Family fun all year round in Sheffield

PUBLISHED: 10:07 27 November 2013 | UPDATED: 10:07 27 November 2013

Feel the cold kiss of the Snow Queen at Kelham Islands Christmas Market (photograph: SIMT)

Feel the cold kiss of the Snow Queen at Kelham Islands Christmas Market (photograph: SIMT)

Archant

The South Yorkshire capital is buzzing at Christmas (and the other 364 days of the year)

Sheffield looks set to enjoy a Dickens of a Christmas this year (photograph: SIMT)Sheffield looks set to enjoy a Dickens of a Christmas this year (photograph: SIMT)

It takes steely determination to remain at the top of your game when your major industry is largely swallowed up by overseas competition. But Sheffield and its people have shown their metal by successfully rebranding the once renowned city of steel as a thriving cultural hub.

It might have narrowly missed out to Derry-Londonderry in its bid to become UK City of Culture for 2013, but this supposed setback seems only to have fuelled the fire of its already burning ambition.

There is so much to do in Sheffield, so many theatres, music venues, festivals, museums and galleries, that it’s difficult to know where to start.

Should you join the crowds at Tramlines Music Festival, enjoy the melodic harmonies of Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus, take in a show at the award-winning Crucible Theatre, see the latest exhibition at Graves Art Gallery or discover more about the city’s heritage at Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet?

The city’s breadth of choice when it comes to culture is impressive – and growing all the time. One of Sheffield’s latest draws is The Millowners Arms, a new working pub officially opened by the Duke of Gloucester in the late autumn at Kelham Island Museum, which commemorates and celebrates the city’s industrial past.

The pub, which is a dual-function exhibit built to inform museum visitors and provide a licensed venue for all manner of public and private events, explains the growth of Sheffield’s brewing industry and the important role pubs have played in the development of the city.

Victorian Sheffield is reported to have had more than 1,400 licensed premises at its peak, quenching the thirst of the city’s army of hot, dusty and distinctly parched steelworkers.

‘Pubs were central to the lives of steelworkers,’ said John Hamshere, chief executive of Sheffield Industrial Museums Trust (SIMT). ‘When their shifts finished, workers often retired to the pub to collect their wages – and spend them.

‘The opening of The Millowners Arms takes us a step closer to revealing a more complete picture of the lives of steelworkers in our city.’

What SIMT does for industry, Museums Sheffield does for art, craft and design. The charitable trust, set up in 1998, runs three of the city’s main arts venues: Millennium Gallery, Graves Gallery and Weston Park.

‘Our partnerships with some of the country’s leading museums and galleries, including the National Portrait Gallery, Tate and V&A, have enabled us to bring work from some of the UK’s most important collections to the region,’ explained chief executive Kim Streets.

‘In caring for and showcasing the city’s collections, we work closely with the local community to tell the story of the people of Sheffield and explore the city’s cultural identity.’

Theatre is another important strand in Sheffield’s cultural DNA. From small, community-based organisations like The Lantern Theatre in Nether Edge, run by the dedicated amateur group The Dilys Guite Players who took on the then dilapidated Chalet Theatre in 1957 and made it a welcoming, creative hub, to the Lyceum, Crucible and Studio, which make up the largest theatre complex outside London, all theatrical life is here.

Sheffield Theatres – the over-arching name for the city’s three big-hitters – has established an enviable national reputation for launching careers, breaking new ground and breathing new life into old favourites. So much so that at the recent UK Theatre Awards it received top honours in four hard-fought categories: Best New Play for Mike Bartlett’s Bull; Best Supporting Performance for Sian Phillips as May in This Is My Family; Best Musical Production for This Is My Family; and Best Touring Production for The Full Monty.

‘I was thrilled and overwhelmed by our success at the UK Theatre Awards this year,’ said Sheffield Theatres’ artistic director Daniel Evans. ‘To win in every category we were nominated in is a testament to the hard work of the whole team and represents a triumph in our commitment to staging new work.’

If 2013 was a busy year for Sheffield’s culture club, then 2014 looks set to blow it out of the water. The Lyceum is staging major revivals of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and Fiddler on the Roof (with Starsky & Hutch star Paul Michael Glaser no less); the highly-acclaimed Sheffield Doc/Fest will make another triumphant return; master-baker Paul Hollywood will be performing in his first live show at City Hall; Gary Barlow and Lee Evans are just two of the host of star names appearing at the Motorpoint Arena; comedian Stewart Lee will be wryly putting the world to rights at the Crucible; and a major new exhibition of work by Polish artists is on its way to the Graves Gallery.

And that’s just the tip of Sheffield’s cultural iceberg. Gives you goosebumps, doesn’t it?

Family high five

We’re sure you’ll find fun for all the family at these festive favourites

How do you fancy visiting the best Santa’s grotto in Sheffield? Of course you do! Arctic World at Weston Park picked up its official title last year, and looks set to repeat its success again in 2013 when Santa opens the doors to his North Pole home once again from November 30th to December 24th. For more information, visit museums-sheffield.org.uk.

Kelham Island’s Victorian Christmas Market celebrates its 21st birthday this year with a Ferris wheel, real reindeer, a bustling elves’ workshop and more than 130 stalls offering a warm Dickensian welcome to the 16,000 or so visitors expected on November 30th and December 1st. For details, visit simt.co.uk

Lionel Bart’s classic musical Oliver! will be offering itself up for your consideration at the Crucible Theatre from November 29th to January 25th. If it’s even half as good as last year’s My Fair Lady it’ll be a really special festive treat. To book your seat, visit sheffieldtheatres.co.uk

Those of you for whom Christmas just isn’t Christmas without a man in full make-up showing his bloomers should head to the Lyceum, which is staging Jack & The Beanstalk from December 6th to January 5th. For details, visit sheffieldtheatres.co.uk

Successful boy band JLS will be saying a final goodbye to their fans (sniff!) at the Motorpoint Arena on December 10th, followed by dance sensations Diversity on December 12th. To book your seat, visit motorpointarenasheffield.co.uk.

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