I’m going to Sheffield

Just a quick one. I’m involved in a lot of secretive things this year, but I can finally tell you about one of them. Probably the most significant one, in fact, since it’s involved me handing in my notice at work and moving to another town for a while.

I’ve been offered a place on the Happenstance Project. At the beginning of April, six individuals with experience of working on fast digital projects are going to be injected into three art galleries around the UK in an interdisciplinary experiment in collaboration and serendipity.

The galleries and the project partners – Warwick University, NESTA, The Arts Council, Caper and the AHRC – want to know what happens when you collide cutting edge technology thinking with art spaces. It’s something that hasn’t been tried in a measured, well-supported way before, so it’s a risk, but look at all those people getting behind the idea! It’s high time we tried it.

The fact this project is happening at all feels like vindication, not just for me (I’ve been hammering away at this for years) but for the general idea of technology as creative. What gets me out of bed every day is the promise of making new things – things that might not even be possible! But which, in the process of trying out, sketching and playing, will usually bring with them dozens of new ways to have fun. Modern technology, suspended on crocodile clips between the physical world and the digital, is a natural partner for the arts not for its futuristic possibilities or even its everyday utility, but because it’s powered by the thrill of experimentation. Artists are often exceptionally practical; programmers can’t stop making. The distinction isn’t what we think it is.

Here’s what Happenstance wrote about it on their blog when they launched the appeal a couple of months ago:

Each residency will be an opportunity to think, make and prototype digital projects and products as part of a small creative team. We’re looking for people who are creative thinkers, don’t mind getting their hands dirty (!), can communicate well and share their processes and thinking and can work in an Agile way.

We’ve been talking about ‘agile project management’ – a common practice in technology development teams but less so in the arts. Developing an agile approach to technology, and making digital products in the way we would usually make art, is one of the things we want to experiment with, so the process of making will be just as important as the things we make.

They shortlisted us, invited us to a sandpit day, interviewed us, and finally chose six of us. Then they paired us up. For the three months, I’m going to be working with the lovely James Jefferies at the Site Gallery.

I don’t have anywhere to live yet, so I’m open to all ideas/recommendations. As I’m extremely old and rather anti-social, instinct says a studio/1-bed flat would suit me a lot better than a room in a shared house. There doesn’t seem to be a great shortage of places, but I might have to bite the bullet and get a six-month lease. If I’m really enjoying it, I could end up staying a bit longer anyway.

Sadly, I couldn’t persuade my employer Made by Many to let me do this under their banner and keep my job open, so I’ve had to resign. Overall this felt like too good an opportunity to throw away – too much the kind of thing I want to be spending concentrated time on. But I still think Made by Many are great, and hope to carry on contracting for them afterwards.

So there we have it. I’m leaving my job, and I’m moving to Sheffield to develop some exciting technology solutions for an art gallery. I’ll be back in the north, where my family live, where I went to university, and where, to all intents and purposes, I grew up. There will be no more commuting and no more smoggy, overcrowded, over-rated, hostile old London, but there will be a Peak District, which is better than anything you care to name, and I’ll have a bit of free time again. I think it’s going to be really good.

6 thoughts on “I’m going to Sheffield

  1. paulyg

    Hello. You’re right – there are plenty of accommodation options in Sheffield. If you don’t mind living central (and want to be within walking distance of Site) then I’d check out places like Leadmill Court or The Butcher Works. I live in the centre of town and it’s not especially noisy / busy like a lot of other cities. You’ve also got galleries, cinemas, venues, restaurants on your doorstep.

    Slightly further out, have a look at Crookes. Being near to one of the universities, that’s quite a friendly area with plenty to do and very easy transport into the city centre. Feel free to drop me a line if you want additional slightly vague advice.

  2. leila Post author

    Wow thank you so much! That’s *exactly* the kind of advice I need. I am looking for somewhere central if possible, I think, so I will definitely check out the places you mention.

  3. Kathy

    Congratulations – sounds like a fantastic project!

    I think I’d agree with Paulyg – Leadmill Court and the Butcher Works also happen to be the closest flats to Site Gallery so your commute would be about a minute. There’s lots of Sainsburys within walking distance and you’re also pretty close by the theatres and Showroom cinema.

    Slightly further away, but still within walking distance, is Kelham Island. It’s an older industrial area which is becoming regenerated. It has some great pubs, and flats there are probably more likely to have a communal gym. But I’m less sure about where you’d be able to get emergency bread/milk round there.

    And my preference on even further away (about a 30 minute walk) would be Sharrowvale road area. Lots of bars and restaurants, near the Lescar (comedy venue), near parks and gardens, and near a great cheese shop and the original Fancie cupcake shop.

    Fortunately, the cupcakes are also available more centrally, in the Winter Gardens. And I’d also recommend checking out Street Food Chef – which is a fantastic burrito stall in the city centre.

    Good luck flat hunting, and hope you enjoy Sheffield

  4. leila Post author

    Thank you Kathy! Incredibly helpful. I reckon I’d be happy in any of the places you mention. It seems like there’s going to be loads to explore and find nice things to eat and do. Pleased to hear there’s a comedy club as well.

    I’m even more excited about it now. Can’t get over how helpful everyone is being!

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