TNB Indie Arcade, Sheffield

The Nichols building in Shalesmoor just got twice as good

TNB Indie Arcade

TNB Indie Arcade

Since opening in 2011 in a vast former wholesale grocers in Shalesmoor, the Nichols building has established itself as a destination vintage arts and crafts emporium.

A few weeks ago, TNB Indie Arcade opened on the ground floor. At the moment it’s all about independent retail but one day it could host gigs, cinema, theatre and club nights.

I spoke to Matt Abbott from TNB Indie Arcade about his plans for the space, the latest on his musical projects and moving to Sheffield.

1970s caravan in TNB Indie Arcade

1970s caravan in TNB Indie Arcade

TNB Indie Arcade has been up and running indoors on the ground floor of the Nichols building since July. Is it a separate thing to the Nichols building and owned or run by different people?

The ground floor did actually exist as TNB Indie Arcade before we took over on 1 July. It was run by the same person that still runs the first floor, although it was more of a secondary overspill than it’s own individual space.

So since we’ve taken over, we’ve really transformed it into a unique business and it’s already starting to gather quite a distinctive and intriguing style. I think the centre pieces so far are the fantastic 1970s pop-out caravan and the old church pulpit that we use as the sales desk!

Also we’re conscious that each unit has a really imposing style, so that it feels as though every corner offers something completely different whilst still fitting in with the style of the whole room. It’s a fantastic project and we’re really pleased with how much we’ve progressed in the first five weeks or so.

Yorkshire Tee at TNB Indie Arcade

Yorkshire Tee at TNB Indie Arcade

Tell us about the sorts of retailers you’ve got in TNB Indie Arcade and what they’re offering.

We have everything from mini retro £1.50 greetings cards to fantastic antique furniture and original artwork. The vast majority of our dealers treat their units as hobbies so whilst it does provide a little extra income, it’s also a labour of love. And I think this is really reflected in the standard and the quality of the products that they bring in.

A&D Creations have a workshop here and make some fantastic glass work and jewellery. Steel City Retro are constantly bringing in a diverse range of records into the vintage caravan. Reverse Gear Interiors has some amazing furniture, and other units such as Love Me, Heartily Homemade, Northern Sewn and Cute as a Button bring superb home made gifts and decorative pieces.

We also have original artwork by Tracy White, MJT Artwork and Simon Abbott, as well as original photography by Gordie Cavill.

Also, we’ve recently added Yorkshire Tee, who are currently the most popular t-shirt designers in the city.

TNB Indie Arcade

TNB Indie Arcade

How have the first few weeks been?

They’ve been truly fantastic. Seeing the space gradually evolve day by day is really satisfying, and working so closely with the dealers gives you an appreciation of the time and effort and also the care that goes into their products.

It’s great socialising with customers and meeting so many talented people. And let’s face it; turning up to work somewhere like TNB Indie Arcade doesn’t really feel like a proper job! We’re very lucky to be involved.

As well as the retail arcade, it sounds like you have plenty of other interesting spaces in the building. What are your plans for making the most of them?

We do have a shared courtyard which is currently used for fairs and events. However we’re running a few small events in the retail arcade, and our long term plans include extending into the cellar. It’s a superb space, reminiscent of The Cavern or a much larger version of Club 60, and there’s fantastic potential down there for film screenings and alternative club nights.

The evening events will be an extension of the cultures that we celebrate in the daytime retail space; vintage and alternative lifestyles, and particularly 1960s Britain. I’m a huge fan of the Mod scene and so I really want a few Northern Soul-driven Quadrophenia nights in here eventually!

The first event that we’re running is on Tuesday 18 September and will include spoken word sets, acoustic sets, ’60s DJs and most importantly, cheap alcohol.

The main Nichols Building has been open about two years now. How is it going – I expect there have been some ups and downs in that time?

I can’t personally speak from experience, but obviously a good proportion of our trade is down to the Nichols building having already been established as a great vintage space. People know about the Nichols; they just don’t necessarily know about the ground floor. But obviously we plan on dramatically changing that!

I thought I recognised the name Matt Abbott. Are you the same punk poet/frontman from Skint & Demoralised?

