University of Sheffield, Sheffield City Council, Yorkshire Arts Space and Live Works.

Castlegate Vibrancy Festival June 2015.

The “Artists Vibrancy” event took place over the 2 days from Saturday 20th to Sunday 21st June 2015.  The event was used as an opportunity to co-curate a series of artist-led activities and provocations in this space to engage the general public with ideas and illuminations on the theme of Artists in the City. The artists’ brief was to explore how their arts practice can enable the public to reflect on the role of artists imaging change and transformation.


In partnership with University of Sheffield’s Professor Vanessa Toulmin and the Engaged University staff, Sheffield City Council, Yorkshire Arts Space, Live Works, a School of Architecture Initiative, a two day Vibrancy Festival was proposed to shed light on a declining urban environment within Sheffield City Centre.

Castlegate is the historic centre of the city of Sheffield and spans 700 years of history encompassing a third of the city centre area.  Recent relocations of major assets including the former Sheffield Market and the displacement of key businesses has resulted in a decline in both the architectural landscape and the economic vibrancy of the area.  Castlegate is both a geographical area and an emotional area of memory and placemaking with community groups, a range of University of Sheffield academics and city planners involved in its future regeneration.

The aim was to present a rich layered public quarter consisting of pop up festivals activity, curated events and informal & democratic spaces, shared by the community, combining heritage, culture, arts and enterprise and animated by strong programme of events and activities.

The two day event consisted of pop up exhibitions and events throughout the area, including Castle House, Yorkshire Arts Space’s Exchange Studios and Bank Street Arts culminating with a street party on the Sunday afternoon with artists, public and traders encouraged to celebrate and take part in this wider community engagement.

In addition to this Yorkshire Arts Space and the University of Sheffield joint funded the post of 8 month Artist in Residence of which Paul Evans was the successful candidate appointed with the Festival as one of his main areas of focus.

Aims of the Festival

Main Festival themes

The Arts Strand funded through the AHRC Connected Communities festival enhanced this aspect of the festival, and fore-grounded new strategic partnerships with the University of Sheffield’s Public & City Engagement team and Connected Communities (CC) researchers. With a focus on co-production of knowledge and arts and humanities approaches to community building we aimed to add value to an existing high profile program of events.

Participation: Over 1100 people passed through the doors of Castle House in two days with many more hundreds taking part in the heritage walks and the events at Bank Street Arts and Exchange Studios. The event was indeed vibrant. Through the innovative ‘Cocoa artists’ initiative, the AHRC were able to support Artist Paul Evans who could offer small-scale bursaries to city artists who themselves offered alternative visions for Castle House and its future. This strengthened and considerably contributed to thinking on the role of arts in the city and helped us reflect on the Artists’ legacy project.

Legacy. The importance of artists in the city and their role in creating both placemaking and contributing to economic and cultural vibrancy underpins the University of Sheffield’s approach to engaging with the creative community. The development of the City and Cultural Engagement Office, its partnership with the Cultural Consortium has led to the development and delivery of Sheffield Year of Making 2016 and the recent AFE major grant award Making Ways for artists in the city of £550,000.

Professor Kate Pahl with artist Steve Pool and Professor Vanessa Toulmin.

Funded by the AHRC, Arts Council England and the University of Sheffield City and Cultural Engagement Office.


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