How a humble garden shed is making a big impact in the community

Quintessentially a very British concept, researchers at Derby, led by Dr Rhiannon Jones, have taken a humble garden shed and transformed it into S.H.E.D (Social Higher Education Depot), a creative, socially, and civically engaged touring arts programme that is crossing boundaries, breaking down barriers and gaining national and international recognition. 

S.H.E.D provides a platform for youth voice and encourages people from all walks of life to speak up and out. It is making a positive civic impact and promotes social mobility by providing alternative pathways to learning and accessible routes into education outside of formal structures.  

S.H.E.D and the National Justice Museum  

A key project saw S.H.E.D commissioned by the National Justice Museum (NJM) to showcase historical and contemporary youth activism around the world, asking who has the right to protest, what is youth voice and what does welcome look like to you? The installation and programme celebrated the power, passion, and ability of young people to have their voices heard, to fight against continued injustice and to enact change locally and globally. 

This innovative approach to widening access and participation was supported by a programme of events focused on youth voice, climate change, the pandemic, protest, and justice, and included talks by Jake Bowen, a former youth offender, who spoke powerfully about his experiences. 

The activity, which engaged 2,500 people, amplified voices and created shared experiences for young people to contribute to the discussions on reform and protest through the provocations of the performances, workshops, and panel debates.  

The programme of work empowered audiences, providing opportunities to gain knowledge and understanding of the law and justice system. Impact has been realised through the work informing future interpretation within the historic museum spaces, helping them to identify contemporary gaps. Understanding the motivations for protest supports the NJM exploration of social justice themes and enhances the museum’s voices and stories.  

Growing influence 

S.H.E.D’s influence continues to grow. It has been shared as an example of best practice with national and global organisations including Cumulus and CHEAD and has featured at the V&A Dundee for the Design Council’s Design for Planet Festival, as part of COP26. In addition, Dr Jones is regularly invited to share S.H.E.D’s approach and success, including as a guest speak for CHEAD and Policy Connect, as part of the All-Party Parliamentary Design and Innovation Group on Arts and Design Research: Applied to the UK’s Grand Challenges.  


In 2020/21, S.H.E.D developed opportunities to take part in upskilling workshops, live panel debates and creative sessions, resulting in the creation of 50 new artworks and more than 700 creatives, 350 young people, eight schools and 15,000 members of the public engaging with S.H.E.D. 

People stand celebrating in the S.H.E.D performance space as coloured ticker tape falls from above

S.H.E.D (Social Higher Education Depot)

S.H.E.D, our mobile arts commissioning venue and public space transformed from an old garden shed, is a place for conversation and an alternative site for artistic practice.

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