S.H.E.D Information Pack

About S.H.E.D

The Social Higher Education Depot (S.H.E.D) is a mobile arts commissioning venue and public space, which aims to support the co-creation of creative arts practice and invest in real issues that people, including children, want to discuss.

This humble ‘garden shed’ can be transformed into a variety of bespoke environments, from a soup kitchen and library, to a performance space and a visual arts gallery. Designed in line with cultural and socio-civic research, its flexibility enables it to deliver strategically designed activities, while also providing an accessible and inclusive space that supports the needs and priorities of communities.

Created by University of Derby BA Interior Design staff and students, under the guidance of Creative and Arts Researcher Dr Rhiannon Jones, and with the support of local cultural partners, S.H.E.D is an ambitious project that aims to bridge the spaces between arts commissioning and public services, developing a culture of curiosity through art, design and education.

At the heart of the project is the desire to create positive civic impact, working towards greater social mobility by providing opportunities to access inspirational and educational content outside of formal organisational structures. The wide-reaching benefits of S.H.E.D are already being realised throughout the city, and further afield.

Since its launch it has toured five schools and visited arts and cultural festivals across the UK, providing a platform for emerging and established practitioners and artists.

It has been a performance space at ThisIsDerby, a vibrant event held in Derby City Centre in July 2019 to celebrate the talents and achievements of young people, which attracted 1500 visitors.

It has supported the artistic community by becoming an outdoor venue for national touring theatre makers bringing their work to the regional festival Departure Lounge. S.H.E.D has been used to showcase 18 international filmmakers curated with TransnationalDialogues, and delivered four research events. The S.H.E.D team have also given talks at CHEAD and InDialogue, engaging with the international research community.

S.H.E.D went on the road as part of a major school tour for ThisisDerby:Reimagine – engaging with more than 1,351 children in Derby to increase their access to essential life skills. Activities that took place in the S.H.E.D included arts, theatre and music activities, movement sessions exploring fairy tales and carnival arts making sessions.

Since launch S.H.E.D has been seen by over 2,500 people and has directly engaged with 260 young people and 187 artists.

Post Covid-19, S.H.E.D will have an even greater role to play in supporting communities, towns and cities with the provision of a unique space to support the arts ecology where venues have sadly had to close their doors. It will provide artists and communities with the opportunity to come together, to create and to be in conversation with one another.

S.H.E.D continues to develop its rubric configurations to support social distancing measures, acting as a radio broadcasting centre of ‘lockdown stories’ and working on ways to construct S.H.E.D for small S.H.E.D ‘bubble’ engagements with cultural activity.

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 stakeholders

S.H.E.D stakeholders Sam, Will, Victoria, Ben, Sandra, Ruchita, David, Fab, Keith, Jennifer and Trevor

Ben Anderson

Ben is an art professional, with extensive experience in artist development, large-scale project delivery and budget management, festival management, tour booking, fundraising/development, programming. Ben is an independent producer and is currently Creative Producer of In Good Company, the flagship professional, creative and business development programme for theatre makers in the Midlands.

Why does Ben like S.H.E.D?

"It’s been amazing to see S.H.E.D at every stage from initial design to the launch event, to the various locations it’s toured to and art it’s been home to since. My S.H.E.D memory is moving it from the Market Place in Derby to Derby Theatre ready for Departure Lounge at midnight and realising just how this crazy idea became something real."

Dr Victoria Barker

Victoria has over ten years' experience in education, policy research and analysis, fundraising, and business development. Her academic research focuses on the cultural and creative industries, exploring the concept of the creative ecosystem and how this can influence policy and support to creative micro-enterprises.

She is currently a Research Assistant at Coventry University on City of Culture and related creative economy projects, and also work as a consultant in the arts and culture sector, producing impact evaluations, marketing plans and audience engagement strategies. Victoria is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, and Trustee of Hubbub Theatre, an integrated ensemble of learning-disabled and non-disabled performers who create original and innovative theatre.

Why does Victoria like S.H.E.D?

