The Great Exhibition of the North

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The Government announced in April its desire for a Great Exhibition of the North. A showcase celebrating the great art, culture, creative industry, innovation and design of the north of England. The Government had announced in November 2015 that there would be £5m funding to support the host venue to stage the planned activities.

The Great Exhibition will take place in the summer of 2018 and will run for two months. The bids, submitted on the 30th June 2016, will be scrutinised by a Great Exhibition Board, chaired by Sir Gary Verity CEO of Welcome to Yorkshire, and comprising individuals from the arts, culture and design sectors. The Board will report to Ministers and will announce the winning venue in September 2016.

Sheffield Culture Consortium has bid on behalf of Sheffield City Region to host the Great Exhibition of the North. An abridged version of the bid document (Northern Lights) can be found below.

Sheffield City Region has the track record of delivery, the creative spark, the infrastructure and talent to illuminate the vibrancy of the north of England. Whether it is our galleries, theatres, the research capability at our Universities, or the creative industries, the Great Exhibition will serve to further burnish our world class credentials.

If successful in our bid, it will be important to build partnerships across the region to ensure that the exhibition is open to a wide range of participants and audiences. It will also provide opportunities for organisations across the region to create and run satellite Great Exhibition of the North events alongside the main exhibition.

Northern Lights

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Every planet has a north. Sheffield is the gateway to our North, the starting point for our Great Exhibition and a thrilling voyage into the future. We will celebrate our common ground, show how towns and cities from Sheffield to Newcastle and Liverpool to Hull have shaped the world and how – through independent creativity, radicalism, ingenuity and enterprise – we are shaping the cities and communities of tomorrow.

We will create a virtual city of the future, with these notions – creativity, innovation and enterprise – as the golden threads which we entwine and unpick to explore the relationship between the arts, science, commerce and manufacturing.

We’ll spotlight our world-leading innovations in everything from digital technology and robotics to open source design, advanced manufacturing and medical research – and show how we are mining science, art, design and enterprise to build new business and better lives in the towns and cities of the future.

Our Great Exhibition will reveal, too, our pioneering contributions to everything from energy generation and low carbon technologies to life sciences, with mind-blowing exhibitions, lively debate and catalysts for exciting new collaborations. The greatest artists, musicians, scientists and business talents from across the North will guide our journey, illuminated by Northern Lights, a pan-region neon installation. Song for the North, a new orchestral collaboration with the Hallé Orchestra, will be our soundtrack. We will celebrate the old too, hosting the 50th anniversary of the Northern classic, Kestrel for a Knave. From our opening ceremony to our closing event, we’ll put the GREAT into our exhibition, delivering science and culture that literally take your breath away, enterprise that inspires, amazing crescendos of shared excitement, space for ideas to collide and combine and for people to mingle, marvel and think.

It will be an exhibition like no other – because McGough’s City twinned with Mars’ is like no other city; because our bid is led by a consortium of world class cultural organisations with a track record of delivering uniquely successful events; because we’re the UK’ s 5th most visited business destination – and because Sheffield City Region has embarked on a unique journey of its own. Government has approved our City Region Growth Plan, we’re one of the first city regions to achieve a devolution deal and over the last five years our thriving arts scene, burgeoning music sector and coronation as beer capital of the world have made us one of the most vibrant cities in the UK. We are daring to dream again, with ambitions to reinvent Sheffield City Region as a Magnet City. Our Great Exhibition will create a unique stage for the North, generate £10m economic impact in our area and be a perfectly-timed springboard for this culture-led transformation of our area. Join us on our journey.

Venue

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Our principle venue is Sheffield City Centre, with the City’s outer environs and our city region partners Rotherham, Barnsley, Doncaster, providing satellite venues. The geographical location and physical character of the city of Sheffield, with its largely pedestrianized centre and green spaces, offers a unique setting and charm to attract visitors and audiences across the United Kingdom as they join our Great Exhibition of the North and exciting journey. Building on strong collaboration between Sheffield City Region’s cultural and academic institutions and businesses, we will create a festival of international interest showcasing the very best of the North to the world.

Our Great Exhibition of the North will be like no other because:

I. We have a unique cultural contribution to make. Sheffield City Region is like nowhere else in the North. We think and work differently and our heritage of making and creativity, innovation and enterprise sets us apart from our neighbours. Our contribution to the 21st century beyond our incredible music – is less known but no less – thanks to our world class expertise in everything from robotics and advanced manufacturing (now employing 82,000 people and worth £3.5 billion to the local economy) to technology and design and the city region’ s unparalleled reputation for theatre (the largest theatre complex outside London), craft beer (we were recently crowned Beer Capital of the World), visual arts and landmark festivals like Tramlines (the largest urban music festival in the UK) and Doc/Fest, the third largest documentary festival in the world.

