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Make Yourself at Home, Sheffield

Stories of recovery, resilience and renewal can give us a new sense of shared purpose and agency, says Opus and Now Then co-founder James Lock.

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‘Marketing’ a city of over 700,000 people, the fifth biggest in the UK, could never be considered a simple task.

To do this with the dual aims of attracting visitors and bringing investment into the city, while creating a vision which people who live here recognise and are inspired by, makes this task even more challenging. To do all this in the unique circumstances of a global pandemic - at a point of existential transformation in every part of our economy and society - arguably borders on the impossible.

The Make Yourself At Home campaign created and led by Marketing Sheffield could never be all things to all people, but it is open enough and compassionate enough in tone to appeal to most of us and to be incorporated by many groups and organisations into their activities.

Over the next few months it’s vital that we create mechanisms for reflection and solidarity as a city. As a collaborative marketing campaign which has the potential to offer a strand of connectivity between us all, Make Yourself At Home is one avenue through which we can express our collective desire to do so. In the coming months, as we recover and find new resilience, it’s mechanisms of collectivism that will ensure a renewed equity and purpose for Sheffield and the people who call this city home.

I like the language of agency, the language of ‘doing’ and the language of creativity in the phrase ‘make yourself’. It’s so clearly already embedded in this city. I like the language of home, of the city as something we can form and mould through our own actions. The idea of a city that we can inhabit as familiar and comfortable. The idea of a city that - if we get it right - should feel like home for everyone.

The social enterprise I work for and co-founded, Opus - publisher of Now Then - often sits in a ‘middle out’ position. Our work takes place over a breadth of different sectors, projects, levels and systems which try to reach residents as well as decision-makers. What links these activities is a desire to better understand and unpick the root causes of inequity, apathy and poor health, and the possible ‘upstream’ solutions which could make Sheffield a more equitable, sustainable and celebrated place to live.

Over the past few months, in our role supporting communications for the voluntary and community sector, we’ve worked hard to understand what is happening on the ground in communities and to amplify those experiences. Over the last ten years we’ve worked closely with independent traders to shout about the importance of local spending and the greater redistributive effects of local economic actors, compared to the extractive approaches of large chains and multinationals.

The arts and creative sectors are also a place where Opus feels comfortable. Prior to the pandemic Opus was well-known for its regular poetry and storytelling events, its live music shows, and of course its focus on the visual arts through Now Then Magazine in print. All of these sectors have been hit hard by the pandemic, and yet within each there are stories of success, recovery and renewal.

In the coming months we’ll be creating content in collaboration with Make Yourself At Home which unpicks, celebrates and acknowledges not only the difficult times that many organisations in civil society and the independent sector have experienced, but also their innovations, their successes and their exciting plans for the future.

We’ll be looking at three sectors: social enterprise and independent trade; the voluntary and community sector; and freelancers, artists and makers. We’ll be creating three short video pieces per sector which aim to highlight the shared narratives and common experiences of organisations finding paths to recovery, resilience and renewal in Sheffield, as well as articles to flesh out the stories.

We absolutely welcome contributions from you. Tell us about organisations you’ve been impressed by, changes to services, products and ways of doing things which illustrate the innovative and compassionate work of companies and organisations in Sheffield.

The coronavirus pandemic has spotlighted the systemic failures in our way of living and working. It has emphasised that what we value as a society, and why we value it, has to change. Storytelling is a vital tool in refining and sharing the inclusivity, innovation and compassion that as a society we must now embody.

Now is the time to tell better stories to that end, to tell hopeful stories and tales of innovation, equity and solidarity. To demonstrate that we can learn constructively, actively and openly, and to listen before we act.

This is how we make Sheffield a better home for everyone.

Learn more

Make Yourself At Home is a collaborative campaign, which means groups, companies and organisations in Sheffield are encouraged to use its assets and messaging as part of a collective recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

The Reopening High Streets Safely (RHSS) project is receiving up to £500,000 of funding from the England European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020. The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (and in London the intermediate body Greater London Authority) is the Managing Authority for European Regional Development Fund. Established by the European Union, the European Regional Development Fund helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations. For more information visit https://www.gov.uk/european-growth-funding.

Filed under: #Make Yourself at Home

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