Victoria has been involved with S.H.E.D from almost the beginning, as an evaluation adviser and more hands-on in the building and transporting of the physical S.H.E.D. As it goes forward, she hopes to bring in her impact and project management experience to support the team.

Sandra Booth

Sandra is Director of Policy and External Relations at CHEAD the Council for Higher Education in Art and Design. CHEAD is the representative body for art, design and creative media in higher education, providing advocacy for 65 institutions and a voice for the sector. Previously a Pro Vice Chancellor, Sandra has over 20 years' experience in higher education strategy development, stakeholder engagement and knowledge exchange. Her interests include theatre, dance, festivals, supporting community activism, creative entrepreneurship and, as an advisor to the Growing Club movement, developing women's enterprise through mentoring and coaching.

Why does Sandra like S.H.E.D?

"The S.H.E.D project to me is a compelling collective endeavor, demonstrating innovation and passion in inclusive community arts participation, underpinned by an academically robust and ever evolving significant methodology."

Sam Girdham

Sam Girdham currently studies Applied Theatre and Education with the University of Derby at masters level. She is also known professionally as Sam Beckett Jr and as a practitioner in theatre, is the lead artist of Purple Theatre. With Purple Theatre, Sam wrote two plays which toured in 2018 and 2019. She performed one and directed the other while also producing both shows.

Two years ago, Sam took up post at the Century Theatre in North West Leicestershire as their venue manager and has been growing the artistic programme of the theatre. Her hope after the masters is complete later this year is to establish a permanent outreach programme at the theatre which embodies the Applied Theatre ethos. She also hopes to begin a PhD in 2021. Sam’s other loves are poetry, which she has performed in various venues, dance (which she is terrible at) and sunbathing on the beach.

Why does Sam like S.H.E.D?

SHED is conversating, illuminating, straight up facilitating
Talking, resolving, problem solving
In person or not, get involving
In the box, out the box, creative thinking
Open, closed or upside down, we are linking
People, places, all kinda different faces
Shedding: one day running the human races

Trevor Jones

Trevor has worked in the creative industries for 40-plus years. Starting as a management trainee at Selfridges, he became an IP (intellectual property) licensing specialist. He has led domestic and international music, sport, celebrity, film, TV, publishing and branded projects for UK based publishing companies, working with hundreds of IP owners, including the likes of Warner Brothers, Walt Disney, Manchester United FC, Universal, Aardman Studios, BBC and ITV etc.

His experience covers an awareness of consumer trends, IP selection, product development, sourcing, marketing, talent liaison and contract negotiation. Published ranges have received many awards and, in 2009, Trevor was the recipient of an Honorary Lifetime Achievement Award from the UK licensing industry.

He was Fellow of the RSA (Royal Society for Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) 1990-2009 and director of TRAP (Trademark and Rightsholders Against Piracy), a music merchandise anti-piracy organisation, 2016-2019. He is Chair of The Light Fund, the UK licensing industry’s registered fundraising charity that has raised over £1.6m since 2004, funding hundreds of charity projects. He is also Chair of the Character Exchange, an informal group of UK-based companies who manufacture licensed character products such as apparel, gift, food, books and magazines.

Why does Trevor like S.H.E.D?

"The first time I saw the 'S.H.E.D effect' was at last year’s ThisIsDerby event when a youth group started out very timidly, in the safe performance space, but soon became confident performers in front of the audience. #Shedding."

Alix Manning-Jones

Alix is Derby’s Cultural Education Producer for Derby’s Cultural Education Partnership (DCEP), a collection of nine non-profit cultural organisations across the city which has investment from The Mighty Creatives and Arts Council England (ACE). Alix’s roles sees her working alongside Derby’s CEP, supporting and developing the vision for the CEP to provide high-quality and innovative opportunities for young people and schools to engage with. A specialised theatre practitioner and director, Alix has worked with the Royal Shakespeare Company, Nottingham Playhouse, Leeds Playhouse and Derby Theatre working on large-scale education projects and delivering continuing professional development for teachers.

