Podium // Art Sheffield // Zero Hours

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October 8, 2013 by Amy Ryall

In the first of the blogs from our new cohort of MA Public Humanities students, Max Templer reflects on one of the events of the city-wide festival Art Sheffield This biennial festival brings together contemporary art and related events at venues across Sheffield. Podium was an event that took place at the University’s Furnace Park site, a pop-up performance and event space on Shalesmoor.

Podium // Art Sheffield // Zero Hours

On Saturday I made the trip down to Furnace Park in Shalesmoor to see the Podium event on the subject of Zero Hours. There were a number of speakers from the University’s various humanities departments as well as the live construction of an art installation by the artist Ben Cain, the event also provided the opportunity for members of the audience to participate by taking the podium themselves and presenting a ten minute talk on the emotive subject of ‘zero hours’. Despite the overcast weather the event proved to be a success and I’m looking forward to future events.

The most impressive element of the event was the manner in which the speakers expertise complemented one another with the various talks exploring the various facets and implications of ‘zero hours’, providing a more rounded picture than could have been achieved individually. Additionally the relatively shortness (ten minutes) of each individual talk pushed the speakers into presenting their ideas concisely, keeping the pace of the event brisk and engaging. Unfortunately the desire from the audience (at least in the first half of the event) to give a talk was rather limited, but the response from organisers was swift in changing the programme from audience led talks to a Q&A session which those in the audience seemed more eager to participate with. However, whilst the talks were engaging and interesting I did think it was a shame that there were no official speakers who were on zero-hours contracts themselves and the question of how we should use the ideas put forward in the talks to impact the real world was insufficiently covered, which seemed to me to be a missed opportunity given the politically charged subject matter.

 Unfortunately I didn’t get a huge chance to properly engage with Ben Cain’s artwork ‘We’re in a delicate phase’ but I did think it was a good idea to widen the scope of the event by introducing art into what would otherwise have been a purely academic event. The potential of the space at Furnace Park to present these kinds of multimedia events is pretty exciting, especially considering that the space is still in the process of being designed meaning that the ability for people to impact it is still very high. Getting people from outside the University to contribute to Furnace Park would be a really great way to expand both the reach of the project and to provide new perspective on how the space can be utilised.

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