The Making It Work consortium went on a group visit to the Catalyst consortium in Sheffield in January. There’s a post below that outlines who we met and what happened on the day, so I’m giving a more personal perspective.
The first thing we learnt was that collaboration depends on making time to work together. In meeting two of the partners (Site Gallery and Yorkshire Artspace), one of the things that they were experiencing was the difficulty in carving out time to work on the consortium programme together.
Secondly, that Sheffield has built an infrastructure of spaces, activity and people consistently over several decades. What is now the Cultural Industries Quarter provides new and established organisations with an identity, networks and support as well as being part of a significant economic sector within the city. In Sheffield the Quarter also has an identity beyond the city, and even has some currency as a visitor attraction in its own right. This has given us much food for thought for our involvement in initiatives around the Stoke Cultural Quarter.
The visit made me aware of how Stoke lacks middle-scale independent organisations such as Site, Music In The Round and Yorkshire Artspace. These, stretched as they are, do have capacity to support emergent artists and organisations. Without similar scale organisations in Stoke (all of the larger organisations are part of the local authority or commercial) it is the networks we are building that can create similar capacity in Stoke.
Art Sheffield was a fascinating model, a consortium project in Sheffield that delivered enough value back to those investing time in developing it – such as listings services and a real focus for the participating organisations in reaching new audiences.
Finally, when faced with agendas that all seem vital – such as setting up membership schemes, crowdfunding, targeting potential patrons, capital projects – the Executive Director of Site Gallery held onto something that resonated with us all:
Trevelyan Wright, B-Arts