Alix has recently worked on developing the Derby Consortium on the DfE (Department for Education) £1m-funded ThisIsDerby initiative led by Derby County Community Trust to develop the Essential Life Skills of young people across the city as part of the government's opportunity area programme. Alix is also the producer for Plus One, which is designed specifically for care-experienced young people, and is the co-author of the Plus One research study with the University of Derby. She now project manages the Reimagine programme, which is a three-year £1.1m project funded by ACE through the Young People’s Performance Fund as part of a national CEP development investment providing professional performance-making opportunities through a co-creation model.

Professor David McGravie

David is Head of the School of Arts and Deputy Dean of the College of Arts, Humanities and Education at the University of Derby. As Head of the School of Arts, David is responsible for the delivery of this broad curriculum area, from fine art to fashion, graphic design to film production, animation to music and theatre to dance. With a background in product design and related fields, David was an early adopter of 3D modelling and rapid prototyping and is a keen advocate of technology within the design process.

David has spent a large part of his higher education experiences working collaboratively with UK, EU and partners overseas. A key supporter of transnational education in its broadest sense, he has worked extensively in China and Malaysia, among other countries, and is well versed in leading and supporting curriculum developments in the UK, EU and overseas markets.

Why does David like S.H.E.D?

"I am strong advocate for S.H.E.D - full stop. Or rather, three full stops! S.H.E.D (or to give its grander nomenclature ‘Social Higher Education Depot’) is simple in its aim but far more significant that its simple structure suggests. Look beyond the shiplap and supporting cross-members and you will see a significance that belies its simple timber frame. By looking deeper, you will start to understand its role and function as a flexible venue that offers a place to discuss and engage in meaningful dialogue. Its flexibility and configuration appeals to me as a designer and its ambition is admirable."

Professor Keith McLay

Keith is the Pro Vice-Chancellor/Dean for the College of Arts, Humanities and Education at the University of Derby. Keith joined the University in January 2018 from Canterbury Christ Church University where he was Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities. Prior to that appointment, he served successively as Lecturer, Senior Lecturer and Head of the Department of History and Archaeology at the University of Chester. An early modern military and naval historian of Britain and Europe who has published on war and warfare from the 17th to the 20th centuries, Keith holds an MA and PhD from the University of Glasgow, an MSc from the London School of Economics and Political Science and an Executive MBA from the University of Edinburgh.

Why does Keith like S.H.E.D?

Keith is passionate about S.H.E.D because, as a historian, he believes narratives, their telling and retelling, are central to our understanding of place and self and S.H.E.D provides a flexible, engaging and collegiate space to foster conversations, stories, tales and narratives amongst the widest range of participants.

Ruchita Shaikh

Ruchita is the Executive Director at Artcore, a visual arts charity in Derby. Ruchita is also a visual artist with a postgraduate qualification in Industrial Design (ceramics) from the National institute of Design India. Ruchita joined Artcore in 2000 in India and is now the Executive Director of Artcore in Derby. Ruchita represents on the Culture and Leisure Board of Derby City Council. She feels strongly that art is an effective, empathetic tool to bring people together. She was the winner of the Derby and Derbyshire Most Inspirational Woman in Arts awards in 2017.

Jennifer Spencer

Jennifer is a freelance management consultant with a particular interest and expertise in arts-driven cultural tourism. Her background is wide and varied having, over the course of her career, worked in the pharmaceutical, education and tourism sectors. Based in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire, she has worked at a senior level across both counties for the last decade. Jennifer is a Deputy Chair of both the National Justice Museum and New Art Exchange as well as being a trustee and board member at Buxton Crescent Trust. She is also on the fundraising board of Maggie’s at then City Hospital Nottingham.

Why does Jennifer like S.H.E.D?

S.H.E.D ... has a very comprehensive plan and I’m excited to learn more going forward.

