The best cities in the world all have a great social scene: a large number of diverse venues and events, and streets that are busy weekdays and weekends. As Sheffield grows and develops in the years ahead, we want to ensure Sheffield’s social scene continues to grow and develop into one of the best in the UK. We therefore invited three “City Shapers” to discuss Sheffield’s potential. What can be done to expand the city’s social scene and make the city an even better place to live, work and visit?
Jillian Creasy, City Centre Councillor and MP candidate, Green Party
Brendan Moffett, Director of Strategic Marketing at Creative Sheffield
Mick Biggs, Specialist in Social Scene Development at ASNED and Creative Director of Social Sheffield
What do you think of Sheffield’s social scene?
JILLIAN: – It’s mixed and vibrant, like the West Street and Division Street areas of the city centre, but what we’re really missing is the five to nine attraction. There are not many cafés that are still open when people come out of work.
BRENDAN: – The city has a nice eclectic social scene from the bohemia of Division Street and Sharrowvale Road to the more urban chic of Ecclesall Road and the eclectic buzz of West Street in full flow. There’s something for everyone.
MICK: – I think Sheffield has some really good cafés, bars and restaurants, with new ones like Lucky Fox and Anchorage. There could just be more of them… and more variety too. It’s good to celebrate what we’ve got, but we also need to be pushing for more investment in side-streets and greater support for small businesses. Before moving to Sheffield, I used to work with Manchester’s Northern Quarter and from the beginning we were saying ‘what else can we do?’ and ‘how can we make it better?’
What can be done to make the city more attractive in the evening?
BRENDAN: – The Council has instigated initiatives in the past such as Wednesday Night Live to drive the midweek economy. The growth of Groupon and LivingSocial along with entrepeneurial activity from Bars and restaurants will help to boost numbers.
JILLIAN: – It’s a question of venues working together and I think some are trying.
MICK: – Our cafes, bars and restaurants spend a lot of money on venue design and marketing. Their food, drink and entertainment are impressive too. A major obstacle to their growth is the street-scene and the look and feel of the city in the evening: many city streets are designed more for cars and buses than for people. There’s also an excessive focus on the area around St. Paul’s, while streets like London Road and Division Street get neglected. For example, there’s not much space for people or outdoor seating. This lack of good design and atmosphere makes it hard for small businesses to attract customers.
How can the city’s transport links be improved to bring in more people?
JILLIAN: – It’s tricky. As a council we have little control over buses as they are controlled by the Integrated Transport Authority, but I think they should try to do things differently to make it easier and cost effective. It would be better if you could buy a ticket to use on the bus and tram for the whole day.
BRENDAN: – The city’s transport links are very good, be it Supertram or regular bus services. Added to this there are increasing numbers of local shops and services. It has transformed many cities throughout the world and done wonders for local communities.
MICK: – To support social activity, you have to think about how people get in and out of the city. “Good cities” like Sheffield have good bus and light rail systems, but “great cities” also invest in pedestrian and cycling infrastructure. If a city is more walking and cycling-friendly, then it makes it easier and cheaper for people to get in and out of town and supports independent shops and services.
What impact will increased city centre living have on the city’s social scene?
JILLIAN: – The council has not been clever enough. There are a lot of one and two bedroom apartments, which mean only certain people live in the city centre. A city centre needs a mixed group of people. There are a lot of people who live around Kelham Island who say they love living there but want to start families. There is nothing in that area for them and so they have to move elsewhere.
MICK: – Increased city centre living is really important. It means more venues, more variety and more people using the city centre…But it’s not just about building more flats – and it can’t be just student accommodation – it’s about creating living spaces for diverse types of people from different backgrounds. This leads to a more diverse range of cafés, restaurants and pubs and more varied film, music and theatre, which in turn attracts more residents and visitors. It’s a virtuous circle and the whole city benefits.
Which cities around the world inspire you with the quality of their evening and nightlife?
BRENDAN: – I’m a big fan of Amsterdam and Berlin – they just have a great vibe but also an unmistakable identity. It’s important that Sheffield offers something distinctive, authentic and independent.
JILLIAN: – It’s a difficult one. Montpellier has an amazing tram that goes everywhere in the city and there are lots of street markets. Sheffield is a good place to live and a high retention rate of people who come to the city.
MICK: – At the moment, Budapest and Berlin are leading the way in Europe! They’re unique cities with hundreds of unique cafes, bars and clubs. Barcelona is inspiring too. Their City Council don’t make excuses, they collaborate with others and make plans to support uniqueness and diversity. They’ve developed hundreds of relaxed side streets and squares which attract people every night of the week. They’ve created an environment which puts their independents first. A decade ago Barcelona wasn’t a major player, but by supporting a diverse social scene, it’s become a magnet for city break travellers and global talent.
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