Circles in the space

At  last we have begun work on the Soul of Sheffield community art project:


At ove r 50 metres across, the size of the space seemed overwhelming.  The emptiness was bewildering as me and some of the other artists wandered around. Like a blank sheet of paper or empty canvas the familiar, fearful, feeling of facing the uphill struggle to create something from nothing welled up. But this time, rather than just gazing at a white sheet, we could walk around and inhabit the space that held the creative potential.

It was only after we’d laid down the circle of string to give an idea of where the city ring road might lie that we could begin to make sense of the space. Just a simple circle 8 metres in diameter but suddenly we could begin to envision what the emerging piece of art might look like and the feeling of fear gave way to the dizzy thrill of creation. By laying this one line we had made a decision and said ‘not this’ to the infinite other possibilities in the space: the first step on the road of creation.

There are other circles on the ground here too. You can see them if you look carefully at the photograph; rows of circles worn into the office-blue carpet from the desk chairs that used to spin and roll here every working day. This is challenging my view of the building. Initially I was hesitant to use what seems like a sterile and anonymous city office. But as I look deeper then the stories begin to reveal themselves.

These circles are the daily impressions  of countless people and they hold the history of the place. Here people have been bored, have laughed, have flirted, have fallen in love, have been fired, have taken the emergency phone call from the hospital with bad news or good news. All of human life is here worn into the carpet like the grooves in the stone steps at an ancient cathedral. It’s so ordinary, what could be more ordinary than a bland and stained workplace floor, but the people who have filled the space, and who will fill the space again, make it extraordinary.

Thus my mistake is revealed, this isn’t an anonymous office space that could be swapped for a thousand other similar places across the country, after all. Just as the circle of string made something specific, something here and now to distinguish from the infinite, so the lives that flow through this building give it a history, give it a story. This story takes its place amongst the million other threads that weave to make the living community of the city and it’s these stories that we hope to discover and celebrate as we embark on the creative adventure.


For more information about the this project or to get involved then please visit

4 thoughts on “Circles in the space

  1. Having worked in a number of call centres in the past – they are generally like chicken hooches – souless places so its great you will be giving them a new soul even if its only for a short period – my glass fronted offices were the worse – like a fishtank or glass cage – question is who were the prisoners and who were the free. I didn’t last long as I was always in trouble for breaking the rules. I despair that call centres have become the cotton mills of old – destroying the young this time not physically but mentally – after a 8 hour shift you’d leave numb, brain dead, drained of your humanity.

  2. "I didn’t last long as I was always in trouble for breaking the rules"Why doesn’t that susprise me Mick!Thanks for your comment, it gets to the heart of what we’re exploring here – how can we find life and meaning in such ordinary places – some of which seem so soul-less or even soul-destroying. So often these places see people as resources (‘human resources’) to make as efficient as any other units they might buy in and the humanity is lost.

  3. I don’t think I’m wired to take orders off people – thats why my military career was so short too – daring to question authority has been a constant companion through my life so far – I do try(often count to 10) but I find pettiness of all gets to overpower me and I need to push against often just for the sake of it. I guess that would make me a liability as an employee. I am also happy in my own company,so makes teamworking sometimes a bit of a trial but I am practicing 🙂

  4. Offices such as Milton, although I never worked there are part of our lives. I’ve worked in many such buildings in Sheffield, Deacon House, Queen’s House, Fountain Precinct. The jobs we do, not just call centres, but other jobs such as those that mean that ex-miners get their pensions. People like me find a vocation, Paul & Jacquie find a life together. I’m no longer in Sheffield but much of my souk is in those buidlings and the jobs I’ve done. Christmas parties, birthdays and weddings, births, retirements and even deaths.We try to be efficient because there is much to do and people to serve. I failed in a call centre because I too couldn’t follow the rules, buth there is more to these buildings than call centres, there are real jobs where you can bring flair, a personality and a call to service to the job. Places where so many work and live cannot be souless however much some management may wish it otherwise.

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