South Yorkshire shines spotlight on vital role of cultural partnership

12th December 2022

The Chief Executive of Arts Council England joined key figures from South Yorkshire’s culture community in a special event to highlight the vital role of partnership in arts and culture to support positive change in communities.

Darren Henley CBE, Chief Executive of Arts Council England and one of the most influential figures in the sector, joined a panel of culture experts to use South Yorkshire as a lens in exploring how regional education and anchor institutions can work more effectively together to ensure culture can support positive and inclusive community change.

The event, Cultural Partnerships Transforming Lives, was jointly hosted by Sheffield Hallam University (as host of the national Civic University Network), Arts Council England, Culture Forum North, and the South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority (SYMCA). More than 150 arts and culture stakeholders from across the country attended the event, which was held in Sheffield Hallam’s Head Post Office building, home to the University’s art and design

The panel, chaired by Sheffield Hallam’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Chris Husbands, included Sonia Gayle (Vice-Chair African Heritage Culture Forum and Commissioner for the Sheffield Race Equality Commission), Duncan Robertshaw (Chief Executive, darts - Doncaster’s participatory arts charity), Angela Foulkes (Chief Executive & Principal at The Sheffield College), Professor Vanessa Toulmin (Director of City & Culture, Partnerships and Regional Engagement, University of Sheffield), and Martin McKervey (Chair of Sheffield Property Association and Deputy-Chair of Sheffield Culture Collective).

The panel built on the recently published Culture Forum North New Vision for Partnership and successful launch of the South Yorkshire Cultural and Creative Industries Network, established last year by the Showroom Workstation and South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority to boost the region’s culture sector.

The event also featured the launch of the African Heritage Culture Forum Sheffield - part of the Sheffield Culture Consortium.

Des Smith DL, Chair of the African Heritage Culture Forum (AHCF), and Olivier Tsemo, Ambassador member and Chief Executive of the Sheffield and District African Caribbean Community Association (SADACCA), discussed the AHCF’s role in sharing ideas and contributing to Sheffield’s celebration of black British history and African heritage culture.

Des Smith DL said: “Culture is and always will be for the people and whilst there will always be those who seek to sow discord between communities; the Forum believes that the authentic celebration of culture is essential for social cohesion. 

“Sheffield Hallam is to be applauded for bringing together cultural institutions, universities and colleges. A fabulous event that helped to showcase the importance of building and maintaining creative partnerships as a way of connecting communities and transforming lives.” 

The second half of the day-long event saw guests discuss live cultural partnership case studies from across South Yorkshire and the North of England to address themes including health, skills, civic impact, research and knowledge creation, creative industries networks.

Dr Debbie Squire, Head of Place and Civic Engagement at Sheffield Hallam and organiser of the event, said: “This event was a great opportunity to demonstrate that we should be proud of South Yorkshire’s cultural heritage - and ambitious about its future.

“Bringing this group together meant we could focus attention on partnership, with a specific lens on culture and education, and put that at the heart of our collective civic mission to improve our place – and improve it for everyone. The input and passion from our panellists and guests was truly inspiring and I’m really encouraged for what comes next.”

Sarah Fisher, Co-Chair of Culture Forum North, said: “Hearing how cultural organisations were working with universities to address some major challenges - from health and well-being, to future skills and levelling-up - was incredibly useful and confirmed for many that partnership is the route to better outcomes.”

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