S.H.E.D – the Social Higher Education Depot

Welcome to S.H.E.D, our mobile arts commissioning venue and public space. Transformed from an old garden shed, it is now a place for conversation and an alternative site for artistic practice. Find out how we use S.H.E.D in our research - and how you can use S.H.E.D to engage your audience.

Mobile and flexible

S.H.E.D is an arts venue, a conversation starter, a dialogue enhancer and a research facilitator. Our S.H.E.D (Social Higher Education Depot) project is entirely dedicated to artistic research through public engagement and co-production.

S.H.E.D has multiple configurations - it can be what you want it to be. And it is a space that invites action through socially, politically and culturally charged practice. Its flexibility supports diversity, designs for dialogues and untold stories, from multidisciplinary fields, from and for all people, especially from those that usually do not have voice.

You can now collaborate and co-create with S.H.E.D. We work with cultural venues and public providers to bridge the gap between the arts and higher education.

S.H.E.D is delivered by Designing Dialogue CiC (community interest company), the first spin-out company from the University of Derby.

S.H.E.D trailer

View S.H.E.D trailer video transcript

How you can use S.H.E.D

Since its launch in 2019, S.H.E.D has toured schools and visited arts and cultural festivals. S.H.E.D was shortlisted for Shed of the Year competition, and a finalist in the Unexpected Category, 2020. And S.H.E.D is a finalist for the GreenGown Awards for Benefitting Society Category, 2020. 

As a public art space, it is accessible and inclusive, providing a platform for emerging and established practitioners and artists.

As a touring project, S.H.E.D can visit hard-to-reach locations or areas where audiences would not travel to participate. The projects that take place within it are tailored to the specific problem or question raised by the community it visits, and the physical reconfigurations can reflect this.

How S.H.E.D has been configured so far:

To commission S.H.E.D for your arts, community or corporate event, your festival, village green or street corner, contact our Enterprise Centre on +44 (0)1332 597892 to discuss your needs. For more information about the project, read our S.H.E.D Information Pack or contact Creative Director Dr Rhiannon Jones at r.jones3@derby.ac.uk

S.H.E.D or S.H.E.D Presents

You can book S.H.E.D on its own, configured to your requirements, or you can book S.H.E.D Presents, where we would also curate works to be presented. Both of these options come with staffing plus production and marketing support. Imagination is the only constraint.

S.H.E.D is available for:

Dr Rhiannon Jones in SHED
Dr Rhiannon Jones in S.H.E.D

S.H.E.D: origins

Our S.H.E.D project developed from Dr Jones's work into how we create spaces for dialogue, how we as a society go to places and interact with those places and with one another. Her research investigates how we use artistic practice as a strategy to help people to find ways to talk.

S.H.E.D came into being because it is a recognised household product that invites curiosity and provokes discussion. Its unrivalled success is down to the communities that transform it and engage with it in order to create a platform for conversation. It plays in the space between art and the everyday. It is particularly attractive to younger audiences and otherwise disengaged groups who might prove difficult to engage in research and consultation.

The S.H.E.D launch events were seen by 1,500 visitors over a single day in Derby city centre. It was visited by more than 650 audience members during a three-day arts festival featuring work from 18 international artists and 11 sold-out shows.

And S.H.E.D's flexible design and potential for engagement is being celebrated at the Business of Design Week in Hong Kong in December 2019.

You can follow S.H.E.D's work on Twitter @Shed_UK and Dr Jones's research into dialogue at @InDialogueUK.

Video: How S.H.E.D developed

Dr Rhiannon Jones discusses how S.H.E.D developed from her research.

Dr Rhiannon Jones discusses how S.H.E.D developed

View how S.H.E.D developed video transcript

What S.H.E.D is for

S.H.E.D is designed to:

Our research

S.H.E.D is also the conceptual home for a cross-disciplinary research group. We work collaboratively with community and non-academic partners to explore civic and cultural issues and challenges. Our current research explores different aspects of place-based support for creativity and cultural activity. This asks questions such as:

We are interested in how making and disseminating art with, in and for communities can affect their experience and perceptions of where they live, and their aspirations for the future.

A packed audience at a SHED performance
A packed audience at a S.H.E.D event

Talking S.H.E.Ds

“It is a garden shed but it’s been transformed and, by being transformed, it can be transformative. It’s not just about the actual shed and the physical, practical side but the fact it’s a mobile arts space and it’s about the people and the community. S.H.E.D is a vehicle to bring people together. There’s 101 things that S.H.E.D will be and will do.” Ben Anderson, S.H.E.D Creative Producer

“This is a fascinating project because it’s going to enable local communities, in the strangest of places, to engage with artists in the strangest of ways. We’re going to find out a lot about those communities and those places in ways we’ve not anticipated.” Dr Nick Owen, CEO of The Mighty Creatives

"Inspiration Exchange needs a partner who understands the value and context of the work, and the S.H.E.D team definitely provide that. The S.H.E.D itself is a great context, physically. The Exchange needs a space that is definably its own, so participants feel contained but it also needs to be open, to be observable from a distance to entice a passing audience, to allow people to drop in. The Shed provides this public intimacy or privacy very well." Dr Alex Kelly, Reader at Leeds Beckett University and Third Angel Co-Artistic Director

"The impact of this will run deeply as the students, staff and school community more widely will be challenged in a different way, raising curiosity and developing their sense of intrigue and wonder. I have no doubt that having the S.H.E.D project in school for a week will provide lasting memories and great, shared experiences for our school community to treasure." Debbie Gerring, Head Teacher at St Martins School in Derby

"The S.H.E.D provided an adaptable, familiar and informal context within which the young people could perform and have their voices and opinions heard in a public setting. The team created a bespoke version of the S.H.E.D which really supported the performance and the young people, who weren't experienced performers, to feel confident about performing in an outdoors setting to a large audience." The Paper Birds Theatre Company and Plus One

"The whole premise of the project is about creating a space for people to talk about things that need to be said. And also to have a space that could navigate different types of spaces whether that's streets, neighbourhoods, city centres, rural locations, being in a gallery as a physical sculpture or whether it's outside as a venue that would morph and change its structure to support what needs to be said." Dr Rhiannon Jones, S.H.E.D Creative Director

Angela Bartram dogs and owners

Our Arts research

The Digital and Material Artistic Research Centre (DMARC) is the home to artistic research from the disciplines of Performing Arts, Music, Media, Art and Design within the School of Arts.

Find out more about DMARCFind out more about DMARC