Cultural Industries Quarter

A gallery crawl in the most creative part of Sheffield city centre, making stops for coffee, burritos and a film along the way.

Sheffield is a city of makers and doers, that delightedly boasts one of the largest creative communities in the country. Much of this community is concentrated in the Cultural Industries Quarter (CIQ), just between Sheffield Station and the city centre. An area that once hummed and clanked with cutlery works and toolmakers, it now sings with all manner of creative endeavour.

So named by the council in the mid-'90s, the Cultural Industries Quarter roughly refers to the area between St Mary's Road, Arundel Gate and Howard Street. Sixteen listed buildings sit within its triangle and historic industrial reminders are everywhere, blended with the modern: independent galleries nest between chimneys and cuddle courtyards, cafes and studios spring up on cobbled side streets. Down even the quietest streets in the CIQ there's lots happening behind closed doors, with recording studios, a DIY media lab, and BBC Radio Sheffield all based here. And breaking out of the buildings and onto exterior walls, art by the likes of Kid Acne, Phlegm and Florence Blanchard keeps the streets bright (more on that in our Sheffield Street Art Walk). Kid Acne recently told OFP this area is "one of the most exciting neighbourhoods in the city," and he’s right. Here's some of the top things to see and do in the CIQ:

Head out on a gallery crawl

A zig-zagging trail of ever-changing contemporary exhibitions awaits exploration in Sheffield's CIQ. Start at the always absorbing and intuitively curated Site Gallery on Brown Street. As well as putting on a fabulous programme of exhibitions and events, Site offers space to pause for thought in its common room.

Further along the street is Yorkshire Artspace's excellently named – and wonderfully designed – Persistence Works. It’s worth repeating that Sheffield has the most artists’ studios outside of London, and loads of them are here. Visit in November when the residents annually open their studios to the public. In the same building is Made North: a gallery and shop showcasing contemporary design, with a particular emphasis on the work of upcoming designers from Up North (many of whom are based in the studios above). 

Around the corner on Arundel Street is the Sheffield Institute of Arts (SIA), a bright and airy gallery space within a Sheffield Hallam University building, while over the road there's contemporary metalwork on show at Butcher Works Gallery. Next up is the charming APG Works on Sidney Street, a screen printing studio that regularly hosts exhibitions of work by the best printmakers from the city and beyond. It's a short wander from there to Sylvester Street, where Bloc houses artists and makers in its studios, and an eclectic mix of contemporary art on its walls and in its small gallery space.

Penultimately, reach the cobbles of Mary Street, where both "post-industrial concept space" 99 Mary Street and Ed Bradbury and Florence Blanchard's B&B Gallery have been attracting the culturally curious since 2013. Keep an eye on their calendars for upcoming exhibitions and their lively launch nights.

Top off the trail by heading from the CIQ into the city centre via the Millennium Gallery: home to big temporary exhibitions, a metalwork display, and an array of items and artworks from Victorian thinker John Ruskin's collections.

Art Sheffield, the city's biennial art festival, has put together a nice map of these galleries and others across the city.

Watch a film/band

Celebrating its 20th birthday this year, the Showroom is one of Europe’s largest independent cinemas. Housed in an art deco former car showroom, it shows a consistently good programme across its four screens and, throughout the year, hosts events and festivals like Doc/Fest and the Celluloid Screams horror film fest. The other half of the building, the Workstation, is home to hundreds of creative businesses, including photographers, designers, games creators and community radio and TV station Sheffield Live.

Also celebrating a big birthday this year in the CIQ is the Leadmill. Many a Sheffield music fan will share nostalgic tales of gigs at the Leadmill throughout its years (that time a young Pixies opened for Throwing Muses in the late '80s; that Mudhoney gig in the '90s with Hole as support). Still going strong, the music venue turns 35 this year.

Eat and drink

It’s around here that Peddler Night Market – an unmissable guzzlefest of street food and craft beer – is held every other month, but year round you’ll find some of Sheffield’s most-loved places to eat and drink in the CIQ.

In the daytime, sip one of Sheffield’s best coffees at Tamper. Housed in the whitewashed Seller’s Wheel, Tamper also serves up great food, and opens late on Fridays to proffer good ales, cocktails and a fancier menu. Fusion is good for a lunchtime slice of fresh quiche and, for something casual day or night, nowhere beats Street Food Chef – surely the most addictive Mexican cantina in all of Yorkshire. For an evening treat head for Arundel Street's Silversmiths restaurant – a popular choice on Tuesdays, when it's pie night.

At 156 Arundel Street, The Depot Bakery is ideally situated for a stop-off on the above gallery crawl – if it's between 8am and 2pm on Saturday, at least. The Depot opens its shutters to the public for just a few hours a week, but it supplies tasty pastries and breads to Tamper at all times and, over in the Devonshire Quarter, you can try its many varieties of doughnut at Steam Yard.

It has to be the Rutland for a nice pint of brown booze (which always goes down well with one of their halloumi burgers) – though 99 Mary Street are known for their occasional pop-up bar too, serving up a lager called God.

Shop

The CIQ will sort you out for cards and gifts. All Good Stuff in Butcher Works on Arundel Street stock lots of local artists and makers. Site Gallery's shop is the best place in the city centre to pick up independent magazines and arty books (as well as our own Sheffield guidebook), while the Showroom offers gift vouchers and its own film-related merch. And if you want to take some art home, head back on that gallery crawl.

Photo: 99 Mary Street, by Nynke Wierda.

Written by Nat Loftus; June 12, 2015

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