II. We are the natural Gateway to the North and perfectly placed to host a truly representative pan-North exhibition and welcome visitors arriving by road, rail and air from across the region and beyond

III. We can deliver impact and legacy far beyond that of any other bidding town or city. Sheffield City Region is on a journey of culture-led transformation, led and produced by its innovative Cultural Consortium formed in 2012. There is new confidence and energy in the city (and the evidence to prove it) and dynamic new partnerships across the cultural sector, public, private and voluntary sectors are starting to coalesce around a single, exciting vision for our future. The Great Exhibition will be a perfectly timed springboard for our ambitions and support a critical step change for the entire city region.

IV. The compelling visitor experience we can offer. Sheffield City Region’s Great Exhibition of the North will be an invitation to people of all ages from across the region, and further afield, to glimpse into the future, understand what makes the North ‘tick’, experience world class art and culture and enjoy the unique mix of attractions of our Outdoor City, its unrivaled mix of town, parks and stunning Peak District countryside. Above all, we are offering visitors a unique opportunity to share in the excitement of a city region as it re-emerges to assert its rightful place in the world.

The Focus of our Exhibition will be permanent and temporary venues located around the squares and other public spaces that dominate Sheffield city centre. We will use existing venues like Millennium Gallery (the North’s most visited free attraction); Winter Gardens, Site Gallery, S1 Artspace, Bloc, Yorkshire Artspace venues, Bank Street Arts, Sheffield Crucible Theatre, the University of Sheffield, Sheffield’ s historical Cathedral quarter, Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield College, Devonshire Square, Tudor Square and other key central festival spaces. The city centre’s outdoor spaces have the track record and footfall capacity to host, engage and enable a range of curated interlinked events and happenings, from large scale performance to intimate workshops showcasing the best culture, design and technologies of the future. We are exploring use of transport containers or new temporary structures which can complement our permanent venues, provide an exciting ‘pop – up element to our programme and an accommodation legacy for future cultural activity in the city.

Sheffield City Region’s Great Exhibition of the North will explore three core themes:

Sheffield City Region as the Gateway to the North
The North starts in Sheffield. Sheffield is the point of access as one moves from south to north and east to west. Our Gateway to the North theme will showcase Sheffield and its near neighbours as we become the stage for the Great Exhibition of the North. National artists with an association or relationship with the city region have been asked to bring their creative practice to explore the best possible ways of showcasing the North through Sheffield and its environment. These works will sit alongside co-produced content from the city region showcasing our industrial and post-industrial creative industries.

Making North
Here we will showcase the North of England as a crucible of makers, exploring the links between making, creating, innovation and enterprise and showcasing the thriving theatre, music, art and technology produced in the North. We will bring together artists living and producing work in the North, with national and international practitioners coming to the North to make work responding to the unique context and qualities of the geography and its people

Future North
A bold series of exhibitions and interventions that give a rare and thrilling preview of fantastical dreams and creative provocations for future cities. Exhibits will explore robotics, advanced manufacturing, art and culture, creative and digital, technology, design, business, health and lifestyles, revealing a rich seam of ideas running throughout a series of world class venues and temporary structures. Key venues include the iconic Millennium Gallery and Winter Gardens, Tudor Square, the newly expanded Site Gallery and the beautiful and fully accessible Sheffield Cathedral.

Temporary structures will provide shelter and pop-up venues in Tudor Square, the Peace Gardens and Devonshire Green – creating new and unusual spaces for people throughout the city centre.

Across the three themes we will build on our unique, strategic position in the region, our extensive professional networks and partnerships across the North, our curatorial expertise and our new creative expression. An exciting series of activities, exhibits, performances and conversations will underpin each theme, exploring it from different angles. We will gather and curate expressions from towns and cities from across the North of England to give our visitors a multi-faceted, multi-channel experience of the whole. A platform to showcase the fertile linkages between creativity, enterprise, industry and diversity – It will be a two way conversation.

We will take the best of Sheffield City Region to our friends’ towns and cities across the North of England, reflect the journey of our city region, our pre-eminence in everything from robotics to advanced manufacturing, and design and our contribution to debates of the moment on health and sustainable living.

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