I am indeed. To be honest we won’t be writing or recording as Skint & Demoralised any more after the release of our third album The Bit Between The Teeth in April, although I still regularly perform punk poetry sets and have several new writing projects in progress.

I’m working on a new album and this time we’ve brought a third writer on board, so it’ll be different to S&D. Apart from that, I can’t really divulge much information at this stage I’m afraid!

Finally, did you think twice about moving down to Sheffield from Wakefield? And have your impressions of the city changed since you moved down here?

No, not in the slightest. Obviously I love Wakefield because it’s my home town, and I still spend a decent amount of time there, but I’ve been utterly infatuated with Sheffield since I started coming here at the age of fifteen and I’ve always wanted to live here.

I live with my best mate, who’s also the other half of S&D, which is obviously great fun. And to be fair I probably know as many people in Sheffield as I do in Wakefield because we were always considered a Sheffield band as much as we were a Wakefield band.

As you know; Sheffield is an absolutely wonderful city and I’m really enjoying my time here so far.

@TNBIndieArcade on Twitter

TNB Indie Arcade on Facebook

TNB Indie Arcade

TNB Indie Arcade


A Typographic Tour of Sheffield

I finally got round to sending off an SAE for a free copy of this. It’s a guide to the points of typographic interest around the city, starting from London Road and finishing on Devonshire Green. The tour takes in both iconic examples that you’ll recognise and some that need a bit more detective work to spot.

A Typographic Tour of Sheffield

A Typographic Tour of Sheffield

The guide is by the people behind the beautiful Our Favourite Places book. And for the price of a couple of stamps, it’s definitely worth getting your hands on: send Eleven an SAE and they’ll pop one in the post.

Oh, and if you’re into Sheffield typography then Sheftype is also worth following.

Forgotten Spaces competition: from ideas to reality?

Can you help make the ideas happen?

Could Guiding Lights by Chris Paterson become a reality?

Could Guiding Lights by Chris Paterson become a reality?

Last month the winner of the Forgotten Spaces competition was announced.

Guiding Lights, designed by Chris Paterson, brings to life Frog Walk, between Stalker Lees Road off Ecclesall Road and Sharrow, with animated avatars and an LED screen.

Although Forgotten Spaces was originally all about ideas, the organisers are wanting to explore the possibility of making some of the entries a reality:

We want to start a city-wide dialogue about how these ideas could be turned into real-life projects. If anyone has any suggestions about to move these projects on and get them to contact Gerry Togher on It would be great to think we can get a kind of forum going where people can come together to discuss some potentially really exciting projects.

So if you have any thoughts about how this could happen, or are simply inspired by the project and are keen to see how the ideas could become a reality, get in touch with Gerry.

Our favourite places Sheffield – second edition

Our favourite places: Sheffield, second edition

Our favourite places Sheffield, second edition

An expanded travel guide for curious folk

Last May the first edition of Our favourite places – Sheffield was released and it quickly became the guide of choice to Sheffield for not only visitors to the city but also the people who live here. It contained a hand-picked selection of fifty of our best-loved places, all lovingly packaged into a beautiful pocket guide with pull-out map.

Buoyed by its success, creators Eleven have set about expanding the guide to now include 75 entries in the new edition. Inside you’ll find recommendations for restaurants, cafes, pubs, shops, arts, parks, gardens and day trips, as well as a mini real ale trail and Sharrow vale road photo spread.

You can probably guess some of the more obvious favourites that appear in there, but it is likely that there will also be some locations you haven’t yet visited, as well as one or two off the beaten track. I gave a copy of the first edition to some relatives who had just moved back to Sheffield and they have loved exploring what the city has to offer.

At just £4 the original edition of Our favourite places was great value, and at the same price this expanded version is even more of a bargain. Get yourself a copy and discover the cherished bits of Sheffield that you’ve been missing out on.

Our favourite places – Sheffield

Our favourite places: Sheffield, second edition

Our favourite places Sheffield, second edition

Our favourite places: Sheffield, second edition

Our favourite places Sheffield, second edition

Sensoria 2011, Sheffield

Sensoria 2011 programme

Sensoria, the UK's festival of music, film and digital

The festival of film and music

Sheffield’s spring festival of film, music and digital returns for 2011, bringing together events, gigs, screenings and exhibitions across a packed ten-day programme.

