Welcome to S.H.E.D, our mobile arts commissioning venue and public space. Transformed from an old garden shed, it is now a place for conversation and an alternative site for artistic practice. Find out how we use S.H.E.D in our research – and how you can use S.H.E.D to engage your audience.

Mobile and flexible

S.H.E.D is an arts venue, a conversation starter, a dialogue enhancer and a research facilitator. Our S.H.E.D (Social Higher Education Depot) project is entirely dedicated to artistic research through public engagement and co-production.

S.H.E.D has multiple configurations – it can be what you want it to be. And it is a space that invites action through socially, politically and culturally charged practice. Its flexibility supports diversity, designs for dialogues and untold stories, from multidisciplinary fields, from and for all people, especially from those that usually do not have voice.

You can now collaborate and co-create with S.H.E.D. We work with cultural venues and public providers to bridge the gap between the arts and higher education.

How you can use S.H.E.D

Since its launch in 2019, S.H.E.D has toured schools and visited arts and cultural festivals. As a public art space, it is accessible and inclusive, providing a platform for emerging and established practitioners and artists.

As a touring project, S.H.E.D can visit hard-to-reach locations or areas where audiences would not travel to participate. The projects that take place within it are tailored to the specific problem or question raised by the community it visits, and the physical reconfigurations can reflect this.

How S.H.E.D has been configured so far:

  • A theatre space
  • A dance venue
  • A learning centre
  • A cinema
  • A quiet reading space
  • A discussion space
  • An art gallery
  • A music venue
  • A CV centre
  • A wine bar
  • A Christmas grotto
  • A recording studio
  • A soup kitchen
  • A writing retreat

To commission S.H.E.D for your arts, community or corporate event, your festival, village green or street corner, contact our Enterprise Centre on +44 (0)1332 597892 to discuss your needs. For more information about the project, contact Creative Director Dr Rhiannon Jones at r.jones3@derby.ac.uk.

S.H.E.D or S.H.E.D Presents

You can book S.H.E.D on its own, configured to your requirements, or you can book S.H.E.D Presents, where we would also curate works to be presented. Both of these options come with staffing plus production and marketing support. Imagination is the only constraint.

S.H.E.D is available for:

  • Community engagement: through civically engaged activity
  • Commissioning: full-cost booked activities that offset the community and participatory work
  • Research: giving voice to place, engaging communities in dialogue, creating and disseminating academic outputs
Dr Rhiannon Jones in SHED
Dr Rhiannon Jones in S.H.E.D

S.H.E.D: origins

Our S.H.E.D project developed from Dr Jones’s work into how we create spaces for dialogue, how we as a society go to places and interact with those places and with one another. Her research investigates how we use artistic practice as a strategy to help people to find ways to talk.

S.H.E.D came into being because it is a recognised household product that invites curiosity and provokes discussion. Its unrivalled success is down to the communities that transform it and engage with it in order to create a platform for conversation. It plays in the space between art and the everyday. It is particularly attractive to younger audiences and otherwise disengaged groups who might prove difficult to engage in research and consultation.

The S.H.E.D launch events were seen by 1,500 visitors over a single day in Derby city centre. It was visited by more than 650 audience members during a three-day arts festival featuring work from 18 international artists and 11 sold-out shows.

And S.H.E.D’s flexible design and potential for engagement is being celebrated at the Business of Design Week in Hong Kong in December 2019.

You can follow S.H.E.D’s work on Twitter @Shed_UK and Dr Jones’s research into dialogue at @InDialogueUK.

What S.H.E.D is for

S.H.E.D is designed to:

  • Promote social mobility and tackle inequality
  • Support co-creation within design and creative arts practice
  • Invest in real issues and subject matters that people want to discuss
  • Develop relationships between HE, industry and creative cultural organisations
  • Enrich and nurture collaborative approaches to artistic research
  • Be co-designed with partners, users, commissions, communities, public
  • Provide a long-term commitment and investment in people
  • Support artistic development, public mobility and cohesion
  • Be a diverse, accessible and a customised space
  • Operate in line with the cultural ambitions for the city of Derby
  • Put the A (Arts) back into STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths and Medicine)
  • Be a transformative space, both in its innovative design and for conversation

Our research

S.H.E.D is also the conceptual home for a cross-disciplinary research group. We work collaboratively with community and non-academic partners to explore civic and cultural issues and challenges. Our current research explores different aspects of place-based support for creativity and cultural activity. This asks questions such as:

  • What are the effects of focusing cultural and artistic investment on a specific place (whether a city, a street or a shed)?
  • Who is involved in this focus on place, and what are they trying to get out of it?

We are interested in how making and disseminating art with, in and for communities can affect their experience and perceptions of where they live, and their aspirations for the future.

Talking S.H.E.Ds

“It is a garden shed but it’s been transformed and, by being transformed, it can be transformative. It’s not just about the actual shed and the physical, practical side but the fact it’s a mobile arts space and it’s about the people and the community. S.H.E.D is a vehicle to bring people together. There’s 101 things that S.H.E.D will be and will do.” Ben Anderson, S.H.E.D Creative Producer

“This is a fascinating project because it’s going to enable local communities, in the strangest of places, to engage with artists in the strangest of ways. We’re going to find out a lot about those communities and those places in ways we’ve not anticipated.” Dr Nick Owen, CEO of The Mighty Creatives

“Inspiration Exchange needs a partner who understands the value and context of the work, and the S.H.E.D team definitely provide that. The S.H.E.D itself is a great context, physically. The Exchange needs a space that is definably its own, so participants feel contained but it also needs to be open, to be observable from a distance to entice a passing audience, to allow people to drop in. The Shed provides this public intimacy or privacy very well.” Dr Alex Kelly, Reader at Leeds Beckett University and Third Angel Co-Artistic Director

“The impact of this will run deeply as the students, staff and school community more widely will be challenged in a different way, raising curiosity and developing their sense of intrigue and wonder. I have no doubt that having the S.H.E.D project in school for a week will provide lasting memories and great, shared experiences for our school community to treasure.” Debbie Gerring, Head Teacher at St Martins School in Derby

“The S.H.E.D provided an adaptable, familiar and informal context within which the young people could perform and have their voices and opinions heard in a public setting. The team created a bespoke version of the S.H.E.D which really supported the performance and the young people, who weren’t experienced performers, to feel confident about performing in an outdoors setting to a large audience.” The Paper Birds Theatre Company and Plus One

“The whole premise of the project is about creating a space for people to talk about things that need to be said. And also to have a space that could navigate different types of spaces whether that’s streets, neighbourhoods, city centres, rural locations, being in a gallery as a physical sculpture or whether it’s outside as a venue that would morph and change its structure to support what needs to be said.” Dr Rhiannon Jones, S.H.E.D Creative Director

Team S.H.E.D

Our S.H.E.D team:

S.H.E.D’s project partners are Derby Theatre, theatre development programme In Good Company, Derby County Community Trust, youth development organisation This Is Derby, Derby’s Cultural Education Partnership’s Cultural Campus, arts organisation Primary, In Dialogue, arts venue Nottingham Contemorary, the Expanded Studio Project and the East Midlands Contemporary Visual Arts Network.

S.H.E.D logo  Derby Theatre logo  In Good Company logo  Derby County Community Trust logo  This Is Derby logo  DCEP Cultural Campus logo  Primary logo  In Dialogue logo  Nottingham Contemporary logo  Expanded Studio Project logo  East Midlands Contemporary Visual Arts Network logo