Another idea for empty retail spaces in town
Many people are rightly proud of what a creative city Sheffield is. It is certainly home to plenty of creative people: 7.2% of the workforce is employed in the creative and digital industries* and an uncited claim on Wikipedia says that outside of London, Sheffield has the largest population of amateur, working and professional visual artists in the UK.
Could we do more help promote our creative excellence? The bigger manufacturers pay to use the Made in Sheffield mark to help sell and authenticate their products, but this is less useful for smaller artists trying to sell their wares.
As the recession has hit, shops have gone bust and retail units in towns up and down the country have been left empty. Sheffield city centre hasn’t escaped this, with the delay of Sevenstone resulting in many of our retail spaces being caught in a black hole between compulsory purchase orders and postponed building work.
At least three other cities have now come up with another use for them which is helping local artists and creative people. In the last few months, ‘Made in…’ or ‘Created in…’ shops have opened in Newcastle and Birmingham. It looks like Nottingham is also home to a similar type of shop.
The concept is simple, although it has varied from city to city. Broadly, they are pop-up shops occupying empty retail units that showcase and sell locally-made products. They can also incorporate meeting places, small workshop spaces and exhibition areas. A group of volunteers run the shops, sometimes with a committee or main organiser heading things up.
Could this work in Sheffield? We already have a pool of creative artists, plenty of empty units in town and and regular craft fairs run by the Sheffield craft mafia.
Running the shops is hard work, as the Created in Birmingham people discovered, so it isn’t something to take on lightly. And I think some thought would need to be given as to how such a project would work alongside existing rent-paying outlets like the Famous Sheffield Shop and Sheffield Scene, and also existing art-selling galleries.
On the whole, it sounds like these pop-up shops have been very well received. After a successful three-month trial, the Birmingham shop closed due to their prestigious unit in the Bullring shopping centre being let to paying tenants, but it is expected to return for Christmas.
Has this idea had been considered for Sheffield? If not, is anyone interested in seeing whether there is an appetite to get a Made in Sheffield shop up and running in time for the Christmas shopping season?
*I’ve no idea how an occupation is classed as creative or otherwise