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

Sharna Jackson

Some might shy away from making a fuss about turning the big 4-0. Not Site Gallery. Forty years on from its opening in 1979, Site has planned a lively programme of exhibitions, workshops and events to mark the occasion in 2019, looking back into its archives in order to look forward to its future possibilities. The timing couldn't be better; after being closed for refurbishment for eighteen months, the city is eager to celebrate the newly expanded gallery. And on top of that, Site has a brand new Artistic Director to see it into its milestone birthday: Sharna Jackson.

Sharna joins Executive Director Judith Harry to lead the contemporary art gallery at this exciting time. She brings to the gallery her love of social engagement, digital creativity and publishing, built up during past work with the likes of the Children's Media Conference's Playground, Tate and Design Museum, and as a children's author – her first novel, High-rise Mystery, was released in April 2019.

Here Sharna introduces herself, tells us about coming to Site at this significant point in its history, and shares her love of barges.

Update: during lockdown, Site is 'taking the gallery' to people at home with its new programme, brilliantly named WEB/SITE – a series of reading groups, live workshops for families, and more. Click here to read about the first event in the series.

How would you describe your role at Site Gallery?
As Artistic Director at Site Gallery, I develop our artistic vision and lead on our programme across the gallery, off-site, within our participatory programmes and digital platforms, increasingly. It's a fantastic, varied role where I do a lot of listening and looking – internally and externally. My background is in digital and social-engagement, so spend a lot of time thinking of ways to bring new audiences to the gallery – or taking 'the gallery' to them.

What are you looking forward to in Site's 40th year?
We're excited to show Sheffield the best of what Site Gallery had done, can do and will do. This includes – but is in no way limited to:

  • Confident exhibitions showcasing exemplary work across moving image, new media and performance, supported by quality public programming and workshops – for all ages.
  • Warmly welcoming visitors old and new.
  • Supporting the first cohort of the local artists on the Freelands Artists Programme we're part of with Yorkshire Artspace, Bloc, S1 and Millennium Gallery.
  • Deepening partnerships across Sheffield that connect us to the city.

What inspires you?
Barges built in the Netherlands before 1950 and the ever-present threat of death.

What do you love about Sheffield?
Outside of Site Gallery? The people, the Peaks, the pubs.

What would you do to improve the city?
Re-establish the Cultural Industries Quarter and make Thursday nights more of 'a thing'.

Note: Site Gallery now opens till 8pm on Thursday nights, helping to establish their position as 'a thing'.

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