The Castlegate Revolution
In Castlegate’s renovation, the council hopes to solve both problems. “We might be running out of old industrial buildings, but what we have a lot of are old retail buildings in pretty good nick.” For musicians, the answer may lie down in Exchange Street. “We thought, ‘Why not use the old shops?’” Already, the likes of Delicious Clam, Rite Trax and Bal Fashions are injecting new life into the scene, at minimal risk to their finances. “It’s an idea we pinched from the Australians: ‘reducing the price of failure’. People can try something out, they don’t have to sign up to a 10 year-lease, spend loads of money … If it doesn’t work, someone else can take it over.” These early trendsetters are just the beginning for the area. “For the next couple of years we’re going to concentrate renewal efforts on Exchange Street and the shops around here. The aim is to get all the units renovated.”
Castle House, arguably Castlegate’s centrepiece building, is also undergoing huge changes. The old Co-Operative will host multiple different projects, work and exhibition spaces, including a Barclays Eagle Lab – an incubator for new businesses – and a food hall curated by local favourites Tamper and Depot Bakery.
Perhaps most exciting of all is the arrival of the British Gaming Institution and National Videogame Arcade, with the former due to open in late October. These announcements demonstrate a wider commitment by Sheffield policymakers to promote the fast-growing games industry. “We are putting that technology to the service of interpreting heritage, and hopefully will demonstrate the local talent we have.”
The final piece of the Castlegate project, fittingly, is the castle itself. Currently, plans show a combination of new development, parkland and historical exhibit (depending on the quality and quantity of archaeological findings). “Just clearing the site and having an unobstructed green space would be underselling it”, says Ogden. “If this is going to be a viable part of the city there needs to be ongoing activities, people working and living round here that overlook the site at night, it feels safe, it feels lively, and there are things to do when you get to this part of town.”
The centrepiece of the pocket park could well be the River Sheaf, currently hidden by a culvert. This would round off a project that Ogden says could take two to five years. Although the change will be transformative, the council want any renovations to keep the heart of the area intact. “The most prominent aspect of Castlegate is the level of vacancy. It’s about adding to what’s there rather than pushing people out. We want to hold onto the historic character of the area.”
So far, plans seem to have unfolded smoothly. In just half a decade the city’s ancestral centre could be revitalised with new exciting points of interest, connected by streamlined road access and cycle routes that run right through the heart of the city. “It’s going to be transformational, especially for people visiting. There’s a lot of interest from local people in finding more about their history… we want to tell that story.”
The Vulcan Story
The ominous figure high on the wall of Castle House is Vulcan, god of fire and the forge in the Roman pantheon (not to be confused with Hephaestus, the closest Greek equivalent). Sheffield’s relationship with its adopted deity also sees him standing above the town hall, and adorned on the city’s official coat of arms. Apparently, artist Boris Tietze created the figurative sculpture in line with Vulcan’s appearance on the latter, a space he shares with Thor, Norse god of thunder. The two gods were apparently chosen as a (badass) celebration of the Steel City’s heritage.
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