In case there was any doubt, Sheffield is now firmly on the design / creative map. There are well over 2,000 creative and digital firms currently based in the city, with numbers expanding by the day, and June 2014 saw the first Sheffield Design Week, a major success which showcased the city’s design and creative community to an international audience.
The latest development emerging from Sheffield’s creative community is ROCO, an exciting new project to establish a creative hub on Glossop Road just up from The Harley. Seven Grade II listed buildings are being redeveloped to provide a multi use centre with office and studio space, a ‘maker space’ with a range of design and creative tools available to the centre’s members, event and conference facilities, an art and design shop, a café bar (with roof garden), a deli and a bookshop.
ROCO (the name came about from the concept of a row of houses that’s a co-op) is based on the model of ‘collaborative clustering’ bringing together creatives, designers, artists and makers to work alongside and with each other, to share ideas and generate new collaborations and ways of working.
One of the really positive elements of the project is the desire to see ROCO ‘do good’, with an emphasis on the bringing the design and creative community together with social enterprises, charities and businesses across the city in order to develop products and services which have a real social impact.
ROCO is definitely not an exclusive club. On the contrary, the ethos is firmly focused on bringing people together, whether in relation to different disciplines within Sheffield’s creative community, or through reaching out to collaborate with other groups in the city to work on projects with a social benefit. The multi-purpose centre will help to facilitate this; designers and artists based at ROCO or using the maker space can sell their output in the ROCO shop, people buying from the shop may stop off at the café bar where they can in turn mix with those attending the centre’s learning and training events. Whilst some of the work developed through the centre will bring together different groups to collaborate in a more formal sense, many of the more productive ideas are likely to emerge from the casual conversations arising when different groups and individuals meet up through ROCO.
This sense of the unknown but exciting possibilities for the future is a key motivation for Andrea Burns, ROCO’s chief executive. “I can’t say exactly what projects will emerge from the collaborative model, but I am confident that if you combine the energy and innovation of Sheffield’s creative community with the city’s sense of social awareness we can really make an impact. We want ROCO to belong to Sheffield’s creative community, to be a place where they can both work and play, and make new connections, both within the city’s creative sector but also with other communities across the city.”
To facilitate this sense of ownership ROCO is currently offering shares in the project. The majority of the project’s £1.1 million funding has been raised through loans through organisations like The Key Fund, but ROCO is seeking to raise £200,000 through their community share issue. (Portland Works has recently undertaken a successful share issue using a similar model, which raised £215,000). Shares for ROCO cost £200 each, and entitle shareholders to voting rights and a 5% rate of interest as well as discounts and other membership benefits. The early take up of shares has been encouraging and full details are available from the ROCO website.
Further evidence of the interest being generated by ROCO came from the enthusiastic attendance at the two open days that were held as part of Sheffield Design Week. The open days enabled anyone interested in the centre to look in detail at the plans and proposed layout, whilst the Sunday session brought together potential tenants for the studio spaces to plan the equipment and tools required for the maker space.
The re-development of the buildings is now underway with a provisional launch date of Spring / Summer 2015. Definitely a case of watch this (creative) space!
Words: David Edwards.
Images © ROCO.