Reviews

Copyright of Museums Sheffield

Sheffield’s contribution to protest: a review

Sheffield: often referred to as a ‘friendly’ city, a city surrounded by the serene setting of the Peaks. However, adding depth to its amiable reputation, Sheffield has a fierce history of protest- as you will find out by visiting the ‘Changing Lives’ exhibition at the Weston Park Museum.

As soon as you step into the exhibition you’re immersed in protest. From photographed portraits of figures involved with ‘Save Sheffield’s Trees’ campaign to hand made cross-stitches of the ‘craftivism’ movement to inflatable dinosaurs declaring the fight against fossil fuels. The exhibition documents the role Sheffield has played in protests over the last 200 years, and the city has played a surprisingly large part.

The exhibition opens with a timeline which illustrates all the protests which have occurred in the city from as early as the 18th century, up until last year. Of course, one of the most pivotal- and pertinent- successes of activism was the passing of the Representation of the People Act, in 1918, which was achieved by the women’s suffrage movement. Evidence of the dedication and laborious work which many women invested into this movement can be found throughout the exhibit.

As well as heavily publicised, global protests, movements which are more localised to Sheffield are displayed. For instance, the actions of rebellious ramblers of the early 1900s which secured public access to the city’s surrounding countryside today are highlighted. A large montage of the posters and pictures of the yearlong miners’ strike, anti-Conservative representations and a display about the closure of the steel factories complement each other to reveal the city’s more liberal, left-wing attitude that has dominated throughout its past.

In contrast to the black and white evidence of past protests are the colourful displays of more recent movements, including Black Lives Matter and the inevitable anti-Trump banners. In fact, one of the most entertaining, and certainly most colourful, posters of the exhibition compares the US president to a Wotsit. Need I say more?

The exhibition is free entry and runs until 1 July.

Crucible’s Rent Party is far more than music and shots

Jason Guest in Rent Party. Photography by Sam Taylor.

As the cast sang a gentle rendition of ‘I need a dollar’ and handed out £80 worth of party vouchers, for the audience to award to their favourite performers for their rent, the fierce yet sensitive mood of the night was set.

Director, Darren Pritchard, and writer, Cheryl Martin, flawlessly achieved their goal of bringing a 1920s Harlem rent party to the UK in 2017. With brazen mention of child poverty, food banks, benefits and universal credit, the performance was a true reflection of what it is like for some people, particularly black and gay people, to live and rent in 21st century Britain.

Whilst a sassy sound track of songs like ‘cranes in the sky’ played in the background, each performer confided in the audience to reveal some of the trials they have faced as young, ambitious individuals in an austere society. Kamille Gordon showed us what hard work really entails as she proudly played us a video of her son and spoke about her employment with Asda on top her commitment to performing- to support him. Jason Guest, who has a voice more angelic than Chris Brown, shared his deeply personal and equally chilling account of his experience of being in an abusive relationship.

Lenai Russell in Rent Party. Photography by Sam Taylor.

Even with a slightly serious undertone, the party atmosphere prevailed as the actors handed out shots to the audience and Kamille and Lenai entertained us with a dance off Queen B would be proud of. Stuart Bowden shamelessly sassed his way through the performance, leading a game of pass the parcel and a politically fuelled limbo.

The show wasn’t just a retelling of stories by 5 performers, the show was the 5 performers. Strong, fearless, talented performers whose stories need to be heard.

Grab your tickets while you can. Rent Party shows at the Crucible until 23 December.

Picturing Sheffield at the Weston Park Museum

One exhibition which encapsulates both the rural and urban beauty of Sheffield is ‘Picturing Sheffield’ at the Weston Park Museum. Just one room is enough to capture the famously industrial yet green landscape of Sheffield throughout the last 200 years. The exhibition takes you from Sheffield’s earlier history to the city’s present state through four main themes: portraits of the city, lost Sheffield, city of industry and Sheffield at leisure.

Portraits of the city conveys Sheffield through the eyes of various different artists, in various different styles. Patchwork hills hang alongside darker, more abstract paintings like Mark Wilson’s ‘Sheffield from Meersbrook Park’ which uses warm, purple hues to show the city’s skyline in a modern and elegant way. Nearby, a painting from 1840, by an unknown artist, depicts Kelham Island using bright, jolly colours and gives an insight into what Kelham Island, renowned for being one of Sheffield’s trendiest areas, would have looked like over 100 years ago. Emily Taylor uses a ceramic vase to give a more urban take on Sheffield as she etches a young couple, wearing a hoody and hoop earrings, looking out onto a very built up view of the city.

Lost Sheffield gives precious detail about features of the city which no longer exist. The 19th century artist James Poole captured ‘Donati’s Comet’, a comet seen shooting over Sheffield in 1958, over Little London Dam- a dam which no longer remains. Meanwhile, ‘Hole in the Road’, a painting from Anthony Lowe in 1986, pictures the network of shops and underpasses under the roundabout near Arundel Gate. Demolished in the 1990s to accommodate the Supertram, the Castle Square tram stop marks the area today.

City of industry promotes the rich industrial heritage of the city. Once known as a ‘steel city’, the prominence of Sheffield’s steel industry through its history cannot be ignored. Snapshots of the insides of steel factories and the workers that operated them are shown through an array of paintings. Robert Penistone’s 2008 painting depicts a vivid orange scene of an open hearth furnace. The almost cartoon-like portrait observes the factory floor mid-shift, dotted with factory workers chatting, reading the newspapers and, of course, supervising the furnace.

Sheffield at leisure is the final yet most exciting section of the exhibition. Vibrant cityscapes offer a fun and refreshing portrayal of Sheffield. ‘A Perfect Day’ by Pete McKee shows a middle-aged couple and their dog enjoying a hillside picnic with wine and a vinyl record player, peacefully reflecting on some of the city’s landmarks, like City Hall and the Arts Tower. Jo Peel captures Owlerton Stadium, Sheffield’s greyhound racing track devoid of spectators and grey hounds whilst Joe Scarborough portrays a very different scene of, what looks like, the entire population of Sheffield enjoying a party in the streets. The lively atmosphere, filled with live bands, swishing skirts and busy bar staff is tangible.

Picturing Sheffield is a permanent exhibition at the Weston Park Museum. If grey skies cast a shadow over the, usually, bright views of the city then head down to see a more vibrant display.