Storying Sheffield

Culture: A Luxury or a Necessity?

This blog post is by Steve Pool, a Sheffield based artist. He and fellow artist Kate Genever have recently established ‘The Poly-Technic‘ project in north Sheffield, which explores how knowledge can be found in places and people as well as in books and the Internet. They are also founder members of Sheffield’s ‘Small Change Forum’. Steve and Kate believe that small actions often lead to bigger changes and that all the best projects are grown.


The Festival of the Mind’s spiegeltent, Barker’s Pool, Sheffield

I keep bumping into Brendan in coffee shops, or 1920s tents in Barkers Pool, or exhibitions in the Arts Tower, and he asks me to write a blog for Storying Sheffield, and I say – yes – and then it drops off the edge of my list of things to do. When I go to my ‘Blog Manager’ I see I have thirteen different blogs running, many of them going back to 2005, with most postings saying the same things in different ways. Blogs are not like diaries. They are a public space, a connection to the world of others, rather than a diary that connects us to ourselves.
One of the reasons I’d not written anything is that although I’m involved in a number of projects, and can be very vocal about the city, I think I’ve run out of things to say. Last night I attended a Festival of the Mind discussion event called ‘Culture: a luxury or a necessity’ and it’s spurred me into action. It was a grand affair with the leader of the council and the Lord Mayor who received a giant cheque. I told the person next to me that you could cash giant cheques at the bank, and that, like foxes, cheques could be legal in any size. It was nice to see Paulette Edwards from Radio Sheffield leading the show – her mum is our next-door neighbor, and when Paulette’s on the radio I always think she is sat next to me in the car.
The debate covered various angles. We talked a bit about the changing times, the having to find new ways of working. What about the working class? What about the people who won’t go into a museum because they are scared? What about art for arts sake? What about the people who don’t want to see Macbeth? The new times drew out the old rhetoric.

When I got home I mended the waste on our sink as it was all clogged with hair and grease. The water was going down really slowly. I had to dismantle the pipes and clean everything out. This is always difficult because however hard you try to remember that you have disconnected the waste you still end up rinsing the u-bend in the sink and flooding the kitchen cupboard. It seemed to me that the cultural sector is all clogged up with the grease and hair of the last ten years and we are making do because we can’t face the prospect of what’s clogging the pipes. We all need a kitchen sink – like somebody said last night about culture, it is an inevitable fact of life. But as I stood watching the dirty water spiral down the freshly cleaned u-bend I realised that there inevitably comes a time when the pipes need a good clean.

Steve Pool
The Poly-technic
Kate and Steve’s blog