Will Turner

Will is Business Development Manager at Derby County Community Trust (DCCT). Will leads the development and implementation of the organisations strategy, strategic partnerships, generation of income and evaluation of outcomes. Working with commercial, commissioning and community partners, Will’s role involves embedding DCCT into the fabric of Derby and Derbyshire.

Will was Director at Sporting Futures, best known for the Derby 10k, for three years prior to moving to DCCT. Will led Sporting Futures through its most significant period of change in its 20-year history, transforming and modernising the business model, driving innovative working practice and adapting the organisation to meet new challenges. DCCT vested Sporting Futures into its operation in 2017 and, since then, the work now under the community trust continues to thrive. Will is passionate about helping people and using the power of sport, arts and music to transform lives and to better connect people and their community.

Why does Will like S.H.E.D?

"The S.H.E.D project is a fantastic concept and something that really excites me. I am fascinated by people and the way they connect and interact with each other. I have seen the S.H.E.D in action at the ThisIsDerby event in July 2019 and saw how powerful it was as a tool to get people talking, engaging and expressing themselves."

Fabienne Williams

Fabienne is Digital and Content Lead at Ravensbourne University, managing a team to oversee all content for the university. She worked at Nickelodeon as Shared Assets Manager and was TV producer for HSBC, delivering strategic programmes through the TV channel in support of the business strategy, providing expertise to ensure consistently high-quality TV across stakeholder groups. She is also a DJ performing in the UK and internationally for Argentine tango and is also a trained Argentine tango dancer.

S.H.E.D is committed to creating as diverse a membership as possible. It is actively seeking interest to join to help us to be an intergenerational, creative and inclusive steering group of creatives. If you are interested, please contact Sarah at shedifesto@gmail.com.

the separate panels that make up S.H.E.D - floors, walls, roof and doors - plus signage
The separate panels that make up S.H.E.D

Team S.H.E.D

Sarah Webb

Sarah is S.H.E.D’s Operations and Finance Director. When she's not busy helping make the many ambitions of S.H.E.D a reality, she’s working as Unlimited Theatre’s General Manager. Prior to this, Sarah has completed an internship with Third Angel, opened up a new event space at Harland Works and climbed the operational ranks at Sheffield’s independent cinema, Showroom Workstation.

There are already too many to choose from, but Sarah’s fondest memory working on S.H.E.D so far is sitting with the team for the first time (most of us complete strangers) in Primary Studios. Rhiannon began to reel off what felt like a never ending list of partners interested in working with us. It was both exhilarating and terrifying. We laughed a lot that day and it was the start of something very special. S.H.E.D has continued to bring strangers together.

Simon Burrows

Simon has 25 years of cabinet-making experience within his own business. Simon has fitted some of the most luxurious spaces in Nottingham and London with the most beautiful bespoke designs. Simon, however, always wanted to pursue his affection for photography. He decided to go back to study and applied for a place at Nottingham Trent University to do a masters degree in photography. He has successfully exhibited at three separate venues within Derby Format Festival 2019 and also as part of the Bauhaus centenary in the Wallner Gallery at Lakeside Arts in Nottingham 2019. It was during the curation of the first years' degree show that Simon’s practical skills were spotted and subsequently was asked to join the S.H.E.D. project. He has earned the title of “Master Builder” through the design and build of S.H.E.D and continues to be an active team member.

Mark Hawkhead

Mark is a performance artist and technician currently based in Manchester. As a graduate of Manchester Metropolitan University's Contemporary Theatre and Performance degree, he has since become a part of the touring show Concerto with Michael Pinchbeck, technician and dramaturg for Ryan O Shea’s solo show, I_Ran, and was also a front-of-house volunteer at the Flare Festival in 2014 and 2015, performing with El Conde De Torrefiel as part of the 2014 event.

Being a part of S.H.E.D has allowed Mark to hone in a plethora of skills such as stagecraft, video production, networking and problem solving and gave him the knowledge and skillset to help facilitate the Progress Performance's 2019 Scratch night in Manchester. Particularly, Mark has most enjoyed the bond that the team have formed as a result of the building and transporting of the space, sharing experiences and conversations that they have had as a result of engaging performance and exhibitions in the space.

