Sheffield’s cultural recovery

Aerial Panoramic view above Sheffield

Aerial panoramic view above Sheffield (credit: Chris Cook/GettyImages)

Researchers at the University of Sheffield have launched a new project that will help the city’s cultural sector recover from the impact of COVID-19, and provide useful insight for the rest of the UK.

Professor Vanessa Toulmin, Director of City and Culture at the University of Sheffield, is leading the project, which is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). She will work with colleagues from the university’s music, English, urban studies and planning departments, as well as with key cultural organisations in Sheffield.

The one-year project will collect crucial data on audiences, venues and freelancers that can be fed directly into policies and economic recovery plans for the cultural industry in the Sheffield City Region and across the UK.

Calculating the economic impact of COVID-19

The pandemic has had a profound impact on the cultural and heritage sectors, which were unable to reopen as other parts of the economy did. The true economic cost is currently unknown.

Researchers from the university’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning will:

  • help with economic recovery modelling
  • develop strategies for external funding priorities
  • provide a robust picture of the long-term support required for the sector.

The study will work directly with freelancers to help identify gaps in support and inequalities, but also good practice and innovation.

Encouraging audiences to return

There are still huge uncertainties around how some cultural venues can safely reopen and attract and maintain the audiences needed to support their businesses.

The university’s Department of Music will collect data to help the sector better understand how audiences could feel comfortable returning to venues.

Dr Sarah Price, Professor Stephannie Pitts and Professor Renee Timmers will track the opinions of audiences who attend reopened venues to gather insight into how confident they are about returning to future events. Findings will help cultural organisations and venues understand the impact of social distancing measures and make improvements to help maintain audiences.

Local and national insight

Findings from the project will be shared with cultural venues, professionals and freelancers throughout the Sheffield City Region and nationally with the help of key partners such as:

  • Music Venue Trust
  • Theatres Trust
  • Museums Association
  • Arts Council England
  • Core Cities UK
  • Local Government Association
  • Royal Town Planning Institute.

Professor Vanessa Toulmin, Director of City and Culture at the University of Sheffield, said:

This is a unique opportunity to bring together the expertise of my colleagues in the faculties of arts and humanities and social sciences so our research can have an immediate impact and help the city that we love so much.

As lovers of all of the wonderful things that make Sheffield such a great place to live, work, visit and study in, the impact of COVID-19 is particularly devastating. 49% of leisure and cultural industries colleagues are still furloughed in the Sheffield City Region and the very things that make our city a fantastic place are under threat. We hope our research can make a difference.

Professor John Flint from the University of Sheffield’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning said:

This project enables the university’s expert researchers to work closely with our partners to jointly address the challenge of facilitating the sustainable return of these fantastic venues and events so that they may, once again, play a key role in the vitality of our city and region. In doing so, we will generate crucial insights about how best to support arts and culture across the whole of the UK in the years ahead.

Last updated: 4 January 2021

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