Skip to main content
A Magazine for Sheffield

Sheffield Participatory Arts Network.

Drums draped in tinsel, limbs spiraling to the flow of entrancing rhythms. A circle of people is then consumed by unbounded zeal. Cherry pie is being cut and served to the pounding fury of Kuduro dance. A djembe workshop peels away to reveal an Angolan dance class, which transforms gradually into a participatory demonstration of Congolese Soukous guitar and keyboard music. Then the atmosphere quietens. The sound of an mbira resonates through the room, before the calm harmonies of a Ghanaian xylophone rest on the ears of the crowd. The arrival of a 15-piece Samba bateria brings this calm to rupture, sending everyone in the room into one final percussive frenzy. The setting: Sheffield Cathedral Community Centre. The event in question: the launch of the Sheffield Participatory Arts Network. SPAN is a new initiative set up to give a platform to the community arts scene in Sheffield. Based around an interactive website, SPAN will be an open network for the city's community music groups, events, workshops and arts projects, and will be running events from the beginning of 2013. The network will also be providing promotional, logistical and human support for aspiring workshop leaders, pre-existing groups and relevant events in Sheffield. The network's website will be at the heart of this, providing users with easy access to information about all that happens in Sheffield, regular updates of future events, and the possibility to share experiences of workshops, groups and venues with others. In this way, SPAN will provide a new way to explore and connect with Sheffield's myriad community arts groups and events online. Although a new venture, SPAN is very much born of a scene that has been growing and innovating for years; a scene that is reflective of Sheffield's 'City of Sanctuary' identity, diverse population and strong community activism. Figures like Tony Bowering, who co-runs both the world music agency Koni Music and refugee arts network Arts on the Run, have sought to provide greater opportunities for refugee and diaspora musicians. Tony has contributed to the city's diverse music scene through his band Rafiki Jazz, in particular their inclusive and ever-changing line-up. The organisation Southern E-Media Education and Arts (SEMEA) also significantly contributes to the community arts scene, setting up inter-cultural projects such as the SOSA-XA! Southern African Choir and the Kutamba! School of Contemporary African Dance. These look to culturally empower diaspora artists, as well as teach Southern African cultural traditions to the people of Sheffield. Recently, Learn For Life Enterprise's Creative Edge project has launched a series of workshops ranging from spoken word and poetry to turntablism and filmmaking. These rest on a belief in social integration through inclusive arts projects. Values of cultural exchange, cultural empowerment and social integration through the arts are at the heart of SPAN. We will be working with the likes of Angelina Abel, who runs Angolan Kuduro dance classes and will be launching a new venture in African fusion dance. She has also had the honour of dancing live on stage with Lee Scratch Perry. We will also help facilitate the work of aspiring teachers, such as members of Sheffield's stellar Congolese eight-piece Soukous Revelation, who will be running lessons in Soukous playing styles, and xylophone and mbira player Clare Turner, who will be bringing Ghanaian xylophone and drumming maestro Ben Lawrence to Sheffield next month. SPAN held its first workshops as part of the Translating Performance research project conducted by members of the University with musicians from around the city. These sessions facilitated a socially and musically inclusive space open to individuals from all walks of life. Members of SPAN have since continued to use music as a vehicle for communication, social interaction and community development on various projects within Sheffield, such as drumming, guitar playing and songwriting at Creative Edge, as well as promoting local music groups and artists, and connecting budding musicians with promoters, organisations and music groups. But 2013 is the big year for SPAN. The organisation's interactive website will be launched as an early Christmas present to Sheffield's music makers, and will continue to develop in the coming months. Monthly workshop days will provide a chance for anyone to try their hand, leg, foot or voice at any number of instruments, while gigs, music and dance lessons, and all manner of other related events are to come in the New Year. These will feature some of the city's finest heard and unheard artists. Whether you are an experienced artist or looking to explore new musical pastures, SPAN will connect you with people and experiences you have yet to encounter. SPAN on Facebook )

Next from Sound


My hometown of Portsmouth can only claim one vaguely famous musical son. Given the son in question is Joe Jackson, and he really came from…

More Sound

Next article in issue 58

Live / stage review My Fair Lady.

19th DECEMBER, THE CRUCIBLE. Daniel Evans stepped up once again this Christmas to direct a rousing, vibrant version of My Fair Lady at the…

More Music

More Music