Sheffield skyline

Sheffield’s road to recovery

As you will know from your time here, Sheffield is a special place. And we have a passion, determination and responsibility to ensure it stays that way. We use our excellence in research, education and knowledge exchange as a force for progress and take a leading role alongside regional partners to drive cultural and civic vibrancy. From hosting events during the Covid-19 pandemic, to initiatives designed to transform the heart of the city, here is a round-up of some of the recent projects we’ve led this year.

Future High Streets

In a huge boost for the city, Sheffield City Council, in partnership with the University and city retailers and businesses, has been successful in receiving funding of £15.8m for the rejuvenation of Fargate and High Street. Led by Professor Vanessa Toulmin, the University’s Director of City and Culture, academics and students across the University supported the bid, which included:

  • A launch event hosted by the University at the Millennium Galleries where over 200 members of the public attended. The event included visuals of the development and the opportunity to talk to the team about the plans and next steps.
  • A virtual reality experience devised by the Department of Urban Studies and Planning showcasing Fargate’s potential as a hub for cultural and creative activities.
  • A team of academics shared their research and expertise in a series of planning workshops, gaining insights from over 120 stakeholders on a variety of topics including flood defence and urban space.
  • School of Architecture students Joseph Chapman and Bor-Ren Hui produced architectural images for the final proposals.
Fargate and High Street architectural renders

Architectural visionary image produced by Joseph Chapman and Bor-Ren Hui, students from the School of Architecture at the University of Sheffield.

The funding will provide a substantial financial boost for the historic heart of the city centre and will help to shape the future of how Sheffield residents and visitors use the space. The proposals put forward are designed to generate investor confidence, attract and retain new visitors and residents, and build on Sheffield’s unique offer as a creative, climate-resilient and sustainable ‘Outdoor City’.

Covid-19 and Sheffield’s cultural sector: planning for recovery

Providing evidence of exactly how the cultural sector has been affected by the pandemic has been vital to planning the recovery. During 2020, two reports were submitted to the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). Using data collected, aggregated and analysed by the University, the first report – specific to the effect on the city of Sheffield – found that during the first lockdown, the city had lost more than 1.25 million visitors and approximately £11 million in ticket sales, retail sales, sponsorship and donations. The second report covered the impact on cultural venues, events and festivals in Rotherham, Barnsley and Doncaster.

Following these initial analyses, the University secured funding from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) for further investigation into audiences, venues and freelancers, and the challenges they face. Uniting academics across English, Music, and Urban Studies and Planning, the study will feed directly into economic recovery plans for the cultural industry in the Sheffield City Region and across the UK.

The show must go on

Drive-in poetry event

Poet Laureate Simon Armitage, delivered a unique and special ‘drive-in’ poetry event.

Ensuring ‘the show must go on’ during the pandemic was important for the University’s flagship events – Festival of the Mind and Off the Shelf. Recognising the new situation, the Festival of the Mind organisers transitioned to a new, widely accessible online platform. There they hosted the 21 specially curated podcasts, 26 live-streamed events, and more than 35 different exhibits and performances developed with more than 100 collaborators from across the region’s cultural sector.

Salmon of steel

Salmon of Steel, a 7ft sculpture of a leaping salmon was commissioned as part of Festival of the Mind 2020 to celebrate the return of Atlantic Salmon to Sheffield after more than 220 years of absence.  It can be found on display outside Sheffield Railway Station.

Audiences joined Festival of the Mind from nearly 50 countries – the first time that such international reach has been possible. Much of the content is still available for you online.

Off the Shelf also delivered a blended festival of online and in-person events. This enabled a wider range of opportunities for audiences, including a special Covid-19 secure ‘drive-in’ poetry event with the Poet Laureate Simon Armitage. International speakers such as alumnus Lee Child, as well as authors such as Susie Dent, Lemn Sissay and Jonathon Porritt, also took part. The event was a welcome success in Sheffield’s cultural calendar and again reached audiences far beyond the city, including Brazil, Romania, the USA and New Zealand.




Off the Shelf – October 2021

This year will be a landmark one for Off the Shelf as it celebrates its 30th anniversary. Brought to the city by the University, Off the Shelf is one of the UK’s largest literary festivals, and organisers are planning exciting events for 2021.

Keep your eyes peeled for festival updates via or sign up to the newsletter by contacting

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