Arts complex in Sheffield shuts after going bust

Roco, in Sheffield.
Roco, in Sheffield.

An arts centre in Sheffield has ceased operations after going into liquidation.

Roco opened in 2015, based in a row of seven Grade II listed terraced houses near Sheffield University’s students’ union and featuring more than 40 studios, a café bar, a shop and a gallery.

The shop at Roco in Sheffield.

The shop at Roco in Sheffield.

The £1.2 million ‘creative co-op’ on Glossop Road also had an area for manufacturing called We Make Works, part of an expansion into more buildings opposite the original site.

But Roco – which had 15 members of staff – has stopped trading after running short of cash to keep going. A resolution for voluntary winding-up has been passed and liquidators appointed.

Michelle Kitchingman, insolvency case manager for BHP Corporate Solutions, said ‘a mix of a few different factors’ led to Roco hitting problems.

The café bar, Brood, had been closed for several weeks after flooding caused by Storm Bronagh in September. The centre, which hosted events and meetings, relied on income from Brood to support its other activities.

The Brood bar at Roco in Sheffield.

The Brood bar at Roco in Sheffield.

“We are aware of the flooding and it will have had an impact on them, because that source of income was just not available any more,” said Ms Kitchingman. “They’d had a few delays with certain matters as well. Unfortunately it wasn’t viable to continue going based on the financial status of the company.”

She added: “There’s nobody trading from that site at the moment, and we’re the ones sorting out any claims that are coming through.”

Creditors had been shown a confidential report with the full picture of Roco’s financial woes, said Ms Kitchingman.  “There was insufficient funding to keep going. That was the main issue and they couldn’t afford to continue trading.”

Roco’s chair Andrea Burns, who launched the centre with business partner Chris Hill, was approached for comment. Supporters included the Key Fund, Co-op Community Finance and Big Issue Invest, while tens of thousands of pounds was collected through a share offer.

The rooftop courtyard outside the Brood bar at Roco in Sheffield.

The rooftop courtyard outside the Brood bar at Roco in Sheffield.

The studios were home to a range of tenants such as architects, a marketing firm and a branding agency. Ms Kitchingman said they could stay, as the terraced houses’ ultimate landlord, the Sheffield Church Burgesses Trust, had taken over. 

“The lease has been disclaimed, it’s just between the landlord and the subtenants to agree anything going forward,” she said. “They’ll be in discussions directly.” 

She said the trust was responsible for determining whether the centre returns in another guise. “It’s closed for now. Whether somebody goes in going forward, that’s something for the landlord to organise.”

The aim was for Roco to offer an end-to-end solution - workspaces, equipment for making and a ‘route to market’ in the shop. Ground rules were laid down to govern who could rent spaces, drawing a distinction between creative industries - enterprises that are required to generate their own income - and the arts sector. Brood had a rooftop bar that was packed on sunny days.

Roco was part of the European Creative Hubs Network, an EU-backed group involving similar projects in Germany and Serbia.