Common People and photographer Ian Tilton support Sheffield’s independents
Common People, a new community interest company (CIC) set up to help independents in Sheffield, has launched their first exhibition with works from music photographer Ian Tilton as well as local artists and photographers.
Ian Tilton’s 20 Iconic Images, including that of The Stone Roses, The Cure and Nirvana, is being exhibited in the old Sly building at 36 Division Street with the empty retail space being offered by Henry Boot PLC.
The exhibition, which runs from 6-19 May, is a collaboration between Common People CIC, the International Digital Media Academy and Ian Tilton, who have come together to support local artists and photographers by displaying and selling their work alongside Ian’s own. They also hope to demonstrate what can be achieved by creative and commercially viable tenants from Sheffield’s independent retailers.
Here is a video made by SevenHillsFilms about the ‘Iconic Images’ exhibition and Common People:
Too many empty spaces
Common People aims to use pop up exhibitions such as Iconic Images to highlight the advantages of occupying empty spaces within the city centre. The company has been set up to work towards the regeneration of empty retail space within the city centre by developing opportunities for creative and commercially viable tenants from within Sheffield’s independent community.
Felicity Hoy, director of Common People CIC, said:
“With high rent prices independents are losing faith in high street retail. We aim to experiment with empty shops and rethink what the high street is and open these shops up to an independent market to inspire people to get back in to city centre retail.”
Flick, who is 27 and grew up in Sheffield, highlighted the current situation of the Sevenstone development project, Hammerson’s ‘retail regeneration scheme’ in the centre of Sheffield. The scheme was put on hold in 2008 due to the economic slump and has not been revived since, despite attempts by the council and Hammersons to do so. Flick believes that large sections of empty shops in the city centre deter ‘decent’ retailers from wanting to trade in the city and that independents can fill these gaps.
There are already many independent shops, cafes and artists in Sheffield, however Flick, who also owns The Sheffield Girl Times, said that Common People has set out to help bring some of these independents into the city centre, where there is a larger footfall and to create a more dynamic city centre for Sheffield.
Common People proposes to bring landlords and independents in Sheffield together through the concept of ‘Meanwhile Use’. According to the Meanwhile Space project, this is the temporary use of empty buildings for a socially beneficial purpose until the property can be brought back into commercial use. Flick said their aim is to provide an opportunity for local independent retailers to grow and develop unused spaces in the city centre, by creating a process whereby the landlords of these unused spaces can offer formal leases to these independent retailers.
Common People, who is working with the Sheffield City Council in this process, will ask landlords and independents to agree to an eight month Meanwhile Use Lease, which they hope will evolve into formal leases at the end of a trial period. The agreement will allow landlords to break the lease at any time and to give the tenant a grace period to end a trial period if they wish to do so.
Flick said that this process will save landlords money whilst they wait for a commercial option and hopefully lead to independents becoming viable commercial choices. Landlords save money on maintenance, insurance and utility bills as the occupier covers these. The awareness of the potential of an empty space can also be increased through attractive, eye-catching projects happening within these spaces. Flick said:
“This is quite a big thing in other big cities and I think it is the only way things can be done right now. The Sheffield City Council also wants to bring small businesses into the city centre, which is why they have brought in the 100% rates relief for small businesses until 2014 and hopefully that will continue after next year.”
Campaigning to stop betting shops taking over empty spaces
The Iconic Images Pop Up exhibition is the beginning of a process whereby Common People hopes to encourage landlords such as Henry Boot PLC to choose socially beneficial as well as commercially viable tenants for their empty buildings.
Flick is currently drawing up a report and proposal for the landlord of Henry Boot PLC, arguing against the offer of a tenancy to the large betting company William Hill. Flick said that this is important because, whilst William Hills seems like a commercially viable option, she believes they will have a negative social impact on Division Street in Sheffield due to the type of customers they will attract to the area.
Community Hubs for independents
Common People also aims to create a community café in the city centre which will be a viable community alternative to chains like Costa Coffee and Starbucks as well as a hub where members of Common People can come together and share their expertise and worries.
Flick said they are hoping to get funding to be able to put on good quality talks and events which will reach out to the independent organisations and social community groups in Sheffield, offering them useful advice and enterprise support, as well as a place where they can hold their own events. Flick hopes the café will be a space where the public can access the art, music and creative skills independents have to offer as well as to promote independent caterers within Sheffield.
Common People is currently designing their website on which they will sign up their current 300 members and offer the chance for more members to join. Their aim is that the website will provide a hub on the web where everyone will be able to share common campaigns and interests. There will be a newsletter and a forum and Common People will act as a liaison between their members and landlords within the city centre who have empty spaces that could be leased.
Flick believes that big chains are not good for Sheffield’s city centre as she says they have no connection to the people of Sheffield and do not bring people into the city centre. She believes that chains create a manufactured culture and do not allow space for the culture of the city to grow. Listen to Flick’s comments here:
To find out more about the Iconic Images Pop Up Exhibition or Common People go to: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Common-People/466765956723122