Old shed becomes art gallery and soup kitchen to bring communities together

8 July 2019

A garden shed, which can be transformed into a variety of different venues, from a soup kitchen and library, to a performance space and a visual arts gallery, has been unveiled to the public.

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.

 Its moveable and transferable side panels means it creates the potential for a variety of configurations and possibilities for its use.

Dr Rhiannon Jones, Creative and Arts Researcher at the University of Derby, and the University’s Digital and Material Arts Research Centre led the project, along with support from Derby Theatre, Expanded Studio Project, In Good Company, In Dialogue, Derby City Council, Derby County Community Trust, Cultural Campus, and Primary.

Students from the University’s Interior Design course designed the shed in line with cultural and socio-civic research, conducted as part of the project, ensuring it had the flexibility and scope to deliver a wide range of activities.

The S.H.E.D was launched at Primary Studios in Nottingham, where it was created, welcoming more than 100 artistic practitioners and partners across the region to celebrate and review its ambitions.

Dr Jones said: “Community is embedded at the heart of all things S.H.E.D. From the very start of the design, it has been all about finding a way to develop a programme of activity that can support and respond to public interest, and co-create activities and proposals for what S.H.E.D. could be to others.

“It is an ambitious project that aims to bridge the spaces between arts commissioning and public services. It’s developing a programme of diverse practice that will tour to a wide range of locations, cities, venues and neighbourhoods.

“S.H.E.D. provides a mobile platform for artists to develop work, test out ideas and create new spaces for practice. It is an invitation to participate, to be curious, and to question what S.H.E.D could be, or do, for you.”

At the launch event, a research panel discussed the impact that mobile projects have on cultural, social and political discourse on place making for cities. Panellists included Professor Alex Nunn from the University of Derby, Dr Vishalakshi Roy, Centre for Cultural & Media Policy Studies at the University of Warwick, and Dr Nick Owen MBE, CEO of The Mighty Creatives.

Ben Anderson, Creative Producer of S.H.E.D, said: “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’s 101 things that S.H.E.D will be and will do, now the challenge is to make them happen.”

Dr Nick Owen added: “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.”

Along with the research panel, the launch included speeches from Dr Antoinette Burchill from the University of Leicester and Elizabeth Hawley-Lingham, Director of the Contemporary Visual Arts Network East Midlands, a build your own LEGO S.H.E.D area, family games and live entertainment from singer-songwriter Chloe Rodgers, new performance writing ‘SHEDSTREET’ by Hayley Doherty and film screening by Marc Bosward.

Professor Keith McLay, Pro Vice-Chancellor Dean of the College of Arts, Humanities and Education at the University of Derby, said: “S.H.E.D provides a venue for the collection of data in the forum of narratives and stories, which will be far more accessible to people in local communities that may have otherwise not have been captured.

“I can see this project is at the cutting-edge of research and creative practice, and that is why it feels so exciting.”

The S.H.E.D will be touring across the UK to various cities, and then internationally from 2020. It will start its tour on Saturday 13 July in Derby Market Square, as part of ‘This is Derby’ celebrations, and then head to the Departure Lounge Festival in Derby on 18 July, as the festival's outdoor venue for 2019.

For more information about S.H.E.D, or where it is touring, visit:

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