James Lock, Managing Director of Opus Independents

Sheffield makes me better at being a human.

For me, Sheffield has always been a place where you can achieve anything provided the value or output is shared and for the common good. It’s a melting pot of doers, creatives, activists, grafters, makers, cynics, idealists and artists, all of whom, in my experience, recognise each other’s contribution and recognise that by working collaboratively anything is possible. 

Sheffield is a supportive city, full of supportive people who will give you the time of day without demanding recompense and who enjoy thinking about new ideas, but most importantly enjoy seeing them realised and appreciate the graft involved in following them through. 

The texture of the city is unique, filled with rolling hills, full of parks and green spaces with a national park on the doorstep. But it’s also a city of many villages, of many communities, not all hemmed into a central district, but dispersed, distinct and diverse with each area offering something special.  

It’s also a city which, perhaps like no other, reflects the social, environmental and economic challenges we face nationally, from rising inequality to increased pressures on public services, to air quality. Why this is something to be celebrated, is because in Sheffield you get the sense that the innovation and potential to solve these crises is here and that there are a host of organisations and individuals whose burgeoning and innovative work would not be viable in any other cultural and economic environment in the UK.

I guess that's why it was an ideal place for me to found and work for Opus, which is a social enterprise based in Sheffield, established in 2008. We’re a portfolio organisation of many projects – from print publishing to live events to innovative digital platforms and a whole host of things that fall between. Broadly our work involves creating platforms for engagement, participation and the common good - whether this is in the transformative realm of the creative arts or in that of active citizenship. We also provide crucial infrastructure services for creative organisations to reach members of the public in Sheffield, primarily through our flagship regional distribution service, magazine and app.  

Our current creative writing project Wordlife is leading on a film-poem project with Hallam University to be distributed through NGO’s working in India, with the aim of raising awareness about violence against women. We’re also starting a new project bringing together organisations to share positive news around migration on behalf of Cohesion Sheffield and finally, we’re working hard with UBI Lab – a project Opus currently hosts, to capitalise on our recent national recognition in designing a menu of pilots for Universal Basic Income (UBI) in Sheffield. 

Sheffield is where I’ve built my home, my vocation, my most valued friendships and my family. The city supports these things and in a way has made these things possible. Sheffield has given me a great deal and I intend to return the favour. It offers me a supportive groundswell for trying new things and challenges me to fulfil my potential, but it will also look after me and mine when that is what we need most.