Research at Access Space

Access Space Network Ltd. is a registered charity, working in the centre of Sheffield UK, with charitable aims to educate of the public in information technology and through the promotion of the visual arts, and to support people into gainful employment.

Access Space has gone through many projects and changes over the past seventeen years, but its core values in free/open source software and hardware, peer learning, encouraging people to understand technology by opening it up, and disregarding barriers through cross- and interdisciplinary work across the arts and sciences have remained constant.

Our unique position and history allows us to host, support and collaborate on academic research, working with diverse groups in projects large and small. We have extensive experience working with and collaborating on projects funded by AHRC, EPSRC, ESRC and ERC, alongside community projects supported by the British Council, Arts Council, Paul Hamlyn Foundation, Crafts Council, National Lottery, PRSF and more. Our activities include hosting talks and symposia, hosting research and arts-science residencies, supporting work with vulnerable groups, hosting action-research, and showcasing research outcomes through public events and exhibitions. We also have an expansive network of collaborators around Sheffield, the UK, Europe and the rest of the world.

Due to our long history, we are in an ideal position to serve as an interface between academia and the public sphere: a hub where research can be tested out, presented, used, and where appropriate co-developed by members of the public. Our facilities include a digital fabrication lab, and flexible space for meetings, symposia, performances and exhibitions, all within Sheffield’s cultural quarter, a short walk from Sheffield train station. Our central position in the country makes us ideal for national events, with the delights of the Peak District national park a 20 minute excursion away.

We are very happy to talk with you about your research at any stage, whether you are pre-application, or for example looking to extend the impact of ongoing or completed work.

Present and past collaborations include

  • Wrekshop and Sonic Pattern group residency as part of the Inhabiting the Hack project supported by EPSRC digital economy via the Communities and Culture+ Network and the AHRC via the Weaving Codes, Coding Weaves project. Both activities supported local people in exploring technology as creative material.
  • Barriers to women’s involvement in hackspaces and makerspaces – supporting Dr. Jen Lewis on exploratory work investigating gender-imbalance in hackspaces, supported by the University of Sheffield. The resulting report is available here.
  • Weaving Codes, Coding Weaves – an international 18 month project funded by the AHRC and led by Dr Alex McLean (now an Access Space trustee) and Dr Ellen Harlizius-Klück, with activities supported by access space including a research residency allowing the Principal Investigator to create a warp-weighted loom in our digital fabrication lab, in order to better understand the connection between contemporary and ancient digital technology.
  • Hugh Davies: Electronic Music Innovator – an AHRC project lead by James Mooney (University of Leeds) in partnership with the Science Museum. Following an open call, we hosted the artist Anton Mobin to run workshops and create a new instrument inspired by the work of Hugh Davies. We also hosted outcomes in the form of highly successful public concerts and an exhibition.
  • Digital Folk: Digital Media in Folk Arts Participation – another AHRC project lead by Dr Simon Keegan-Phipps, Dr David Gauntlett and Dr Lucy Wright. We enriched the project by hosting and co-organising workshops bringing together folk and digital musicians to explore common themes through discussion and collaborative performance.

The nature of each collaboration is unique. However we should make clear that while we are able to offer in-kind contribution to research projects, we also need to cover our own costs, as part of a continual process of diversifying our income. We are keen to support research and great ideas, and by working with us you will be helping make our wider charitable work sustainable.

Please contact Arts Director Jake Harries <> and/or Research Director Alex McLean <> for more information or to arrange a skype or in-person meeting.