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The Sheffield culture guide written by in-the-know locals

CreativeMornings Sheffield

Once a month a bunch of people, curious to hear about the creativity in the city that surrounds them, gather together at 8:30am for CreativeMornings. Yes, it might sound a bit early but picture it: you roll out of bed and into a lovely gallery or cafe, where you're greeted by a bunch of people eager to share or listen to creative stories, all perked up by coffee, and usually a pastry or two. There can't be a much more inspiring way to start the day.

The CreativeMornings event series began in New York in 2008, coming to Sheffield in 2016 thanks to brand strategist and designer Penny Lee. Since then Penny and her team have hosted talks from speakers covering everything from anxiety to the importance of inclusion – you can watch videos of previous talks from the CreativeMornings in the online archives. And if you're keen to delve even deeper into the people behind some of the most popular talks, pick up the local CreativeMornings book and visit the website Mornings People. The book is on sale at La Biblioteka.

After three and a half great years, Penny is stepping down following the last event for 2019 to focus on her business, with local independent designer Leanne Mallinshaw set to take over the Sheffield chapter in the new year. We spoke to Leanne ahead of November's event at Weston Park Museum to find out more about what makes CreativeMornings worth skipping the snooze button and getting out of bed for.

How would you describe CreativeMornings for anyone who hasn’t been?
A free short talk with breakfast on the last Friday morning of the month. Simple.

Originating in New York in 2008, out of a desire to create an ongoing, accessible event for New York’s creative community, there are now 170 chapters across 65 countries attracting over 20,000 attendees a month.

CreativeMornings was brought to Sheffield over three years ago by Penny Lee aka The Brand Directoress. It has since created a platform for creators, enterprisers and doers to share their stories. Our speakers are varied, crossing a range of industries and specialisms, making CreativeMornings/Sheffield different from many creative events. They have ranged from the Lord Mayor, to bread makers, to designers, to cocktail makers and of course Claire from Our Favourites Places!

Penny has built up a successful event with many loyal and regular attendees. I’ll be taking over the reins of CreativeMornings/Sheffield from Penny in January 2020 and hope to continue to build on her success. No pressure…

Images from CreativeMornings/Sheffield's book, Mornings People

How do you choose the themes for each event?
The chapters are asked, in order of when they started, to pick a theme. Past themes have included Chaos, Moments, Craft and Death. We are Chapter 152, so it is a good way off before we’re asked to pick a theme.

2020’s themes have been decided and will be announced each month. Speakers, that we feel match the theme, are invited to talk and we approach an appropriate venue, then hope the speaker and the venue say yes and it all comes together.

Some CM chapters stay in the same location every month but we like to move around, picking locations sympathetic to the theme or speaker. This has seen us host events everywhere from design agencies to museums, to bars and amphitheatres. Sheffield has a wealth of interesting venues, it is lovely to explore and see spaces that aren’t always open to the public.

What are you working on at the moment at CreativeMornings?
Now we know next year’s themes, we are busy approaching speakers and venues. It takes the pressure off to have them organised in advance. Although it is lovely when people and venues contact us wanting to get involved.

Our events are free to attend so we are always looking for more sponsors to work with us to help our chapter grow... hint!

What, who or where should be better known in Sheffield?
Food Works (formerly The Real Junk Food Project) is a local social enterprise which prevents up to a tonne of surplus food from going to waste every day. They do this in a number of creative ways – by providing meals in community cafes, a daily food market, educational programs and public and private events. I can personally recommend their Bistro evenings.

Rene Meijer, CEO from Food Works recently joined us at CreativeMornings in October for CMflow and it was incredibly interesting to learn more about the food industry and the reasons why the large supermarket chains create so much surplus food.

What would you change about the city?
Having worked in Sheffield for the last decade, I feel the creative industry here is in definite need of more events. It would get us out of our workshops, offices and studios more, creating more of a supportive and collaborative community like Leeds, Manchester and Birmingham have. Design events are often a great excuse for me to see other cities but let's face it, no one likes getting the last train home from Leeds!

Photography by Helena Dolby and Joe Horner. Illustrations by Rich Wells.

The next Creative Mornings event takes place on 29 November at Weston Park Museum with Simon Bray AKA Loved&Lost. Part of a series on Lost. Registration opens on 25 November – see more details.

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