More than 130 people attended the celebratory opening of a vibrant new creative hub in Sheffield which will widen arts and cultural participation in the city.
The Utopia Theatre Creative Hub on Rockingham Gate in the city centre officially opened to the public on Thursday 21 September, with an array of African and Caribbean dancing and singing performances, a panel discussion and a showcase of African art. The celebratory event included performances from Kayefi, a recording artist with a unique genre of music blending African melody. Also in attendance were local artists Nicole-Rose and Chim’Di, whose artwork is displayed in the new space.
The Utopia Theatre Creative Hub is the vision of Mojisola Kareem-Elufowoju, CEO and Artistic Director at Utopia Theatre, who identified the need to create a hub for creative professionals as well as an inspiring and welcoming place to introduce more people to theatre and arts.
Kareem-Elufowoju said: “Having the chance to express yourself through theatre, whether that’s acting, singing or dancing, helps to boost confidence and build community connections. Our Utopia Theatre Creative Hub is a safe and inclusive space providing affordable opportunities for people of all ages and backgrounds to learn new things in a supportive environment. Through our workshops and classes, they will have fun and learn new skills. We will help people to find their voice and speak out about issues that concern them and their communities.
“Creative professionals will also be using the space as a lab and platform to rehearse and create brilliant pieces of work - we’re here to help nurture their careers. It will also be home to our Youth Academy, regular adult dance classes and so much more. I'd like to thank everybody for attending our event last night and also say a huge thanks to our funders and supporters for making this possible as it’s a massive step in our journey. We are so excited to open our doors - having arts and cultural opportunities which are accessible to more people is essential to raising aspirations.”
Sonia Gayle, chair of the African Heritage Culture Forum, spoke at the opening event. She added: “Mojisola and the Utopia Theatre team are to be congratulated – in the city of Sheffield we now have a Creative Hub and immersive performance space that enables more people to experience authentic stories of African heritage, culture and history. Theatre can be an effective vehicle for social cohesion and Utopia Theatre’s workshops will help break down barriers. On behalf of the Forum, I wish them every success.”
The event also marked the tenth anniversary of Utopia Theatre, which stages contemporary productions nationally and internationally. Utopia Theatre is a charitable organisation which aims to empower and engage African communities, support emerging artists and inspire the next generation. In the time it has been running, Utopia Theatre has engaged with more than 35,000 people and staged in excess of 20 unique performances.
Vibrant patterns and artwork adorn the floor and walls of the new space, which has been designed by local artist Jack Poole to inspire everyone who visits to collaborate. At the front of the Creative Hub is a gallery for artists to display their work; helping them to reach new audiences in a high footfall area of the city.
Utopia Theatre is a National Portfolio Organisation and receives grant funding from Arts Council England. The charitable organisation is also supported by the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation and Sheffield City Council. Utopia Theatre remains a resident theatre company for Sheffield Theatres and will maintain its base at The Crucible, as this relationship continues to be critical to the development of the organisation and its performances.