Meet Our Members: Ruth Nutter

SCG member Ruth Nutter recently published Paradise is Here: Building Community Around Things That Matter, a handbook for arts and heritage practitioners and anyone interested in building meaningful connections with or across local communities.

Pop-Up Ruskin Museum, Walkley, 2015. Photo: Ruth Levene

I love working as a creative practitioner in local communities. It’s a privilege to collaborate with people where they live and hugely rewarding to see a legacy of change as the result of a community-based project.

I am fascinated by the challenge of drawing people together in their local community, unearthing local creativity, re-energising local ideas or places, and giving people a voice in their local future. Now, more than ever, creative community practice has a vital role to play in gently reconnecting people face-to-face with each other in meaningful ways.

Ruth with her book Paradise is Here

For the last six years I’ve been fortunate to work across a range of neighbourhoods in Sheffield as Producer of Ruskin in Sheffield, a programme of events and activities inspired by John Ruskin’s ideas around making lives better and the Ruskin Collection at the Millennium Gallery. The programme was initiated by the Guild of St George (a charity set up by John Ruskin in 1871) and engaged 25,000 adults and children with their own creativity, their local nature, heritage, their local future and most importantly, with each other.

SCG members played a vital role in Ruskin in Sheffield’s success. Malaika Cunningham, artistic director of The Bare Project, first took part as Manager of our award-winning Pop-Up Ruskin Museum in Walkley (2015) and in the programme’s final year created A Future Fantastic festival of protest, performance and policy-making at Theatre Deli in 2019, thanks to Sara Hill’s support and collaboration.

Making Masterpieces in Sheffield & Venice, Yorkshire Artspace, Exchange Place Studios. Photo: Felix Hodgson

As a result of those six years, and many other years of creative community practice around the UK, I’ve had time this year to reflect on what really transforms community engagement to more deep rooted community building, and my book Paradise is Here, is the result. This evidence-based book builds on the voices of over 150 community and cultural partners, artists, activists, volunteers and academics who co-created the Ruskin in Sheffield programme, and shares the key principles and socially engaged practice of the project.

I’m grateful to SCG member Paul Boardman for his patience and care in designing the book!

I’m offering a free talk and Q&A via Zoom on Wednesday 13th January from 1pm – 2pm: Paradise is Here: Tips & techniques for bringing local communities together and would be delighted to meet some of you there. You can book via Eventbrite here.