David Blunkett launches project for creative communities
The Rt Hon David Blunkett MP launched a project connecting students, academics and members of the community in Shalesmoor, Neepsend, Kelham Island, Upperthorpe and Hillsborough to engage with their local environment creatively last night (24 May 2012).
The project, entitled plastiCities, is led by Dr Amanda Crawley Jackson from the University’s Department of French and is inspired by French philosophies of creative urban engagement.
Dr Crawley Jackson explained: “Our students have been working with local artists and residents to gather drawings, texts, photographs and memories of Sheffield and our longer-term aim is to transform disused or neglected spaces into places that the community can enjoy and interact with.”
Collaborative projects include working with local groups such as Friends of Wardsend Cemetery to revive the graveyard, which is of significant local historical interest. Wardsend Cemetery is a site where some victims of the Great Sheffield flood of 1864 are laid to rest, as well as George Lambert VC and soldiers who fought in both World Wars.
Local councillors, publishers, writers, researchers and representatives from local community groups attended the launch event, which took place at the University’s Humanities Research Institute.
The plastiCities project, which is part of the occursus art group at the University, will also curate a series of exhibitions, building on public workshops led by a variety of creative practitioners that will run in various parts of the city from May 2012. A joint symposium with Sheffield Contemporary Art Forum (SCAF), S1 and Site Gallery will also take place at the University in June 2012. Participating artists include David McNab, Bryan Eccleshall, Joshua Holt and Homeland.
David Blunkett, MP for Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough, said: “For all of us a sense of identity and belonging is critical. Rejoicing in the history of our community and the often unrecognised outstanding heritage and environment helps to cement our well-being and reinforce our mutuality. That is why this project including, as it does, all those interested in history and our environment, can bring people together to make a positive contribution to protecting what we value and improving what has been neglected.”
Richard Wright, Executive Director of the Sheffield Chamber of Commerce, said: “The current initiative by the University of Sheffield for the Shalesmoor area through the plastiCities activity addresses an important priority for the city. The site is full of history, particularly as an area where real craftsmen made bespoke objects during Sheffield’s heydays.
“We all remember the cutlery manufacturers on Solly Street for instance. Walking through it now gives no indication that it still does have some of those businesses left but it does, and it needs more, and the whole area needs a complete face lift. In my opinion we have the opportunity to create something unique in the UK utilizing existing craftsmen and new students leaving our universities whereby we can use the famous ‘Made in Sheffield’ brand and the opportunities from the Assay Office to create bespoke and unique manufactured objects that people will come to the city to buy.
“This city has a history built on entrepreneurism, quality and enterprise. Shalesmoor has the opportunity to be the centre of that again in the creative and designer goods and to underpin the tourist offer of the city.”
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