with Sheffield City Council

Sheffield’s once-thriving Co-operative department store at Castle House will be transformed into a creative hub as it opens its doors for the first time in many years during the University of Sheffield’s Festival of the Mind 2014.

Castle House

The project has developed out of a year-long partnership between the University, Sheffield City Council and some of the city’s young entrepreneurs, which brought internationally-renowned regeneration expert Marcus Westbury to Sheffield in February.

Mr Westbury spoke about his pioneering work to reuse vacant buildings in his home town of Newcastle, Australia, which has transformed the area. Since then, a succession of innovative projects have been launched in Sheffield, of which this is the most ambitious to date.

The ground floor of the Grade Two listed Castle House building, which has stood empty since the store closed, will host the Sheffield Bazaar – featuring 20 specially-commissioned temporary art installations, funded by £46,800 from the Arts Council.

The remainder of the 1960s building will also be open during the 11-day Festival of the Mind (Thursday 18 September to Sunday 28 September), showcasing ground-breaking collaborations between academics from the University of Sheffield and local people in the creative and cultural industries at venues across the city.

As well as viewing 150 projects and ideas which highlight the spectacular possibilities when local talent combines with academic excellence, visitors will also be able to explore the former department store, which centres around a stunning, cantilevered spiral staircase lit by a shallow, concrete dome set with circular glass bricks.

Sheffield’s cultural community was invited to apply for funding to take part in the Bazaar, with successful commissions including:

  • Castle House, which will see a group of artists take up residence in part of the building, where they will live, eat and sleep for the duration of Festival of the Mind.
  • A one-woman sweat shop by Mir Jansen, who will hand-craft at least 100 necklaces and broaches using raw materials collected on her way into ‘work’.
  • A huge typographical piece by Rob Lee, which will look like a collection of random shapes until viewed from a particular viewpoint, where it will spell out ‘Sheffield Bazaar’.
  • Digital animations by Matthew Williamson showcasing the potential for redevelopment of the building.

Castle House was opened in 1962 by Brightside and Carbrook Co-operative Society, which had grown from humble beginnings with a small shop in Carbrook, which opened in 1869.

It was one of the first modernist department stores to be built in the UK with a huge black granite façade and retains most of its internal fittings. In 2009 it was granted Grade Two listed status.

Felicity Hoy, of Common People CIC, and Steve Rimmer, of Creative Arts Development Space (CADS), are now working with the owners of the building to see the space bustling once again.

Felicity Hoy said: “Castle House sits in the centre of a very prominent and important area of Sheffield that is undergoing a major transformation.

“We hope that the regeneration of Castlegate will give independents a chance to shine in this area and that Castle House will eventually act as the central creative hub.

“Festival of the Mind has enabled us to give commissions to artists to get this creativity going and the Arts Council has amazingly funded what will hopefully be the next big thing in South Yorkshire for the creative community.”

The Festival of the Mind, which was also held two years ago in 2012, is the brainchild of Professor Vanessa Toulmin, head of engagement at the University of Sheffield and director of the National Fairground Archive, inspired by her work at Blackpool’s Winter Gardens.

She thanked Steve Banks of North Point Development for access and permission to use Castle House as a venue for the festival.

Cllr Leigh Bramall, Cabinet Member for Business, Skills and Development at Sheffield City Council: said: “It’s great to see high-profile, empty buildings being put to such productive use and we fully support the University in this project.

“This Festival will give another welcome boost to the Castlegate area in this period of major transformation. We are already working closely with the University on the ‘Grey to Green’ project and the development of the Riverside Business District, and opening up the former Sheffield castle remains to create a new park .”

Cllr Isobel Bowler, Cabinet Member for Culture, Sport and Leisure at Sheffield City Council, added: “Over 150 events are scheduled during the 11-day festival next month and this is a wonderful way to add vibrancy to this part of the city.

“It's a great opportunity for people of all ages to enjoy a wide range of activities. I hope many local people will take the chance to experience the fascinating exhibitions and presentations on offer.”

Pete Massey, Acting Director of Arts Council England, said the organisation was delighted to support the Sheffield Bazaar as part of the Festival of the Mind through its National Lottery funded Grants for the Arts programme.

He said: “I am particularly looking forward to seeing the commissioned work that will be showcased throughout the iconic Castle House department store, which will also enable Sheffield-based artists and producers to engage with new audiences.

“It is great to see the University of Sheffield and its partners pro-actively developing and promoting new high quality arts activities in Sheffield, which not only offers great arts experiences for local residents, but also helps to build the cultural reputation of the city further afield.”

Additional information

The University of Sheffield

With almost 25,000 of the brightest students from around 120 countries, learning alongside over 1,200 of the best academics from across the globe, the University of Sheffield is one of the world’s leading universities.

A member of the UK’s prestigious Russell Group of leading research-led institutions, Sheffield offers world-class teaching and research excellence across a wide range of disciplines.

Unified by the power of discovery and understanding, staff and students at the university are committed to finding new ways to transform the world we live in.

In 2014 it was voted number one university in the UK for Student Satisfaction by Times Higher Education and in the last decade has won four Queen’s Anniversary Prizes in recognition of the outstanding contribution to the United Kingdom’s intellectual, economic, cultural and social life.

Sheffield has five Nobel Prize winners among former staff and students and its alumni go on to hold positions of great responsibility and influence all over the world, making significant contributions in their chosen fields.

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For further information, please visit www.sheffield.ac.uk


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