University’s touring S.H.E.D shortlisted for Shed of the Year title

23 July 2020

A simple wooden shed which researchers from the University of Derby have taken on tour to schools and festivals across the region as an arts venue, a research facility or just a space to talk, has been shortlisted for the prestigious Cuprinol Shed of the Year title.

S.H.E.D (Social Higher Education Depot) was launched in 2019 with the aim of creating a reconfigurable, pop-up space which would encourage people to be creative and to talk about issues affecting their community.

It has been used as a theatre, a cinema, a soup kitchen and even Santa’s grotto. Around 4,000 people have visited, encountered or interacted with S.H.E.D., including 1,300 schoolchildren and teachers. It has been used by more than 180 independent and community artists.

Its many guises have earned it a place in the competition’s Unexpected category in the Cuprinol Shed of the Year Awards 2020, and now requires the public to vote. Once the votes are in and the category winners are decided, they will be reviewed by a judging panel, who will then select the overall Cuprinol Shed of the Year winner.

Dr Rhiannon Jones, who leads the S.H.E.D project, said: “This is a wonderful and truly unexpected development for the project, particularly at a time when the pandemic has meant we have had to postpone our plans to take the S.H.E.D on tour this year.”

The project developed from research into how spaces can be used for dialogue, and how people interact with those places and with one another.

Rhiannon, who is a post-doctoral researcher for the Digital and Material Artistic Research Centre (DMARC) at the University, added: “The attraction of S.H.E.D has been its simplicity, its familiarity and its versatility. The communities who have used it have transformed it into a space for the activities that help them to engage in conversation, and art has been a great way of achieving that.

“It has also been a place to present opportunities for artistic activity and social engagement in hard-to-reach communities, and for engaging children and young people, and disengaged groups generally, to take part in research and consultations.

“While most of the entries in the competition will be static, S.H.E.D is all about mobility and flexibility. We are able to build it right into the heart of local communities, then take it down and move on to the next place. But wherever S.H.E.D is, the focus is always on making a difference by getting people to talk about the issues that matter to them.”

The shortlisting follows hot on the heels of another key development for the project, which recently became the University’s first Community Interest Company (CIC), making it a not-for-profit organisation with a social, rather than economic, purpose.

Rhiannon explained: “Becoming a CIC allows us to strengthen our partnerships with communities, individuals and organisations.

“It sends out a clear statement that our intention for S.H.E.D. is to have a real positive civic impact by engaging with even more people and delivering an even wider range of activities which help improve community engagement and social mobility. That is also a key strategic aim the project shares with the University of Derby.”

Will Turner, S.H.E.D stakeholder and Business Development Manager at Derby County Community Trust, said: “On behalf of myself as a stakeholder and the partner organisation I work for, we are thrilled to see S.H.E.D nominated for this award. It is something which we feel is truly deserved and just to be recognised is a huge achievement that the team should be immensely proud of.

“The multi-use flexibility of the space makes it special and has added new, exciting dimensions to events that it has been present at this year, including the ‘This is Derby’ event, where it provided an amazing platform space for performances and conversations with Derby’s young people. It has become an important piece in the city’s armoury tackling problems of high deprivation, low social mobility and lack of connection with our disadvantaged young people.”

Professor Keith McLay, Pro Vice-Chancellor Dean of the University’s College of Arts, Humanities and Education, added: “I’m delighted that S.H.E.D has been shortlisted. In such a short space of time, S.H.E.D has established itself in different guises and in different forms locally and nationally as a site for narratives, discussion and dialogue. The University is so proud of the way in which S.H.E.D reaches out to communities and fosters social mobility and builds social bridges by bring one and all together under its aegis.”

Public voting is now underway for the 14th annual competition and will close on Sunday, August 9 2020.

Vote for the University of Derby's entry Watch a video of S.H.E.D

For more information on S.H.E.D, visit the University of Derby website or the S.H.E.D website.

You can also follow S.H.E.D on Twitter @Shed_UK, on Instagram s.h.e.d_uk and on Facebook.

S.H.E.D in location - shown as arts venue
S.H.E.D fully opened out as a performance venue

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