Bank Street Arts
32-40 Bank Street, S1 2DS
0114 346 3034
Open Wednesday-Saturday, 11am-4pm.Visit site
With a Georgian face and a big, punk heart, Bank Street Arts is a beautifully independent, cross-disciplinary, contemporary arts centre. It’s a wonderfully supportive organisation that has helped and nurtured innumerable artists and hosted scores of unique exhibitions and events. It has even developed an international reputation as the instigator and host of the Sheffield International Artist’s Book Prize.
"I grew up in the punk era," says John Clark, founder and creative director, "so Bank Street’s got that DIY aesthetic too – we’ve got no one to answer to, so we can take a lot of risks."
John, a writer, set up Bank Street Arts as a complex of artists’ studios in 2008. Now a gently buzzing hive, these studios provide a home for an eclectic mix of not just artists but publishers, music producers, writers, social enterprises and the Sensoria film and music festival. Its communal, public areas include five gallery spaces, a light-filled atrium, a pop-up cafe and an outdoor courtyard.
Bank Street itself, set in the heart of the Cathedral Quarter, is an odd thoroughfare really – a clash of besuited Paradise Square lawyers and places like the Wig and Pen sharing a patch with the big job centre and the Cathedral Archer Project, pointing down to what used to be Castle Market. But inside 32-40 Bank Street you'll find a place of more equal footing; it doesn’t matter where you came from.
There’s a really nice sense of community, of DIY resourcefulness, of creative collaboration at Bank Street Arts: it feels just how you'd want an arts centre to feel. Even at times when the building is closed to the public, transient resident poets, photographers and theatre groups are making use of the spaces during their downtime. Nothing is wasted.
It's a little bit Alice in Wonderland in here too. Built in the 1790s on an orchard plot, this is one of the oldest domestic buildings in Sheffield city centre. With its past lives including a school and an architecture firm, a lot of feet have tripped around the hamster maze of corridors, basement arches and varying sized rooms. "The organisation wouldn’t be what it was if it wasn’t in this building," says John.
Naturally the art created here is integrated too – not just sitting in display cases, but as permanent works to be discovered on your journey through the building’s chambers. A tiny paper creation greets you as you look through a keyhole, a note on the wall points to a piece of art you can no longer see but know is there, a sign playfully suggests that "your timing is off".
Time to go and take a look for yourself.
Written by John Clark and Karen Harvey, Tales from the Orchard tells Bank Street’s history.