Byron Manning

Byron is a production manager based in Manchester. With a long history involving artist management, tour management, venue management and promotion, recent years have seen a move into large-scale outdoor arts and event work, both freelance and for the award-winning Walk The Plank in Salford.

2019 highlights included Manchester Day Parade, Festival of the Sky, and ThisIsDerby, which was the first major outing for S.H.E.D and the start of a beautiful friendship. When the recent bank holiday installation at Nottingham’s National Justice Museum needed an extra pair of hands, Byron jumped at the chance.

Ollie Smith

Ollie is a theatre maker based in Nottingham. He is co-director of contemporary performance partnership LaPelle’s Factory (CLOUDCUCKOOLANDERS, Desperado, The Black Cat, Shuck) and makes work as half of Pinchbeck & Smith (Solo, A Seventh Man, At the edge of the world). He is a theatre and performance lecturer at De Montfort University (Leicester) and the University of Lincoln, specialising in devised theatre, post dramatic performance and live art practices.

Ollie first worked with S.H.E.D when co-directing the Pinchbeck & Smith site-based performance A Seventh Man (2019), which was created to be performed to limited capacity audiences inside S.H.E.D itself. He was then invited to join the team as a technical assistant to Master Builder Simon, before being asked if he was interested in programming and producing work for the space alongside Rhiannon and Sarah, an opportunity he enthusiastically embraced.

Creative Director Rhiannon Jones

Rhiannon is Creative Director of S.H.E.D, a mobile pop-up and flat-pack touring arts space that is dedicated to artistic research through public engagement in order to address how we design dialogue. She is a Nottingham-based artist and Post-Doctoral Researcher for the School of Arts, University of Derby.

She is co-chair of Cumulus: International Contemporary Working Art Group and a trustee for New Art Exchange, Nottingham. She is a resident artist at Primary, Nottingham. She co-founded InDialogue, a collaborative research project that interrogates how artists and researchers use dialogue in their practice.

She has built a portfolio of knowledge-exchange activities and projects with demonstrable social, cultural and environmental economic impact. This includes, mentoring, consultancy, delivery of creative learning programs, a body of artistic practice, guest talks, collaborations with public, private and third sector organizations. She has been the General Manager of Third Angel, NPO, Backlit Gallery Marketing Manager and Associate MA lecturer at Nottingham Trent University. Most recently, she has spoken internationally about her research at:

She has a long-standing collaborative practice with Dr Traci Kelly that considers writing as dynamic visual and performative encounter grounded in phenomenological and post-feminist perspectives. Rhiannon has contributed to performance research On Wreckage and Unlikely Journal of Creative Arts, and forthcoming chapters with Palgrave Macmillan for Applied Pedagogies in HE - real world learning and innovation, and with Intellect Playtext Series - The Trilogy: Acts of Dramaturgy. She is currently coediting a series of essays for InDialogue: an anthology of dialogic practice.

She has an MA in Performance and Live Art from Nottingham Trent University and received a PhD from Nottingham Trent University in 2016: The Artistry of Conversation. The whole premise of S.H.E.D is the fundamental belief that everyone has a right to have a safe and supportive space to have their voice heard. The creative and re-configurable structure and delivery of cultural activities creating a space for people to talk about things that need to be said.

“S.H.E.D is committed to support the transformation of engagement within the arts, challenging thinking about the programming of arts and the eradication of social barriers to access of cultural, sporting and social activity. S.H.E.D provides a unique space to navigate different types of conversations for the shedding of preconceptions of people and place. Whether that's located in the street, a local neighborhood, park, city centre, or rural location, it can adapt to its environment and fit the purpose of the activity to be carried out. You may not see it in the same form twice, as it is often changing into one of its 11 possible configurations for the co-creation of cultural activity It can also be located inside or outside, as a set, as a performance space, as a private space for reflection. What is certain is that wherever S.H.E.D is, it is will be functioning as a pop-up venue, bringing people together.” Rhiannon Jones, Creative Director

the 12 configurations of S.H.E.D, from simple shed to outdoor movie theatre

What do people think of S.H.E.D?

