Whilst the organisation of the recent Sheffield half marathon didn’t represent a high water mark in the city’s reputation, the accompanying story of the hundreds of individuals and businesses providing impromptu water stations was indicative of something that seems to be built into Sheffield’s DNA – collaboration. Last month’s Local Trade article looked at some […]

Whilst the organisation of the recent Sheffield half marathon didn’t represent a high water mark in the city’s reputation, the accompanying story of the hundreds of individuals and businesses providing impromptu water stations was indicative of something that seems to be built into Sheffield’s DNA – collaboration.

Last month’s Local Trade article looked at some of the issues for independents in the city centre and in the restaurant trade. This month the focus is on how collaboration can help independent traders raise their profile.

A good example of effective collaboration can be seen in the promotion of the antique and vintage shops around Abbeydale Road. People interested in antiques already knew about the area, but many more potential visitors were unaware of the growth in vintage and craft shops in the locality. To promote this collection of businesses the area has been branded as the Sheffield Antiques Quarter, with its own website, map and Twitter account, alongside regular antique and vintage fairs to draw visitors in.

Hendrika Stephens, chair of the Sheffield Antiques Quarter group, has been one of the key figures behind this development. “When we began, this was a new way of promoting the Quarter and funds were limited,” she said. “We kept membership fees low, around £40 for the smallest businesses, but we are now seeing the benefit year on year. Our next aim is to provide signposting to the area and banners and information points in the Quarter itself, and we have just launched a crowdfunding appeal to raise the £18,000 required.”

Elsewhere in the city, Sharrow Vale has always had an interesting collection of shops, which has been supplemented by the arrival of newcomers like Seven Hills Bakery, Porter Brook Deli and the revamped Sharrow Marrow. Within a quarter of a mile you can buy fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, cheese and much more – everything that you would normally include in your weekly supermarket shop. But not everyone has the time to visit several different shops, so Sharrow Vale traders are now exploring the potential of an online delivery service, providing access to a number of local independents at the click of a mouse. This sounds a really smart idea and is potentially replicable elsewhere in the city.

Brewing is another area where collaboration is evident. The city has a large and growing sector of independent breweries who come together each year to run the Sheffield Beer Festival. 2014 will celebrate the 40th anniversary of the festival, providing a showcase for new and established breweries. The success of the festival has been one of the factors in Sheffield being chosen for the last two years to host BeerX, the national showcase for independent breweries, which in turn provides a significant boost for the local economy.

Moving away from food and drink, Sheffield has the largest number of design and craft studios outside of London, with the city’s design community having a history of working together across a range of activities. The latest and most ambitious project is the launch of the first Sheffield Design Week. Patrick Murphy of Made North and a group of collaborators have brought together an eye-catching programme, which will run from 23-28 June, bringing together Sheffield’s finest designers, architects and craftsmen and women. As well as showcasing Sheffield design talent, the event will also be bringing some of the foremost examples of international design to a local audience. A key element of the week will be the promotion of conversations and collaborations across the various design disciplines, exploring new opportunities for Sheffield’s designers.

Creative collaboration is clearly a powerful tool for independents but the lesson from the examples provided here is that collaboration has to be an organic process bringing together individuals and organisations who have identified a common interest. Whilst working together creatively cannot be forced, some environments are more conducive to fostering collaborative activity. In a recent article, musician David Byrne spoke about how the cost and exclusivity of New York was now a major threat to the city’s reputation for creative collaboration. The same issues apply to London, whilst the lower cost of living in Sheffield together with a growing community of independent businesses, artists and designers represents a potent mix and a real platform for the future.

Next month the focus will be on the Moor Market and the successes and problems faced by independent traders at Sheffield’s newest retail development.

david@wordscount.co.uk

Antiques Quarter Crowdfunding Campaign
Sheffield Antiques Quarter
Sheffield Design Week

David Edwards.