From Canvas to Cabinet as Sheffield Artists Inspire Openreach

Community represenatives Craig Wolstenholme and Simon Wigglesworth-Baker with Openreach's Robert Thorburn

Openreach broadband cabinets in the Kelham Island area of Sheffield are taking on a new appearance, thanks to a special partnership with local artists.

Plans are in place to give a new lease of life to Openreach’s previously plain green roadside cabinets. These cabinets are often targeted with graffiti and local experience shows that turning the cabinets into works of art discourages such anti-social behaviour.

Designs reflecting Sheffield culture, heritage, industry and nature are being created as part of a campaign to brighten up the local area, organised by the Kelham Island and Neepsend Community Alliance (KINCA).

The newly decorated Openreach cabinets form part of an art and heritage trail, and organiser Craig Wolstenholme is delighted with the outcome so far:

“Our vision for the Kelham Island Arts and Heritage Trail is to create an area full of creative and colourful community artwork reflecting the area’s nature, heritage, industry and culture. Openreach have been very supportive and granted our team of professional artists from the Kelham Island Arts Collective permission to paint the cabinets. The same artists have also created a series of large wall murals in the area which has helped to not only cover up graffiti but also liven up and brighten the road. This has all helped to foster a sense of respect and pride amongst the local community. Our team are also keen to eventually develop this into an educational community arts project.”

Openreach has around 100,000 roadside cabinets across the UK, which take telephone and broadband lines from around 5,500 exchanges out to local communities.

Eight cabinets in Kelham Island have now been painted with designs based upon the local steel industry, Kelham floods, Ladybower reservoir and landscapes of industrial Kelham.Local businesses and individuals have been very supportive by sponsoring the painting of these cabinets and KINCA are seeking further sponsors for the remaining cabinets.

Robert Thorburn, Openreach’s Partnership Director for the North of England, says: “These designs are quite amazing and the artists producing them are incredibly talented. We’re delighted to be part of such a worthwhile project and hope the artwork is enjoyed by people living and working in the local area.

“It’s great to see our infrastructure having a dual purpose. As well as brightening up the daily lives of people in Kelham Island, it is also key in making faster broadband speeds available to homes and businesses nearby. Across the Sheffield city region, around 97 per cent of premises can already order superfast broadband, with speeds of up to 80Mbps widely available.

“Our work is not finished though and across the UK, Openreach is investing a huge amount of time and resource into making ultrafast broadband available. As well as making faster speeds available now, it’s also future-proofing the network and making it more reliable and resilient for generations to come. We aim to reach three million homes and businesses across the UK by 2020, with more to follow.”

Sheffield’s Kelham Island has undergone a huge regeneration in recent years. The area, one of the oldest industrial sites in the city, is now home to bars, restaurants, apartments and office buildings. It also recently received an award from the Academy of Urbanism for the ‘Best Neighbourhood’ in the UK and Ireland.

More than 2,200 Openreach people live and work in the Yorkshire region. Last month, Openreach also announced that the team is expanding even further with more than 200 new fibre engineers due to be recruited during the next 12 months.

For more information about Openreach visit openreach.co.uk. If you are interested in sponsoring a cabinet in Kelham Island please send an email to kincaevents@gmail.com for more information.

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