The opening day on Friday is now of course a public holiday, so if you want to avoid a certain other event taking place that day then why not visit the Devonshire street party and market? And later on, a free festival of live music kicks off at the Washy, with sets from the Violet may and Pete David and the Payroll union over the course of the weekend.

On Saturday, a secret location plays host to a (Re)mixed in Sheffield warehouse party. It features plenty of great artists like Toddla T, Heaven 17, I monster, Lords of flatbush and Asbo a-go-go.

The Bibliotheque discotheque event (Tuesday 3 May) sees a disco of sorts located in the Central library. I recently heard a good documentary which gave an insight into the world of library music. It is amazing just how many of the TV themes that were originally library tracks we’ve sub-consciously absorbed into our national psyche. The library disco should give a glimpse into this world.

You may have seen a big screen in Tudor square for the snooker and Sensoria will also continuing this with its very own Screen on the square. Each day has a specified programme of films, including Sheffield on film from 6pm on Wednesday 4 May.

Excellent Sheffield-based photographer Shaun Bloodworth has his first solo exhibition as part of the festival. Underground, running 28 April-16 May at Bank street arts, documents the electronic music scene since 2005.

If you’re a musician or filmmaker then Sensoria pro (5-6 May) has now been expanded to two days. And at 6pm on Thursday 5 the Electric works hosts the launch of 2 weeks 2 make it, a music video competition.

Speaking of competitions, throughout the festival you can also see an exhibition of entries to the Thornbridge/Sensoria beer mat competition in the Winter garden. The winning mats (below) feature lyrics from Sheffield bands Pulp, ABC, the Human league and Artery, as well as some local photos. You may have already seen in pubs stocking Thornbridge beer.

These are just a few of the events taking place. Visit the Sensoria website for the full listings.

Sensoria beer mats

Look out for the Sensoria beer mats in Sheffield pubs

Hantu collective Japan t-shirt

Your next t-shirt

If you only buy one t-shirt this month, then why not make it this. Designed by Sheffield’s very own Hantu collective in partnership with the Japanese Red Cross Society, all proceeds from the sale of the Heal Japan tee will go to help victims of the earthquake and tsunami.

You can order one online or pick one up from the Hantu workshop in the Forum’s Arcade shop.

Order your Heal Japan tee from Hantu

Hantu collective Japan tshirt

Hantu collective Japan tshirt

Made in Sheffield shop

Another idea for empty retail spaces in town

Many people are rightly proud of what a creative city Sheffield is. It is certainly home to plenty of creative people: 7.2% of the workforce is employed in the creative and digital industries* and an uncited claim on Wikipedia says that outside of London, Sheffield has the largest population of amateur, working and professional visual artists in the UK.

Could we do more help promote our creative excellence? The bigger manufacturers pay to use the Made in Sheffield mark to help sell and authenticate their products, but this is less useful for smaller artists trying to sell their wares.

As the recession has hit, shops have gone bust and retail units in towns up and down the country have been left empty. Sheffield city centre hasn’t escaped this, with the delay of Sevenstone resulting in many of our retail spaces being caught in a black hole between compulsory purchase orders and postponed building work.

We’ve already seen some other ideas for ways to make use of these spaces in Sheffield and some bars and shops are even reopening in the empty units.

At least three other cities have now come up with another use for them which is helping local artists and creative people. In the last few months, ‘Made in…’ or ‘Created in…’ shops have opened in Newcastle and Birmingham. It looks like Nottingham is also home to a similar type of  shop.

The concept is simple, although it has varied from city to city. Broadly, they are pop-up shops occupying empty retail units that showcase and sell locally-made products. They can also incorporate meeting places, small workshop spaces and exhibition areas. A group of volunteers run the shops, sometimes with a committee or main organiser heading things up.

Could this work in Sheffield? We already have a pool of creative artists, plenty of empty units in town and and regular craft fairs run by the Sheffield craft mafia.

