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City of Rivers exhibition, Weston Park Museum, Sheffield

Artist unknown, Bridge and White Rails at Bridgehouses, Sheffield c.1840. (c) Sheffield Museums
Artist unknown, Bridge and White Rails at Bridgehouses, Sheffield c.1840. (c) Sheffield Museums

Sheffield is a city born from its rivers, sculpting the landscape and powering the industries that made it prosper. Today, they’re the arteries that flow through the urban sprawl, continuing to shape the character of the city and our lives in it. From vast reservoirs and cascading weirs to the brooks that trickle through our many green spaces, they also provide a home to a rich abundance of local wildlife.

City of Rivers brings together a wide range of historic and contemporary artwork, stories, objects, film and photographs to chronicle Sheffield’s relationship with its waterways. Drawing on contributions from people across the city, it reflects on our connections to them in our work, leisure time and our impact on the natural habitats they represent. Visitors will discover art, poetry and film by Alison Churchill, Holly Clifford, Catherine Higham, Ruth Levene, Joe Scarborough, Harriet Tarlo, Benjamin Tassie and more.

Over 300 artworks and objects on display include:

Great British Life: Robert Hudson's Brook Scene at Endcliffe Woods. Image: Sheffield MuseumsRobert Hudson's Brook Scene at Endcliffe Woods. Image: Sheffield Museums

Robert Hudson, Brook Scene, Endcliffe Woods, Sheffield (1870-1884): Robert Hudson was a Sheffield artist who predominately painted landscapes. In this painting, Hudson depicts an autumnal day in Endcliffe Woods (now known as Endcliffe Park).

Alison Churchill, Water Marks (2022): Informed by practices of both Zen and Zen calligraphy, Alison describes her work as exploring '…the mystery, energy and transformative power of water. Long contemplation of the constantly changing and mesmerising patterns which play on the surfaces of the streams, mill-ponds and mill-races in Sheffield’s Porter Valley has given me direct experience of the life-force energy of the natural world.'

We Enjoy (2022): This collage was created as part of 'We Make It Happen Together', a partnership project between Efficiency North and Ignite Imaginations in 2022, working with community groups to create large-scale works of art in the city. Artist Ali Bird says; 'This piece is based on what people enjoy about the riverside environment. The participants experimented with gel printing, stencil printing and carbon transfer drawings to create layered images. These were then collaged together with leaves stencil printed over to 'knit' the images together.'

Otter (Lutra lutra): Otters were almost completely wiped out from the Sheffield region as a result of hunting, persecution and water pollution. As people have become more tolerant of wildlife and the rivers have become cleaner, they are slowly repopulating Sheffield’s rivers.

A Sosell, A Faithful Friend (1895): This poster was used to advertise 'Melie & Co's High Class Teas'. Depicting the local legend of 'Rollo', it shows a dog rescuing a child in a wicker cradle from the waters of the Sheffield flood in 1864.

Holly Clifford, Sheffield Rivers Contour Map (2023): Commissioned for the exhibition, this beautifully crafted 3D topographic map of Sheffield includes all of the city’s main rivers. Holly says of her inspiration for the work: 'Storytelling through art is something I’m extremely passionate about. Aside from the enormous practicality of maps, I just think they’re endlessly interesting and beautiful; you can get lost in the entrancing structure of the flowing contour lines.’

Great British Life: Stanhope Forbes: Sheffield River and Smoking Chimneys @sheffieldmuseumsStanhope Forbes: Sheffield River and Smoking Chimneys @sheffieldmuseums

The exhibition has been developed with a wide range of city and community contributors, including Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust, Friends of the Porter Valley, Sheaf & Porter Rivers Trust, Shirebrook Valley Heritage Group, South Yorkshire Industrial History Society and many more. The displays also feature contributions through a public photography call-out, a city-wide schools art competition, alongside Young Makers and schools work experience programmes.

Lucy Cooper. exhibitions curator at Sheffield Museums says, 'Sheffield’s rivers are the heartbeat of the city, impacting everything from nature and wildlife to our work and hobbies. We’ve had a great response from individuals and groups with contemporary content for the exhibition (including art, photos and objects) and it’s been fantastic to bring these together with works from historic collections to celebrate all aspects of the city’s waterways.'

City of Rivers is at Weston Park Museum and runs until November 2024 – entry to the exhibition is free. sheffieldmuseums.org.uk



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