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A Magazine for Sheffield

We’ll be right back: Theatre Deli seeks new venue

In the face of losing its Eyre Street space, the well-loved community arts charity is positive and full of ideas for greater and deeper community involvement. Deli's Co-Artistic Directors told us more.

Theatre Deli s Eyre St venue a red brick former shop front with rainbow flags artistic graffiti on the shutter and a big pink Theatre Deli sign above

Theatre Deli's Eyre Street venue, which the arts charity is leaving in January 2022.

For many working in the cultural and creative sectors in Sheffield and beyond, the closure of Theatre Deli’s Eyre Street venue will feel like the end of an era.

First established in Sheffield in 2014 at the old Woolworths unit on the Moor, Deli moved down to its current space on Eyre Street in 2017. The former Mothercare superstore is the biggest and best example of a ‘meanwhile’ venue in the city. During that time it has functioned as a huge blank canvas for events, performances, workshops and so much more. But the venue itself, as suggested by the huge multinational stores that surround it, was always destined to be temporary.

With notice given by a new landlord that the space will ultimately become a supermarket, despite there already being one on the opposite side of the road, the community theatre will close its doors on 10 January 2022. But as I quickly found when chatting to Co-Artistic Directors Nathan Geering and Ryan Harston, this is far from the end for the well-loved organisation.

Only in post since June this year, Nathan and Ryan are both brimming with enthusiasm about what they have achieved in a six-month period which has seen the venue re-open to pandemic-exhausted audiences craving alternative, community-engaged entertainment, and creative people in need of rehearsal and workshop space.

This new energy has been apparent to audiences and partners in the city, Ryan says. “The floodgates have opened, in terms of creativity, for a lot of different communities in Sheffield that: a.) weren’t aware of Theatre Deli existing, and b.) weren’t aware that Theatre Deli was the right venue for them.”

Nathan adds that since the arts charity had essentially given local people “the keys to the building,” they had seen all kinds of new ideas and new inspiration come through the door.

Nathan Geering at Migration Matters Closing Party July 2021 Credit Amani Creatives JPG

Theatre Deli Co-Artistic Director Nathan Geering at the Migration Matters 2021 closing party.

Amani Creatives

In that half-year alone, the venue has been packed out. Nyara Art’s locally produced Windrush documentary Passing the Baton was premiered at the space. September saw a reprise from Sheffield theatre company Blowfish Theatre with Boris The Musical 3: The Johnson Supremacy. October saw the return of the interactive, Halloween-themed Hip Hop Horror Show, which debuted at the old Woolworths venue and sold out again this year.

In the recent past the theatre has welcomed such diverse groups as theatre companies, actors, music producers, dancers, acrobats, rollerskaters and fire eaters into the space. The latter have made the venue a national and even international destination, because so few others allow indoor fire performance. Tom Makinson of Fire In Your Face, who has hosted fire performing workshops there and is himself based in Bulgaria, says Deli “became a hub that students would travel to from all over the UK,” something that is “incredibly rare” in the UK.

It’s just one example of how Deli has supported the development of new communities locally, as well as offering floor space to established ones. The ‘multiplier effect’ of creative people from many different disciplines brushing up against each other also leads to all kinds of new collaborations. No doubt a large building is an asset in this regard, but space is about more than bricks and mortar.

Development for There Is No Planet B with Christopher Glover and Tania Shadhi Credit Al Hussein Abutaleb

Development for There Is No Planet B at Theatre Deli, with Christopher Glover and Tania Shadhi.

Al Hussein Abutaleb

With that sentiment firmly in the front of their minds, while the Deli team are on the hunt for a new central venue, they’re also exploring a potential new model which would see a ‘touring network’ of smaller venues and performance spaces within Sheffield, linking up to bring productions and events to the city’s many communities as well.

Nathan feels that the chance for deeper community reach and co-production offered by this approach is significant. “Theatre Deli, through this process, is going to become far more mobilised than ever before, and you’re going to see the flexibility of that.”

In the face of January’s closure, it’s refreshing how upbeat Nathan and Ryan are about 2022 and beyond.

Ryan summarises: “To open the doors of this place, and it be an alternative space that doesn’t [make you] feel that you need to act a certain way, or be on your best behaviour - that’s allowed that creativity and openness and genuineness of artists to shine though. And that’s been one of the most special things to be a part of.”

Learn more

If you have suggestions for a new home for Theatre Deli in Sheffield, or just want to connect, drop them a line via their website.

by Sam Walby (he/him)
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