Running the shops is hard work, as the Created in Birmingham people discovered, so it isn’t something to take on lightly. And I think some thought would need to be given as to how such a project would work alongside existing rent-paying outlets like the Famous Sheffield Shop and Sheffield Scene, and also existing art-selling galleries.

On the whole, it sounds like these pop-up shops have been very well received. After a successful three-month trial, the Birmingham shop closed due to their prestigious unit in the Bullring shopping centre being let to paying tenants, but it is expected to return for Christmas.

Has this idea had been considered for Sheffield? If not, is anyone interested in seeing whether there is an appetite to get a Made in Sheffield shop up and running in time for the Christmas shopping season?

*I’ve no idea how an occupation is classed as creative or otherwise

New Made in Newcastle shop front by championmonkeyface

New Made in Newcastle shop front by championmonkeyface, used with permission

The top 30 brands in Sheffield?

Assessing the top Sheffield brands

Local company Web branding has produced a list of what they consider to be the top brands in Sheffield.

They used a process to assess and score each of the entries, and have whittled down a longlist of 100 down to a top 30.

It would be interesting to see the full list, as some of the biggest organisations are nowhere to be seen in the top 30, for example Meadowhall, the council, the universities, the Star, Hallam FM, old shops like Atkinsons and many of the big industrial names of the city.

I was also a bit surprised that Sheffield Wednesday and Sheffield United haven’t made the list, when you would have thought they would be some of the most known Sheffield brands in the world, and ones that people feel most passionate about. And should famous Sheffield bands and personalities such as Jessica Ennis be included in a list like this?

For me, this raises questions about what defines a brand in the first place, and whether one can properly assessed by its website, how recognisable it is and the quality of any design work. A brand is much more than just its visual identity.

See what you think of the list. Do you agree with it?

The top 30 brands in Sheffield, according to Web branding

Sheffield – our favourite places book

An independent guide to Sheffield’s best-kept secrets

It still has a long way to go, but Sheffield’s reputation as a tourist destination is slowly improving. And as you would expect, there are some traditional guides available to help visitors find out what the city has to offer, as well as advertising campaigns plugging our must-see attractions.

However, the best recommendations often come from people who live in the city and are able to take the time to suss out just where its most cherished treasures are located. Every now and then, a blog post or article pops to pick these out, but they can quite easily get lost in the depths of the internet and finding a definitive list can be difficult.

The good news is that a selection of recommendations have now been collated in a beautiful pocket guide that will appeal to not only visitors to the city, but people who have lived here all their life.

Sheffield – our favourite places book (just £4) has been lovingly put together by local design agency Eleven. Described as an informed travel guide for curious folk, it lists over 50 of the places in Sheffield that they love including restaurants, cafes, pubs, shops, galleries, theatres, walks, parks, gardens and day trips.

As well as the more obvious highlights, I’m sure that there are places listed that even long-time Sheffield residents won’t have yet visited. And what won’t surprise you is that many of their recommendations are for the places that make the city the quirky, creative, independent and imperfect place that so many feel affection for.

Aesthetically, the pocket-sized guide is really pleasing and a far cry from some of the other local publications you can pick up around town. It includes plenty of photos as well as a pull-out map.

The guide’s introductory text admits that Sheffield – our favourite places isn’t trying to be definitive or exhaustive. It is simply an unhyped list of the places in the city that the people at Eleven love.

Pick up a copy of the guide and catch these locations before they become everyone’s favourite places and no longer Sheffield’s best-kept secrets.

See inside and buy Sheffield – our favourite places

Our favourite places - Sheffield

Our favourite places - Sheffield

Designed in Sheffield

Design the logo

Sheffield businesses can already declare their Sheffield credentials with the Made in Sheffield marque and now Designed in Sheffield hopes to recognise and acknowledge the importance of design work in the city.

It is a non-profit venture, set up enhance the reputation of design in Sheffield to the rest of the world and help collaboration.

As part of the launch, Designed in Sheffield is inviting submissions for a logo and visual identity. There is no financial prize for the winner, although the winning design will be adopted by Designed in Sheffield and the marque is expected to be used by companies in the region to showcase their design credentials.

Designed in Sheffield logo competition