Theatre director

Dr Alex Kelly, Artistic Director Third Angel and Reader, Leeds Beckett University

It was great to bring Inspiration Exchange to the S.H.E.D. for several reasons.

One, it was a gig! That sounds flippant, but it is not intended as such. Inspiration Exchange has ’toured’ for quite a few years but is only presented once or twice a year - because it is not a commercial project - venues don’t make money on it. It needs a partner who understands the value and context of the work, and the S.H.E.D team definitely provide that.

Two, 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, allow people to drop in. The S.H.E.D provides this ‘public intimacy’ or privacy very well.

Three, the Festival. Working with the S.H.E.D encouraged us to re-imagine the format of the piece slightly and put in the booking-slots scheme which we had not tried before. This worked really well on the day - encouraging an even spread of audiences - people investing in it in advance, but also allowed people to stay longer/drop in. 

Young people

The Paper Birds and Plus One Project

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. Given that their performance was about home and what home meant to them as young looked-after people/care leavers, the temporal frame of a pop-up S.H.E.D was a meaningful backdrop to what they had to say.

Head teacher

Debbie Gerring, St Martins School

I am absolutely delighted that St Martins is involved with this project. S.H.E.D. will give our students a safe, exciting space to engage with a wide-ranging arts and sports offer. The project will give a voice for students in expressing their opinions, as well as a chance to explore and experiment with different artists and sports coaches. This activity will build their self-confidence as they express freely and creatively their ideas and opinions, learn different skills and demonstrate their abilities.

Students and staff will benefit from this involvement enormously as the 'arts' and sport will be given an enhanced and special status across school for the week. 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.


Dr Nick Owen MBE, CEO The Mighty Creatives

This is a fascinating project because enables local communities, in the strangest of places, to engage with artists in the strangest of ways. We are finding out a lot about those communities and those places in ways we’ve not anticipated. 


Ben Anderson, In Good Company

It is a garden shed but it’s been transformed and, by being transformed, it can be transformative. It’s a cross-disciplinary shed - 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. It’s already starting those discussions. There are 101 things that S.H.E.D will be and will do, now the challenge is to make them happen. 

School teacher

Bethany Dickson, Derwent Primary School

I just wanted to say a huge thank you for letting us be part of this amazing project. Rhiannon, that is completely what the team and the S.H.E.D brought to our school, 'a safe place to have important conversations' and that is all the children need - their voices to be heard and listened too. These projects bring those 'goosebump' moments and I so pleased you got to capture that. I loved seeing the children explore difference creative experiences with confidence. Thank you. 

Industry partner

Caroline Barth, Creative Learning Director, Derby Theatre

This exciting project will build on the legacy of ThisIsDerby and is the most brilliant and enriching way for us to develop the relationships and work we and our partners have already been delivering in these wards. We have already seen fantastic results where young people with fewer opportunities have had the chance to develop their skills and confidence. Reimagine will continue to place Derby firmly on the map as a city where culture, sport and collaboration are making a positive difference to people’s lives. 

National Justice Museum

Simon Brown, Project Curator

We are delighted to be hosting S.H.E.D. at the National Justice Museum. Our mission is to support our visitors to be active citizens, by engaging with justice and the law. The project’s aims of being a social space, for the public to explore real issues together in a playful and creative way, resonate with our own. The activity we are hosting in S.H.E.D. will inform the development of an exhibition on young people and protest, which will open here in June 2021. 

"... we know ourselves to be inside S.H.E.D, which is pretending to be a shed, which is pretending to be a kitchen that is, in its turn, pretending to be another kitchen in another country entirely. The physical context for the performance and the inevitably immersive intimate relationship S.H.E.D constructs produce a hospitable environment within which alienation from place can be explored." Frances Babbage, University of Sheffield 2020










Project partners