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Friday, February 26, 1999 Published at 18:30 GMT


Sheffield steels itself for pop centre

One of the centre's four drums, each with a different theme

The city which brought the world Joe Cocker, Jarvis Cocker and the Human League is unveiling its latest gift to the music world - Britain's first centre devoted to pop.

The BBC's Emma Howard tours the Perspectives drum
Designed by architect Nigel Coates, the £15m National Centre for Popular Music in Sheffield is dominated by four huge drums with a large spout emerging from each roof.

The spouts are coated in the city's other most famous product - Sheffield steel.

The centre has few items of memorabilia or waxworks of famous pop stars - instead it has spent £15m on the latest in information technology, laser discs and video screens, making it the world's first interactive temple to pop music.

[ image: Jarvis Cocker: Pulp have been Sheffield's biggest pop export of the 90s]
Jarvis Cocker: Pulp have been Sheffield's biggest pop export of the 90s
Each drum has a different theme, examining a different aspect of pop music.

The Perspectives drum has five different rooms looking at influences on pop music. The first room looks at dance music, from the jitterbug to today's club scene.

Another looks at religion, while the next looks at 30 of the world's most unusual and innovative singers, including Pavarotti, Janis Joplin and Ray Charles. Other rooms look at love and rebellion in music.

The Making Music drum lets visitors record their own songs with a range of backing instruments, be a radio DJ or design an album cover.

[ image: The Human League: Sheffield stars of the 1980s, along with Heaven 17 and ABC]
The Human League: Sheffield stars of the 1980s, along with Heaven 17 and ABC
Another drum is based on the Guinness Encyclopaedia of Rock and Pop, where visitors can use CD-Roms to study details of stars from Tricky to the Troggs.

Creative director Tim Strickland - former manager of ska band The Specials - said he thought the use of new media was fitting for one of the century's youngest art forms.

"There's lots of interactivity using new technology, lots of hands-on and film presentations. But there is also a space for memorabilia and we'll change it on a regular basis."

The centre's Tim Strickland speaks to the BBC's Rosie Millard
He added he didn't feel pop culture was being 'institutionalised' by putting it in a museum setting.

"Rock 'n' roll is a changing art from and its very difficult to capture the moment, but it's important to study the major art form of the 20th century," he said.

Mr Strickland added that although the centre was far more than a museum of pop, it was also an investment in the future the arts. The centre can commission new pieces of music and film, and is inviting composers to write for one of its exhibition spaces.

But visitors wanting to see pop memorabilia won't be disappointed - current highlights on show include Mick Jones from the Clash's guitar, and Martin Fry from ABC's gold lame suit.

The National Centre for Popular Music in Sheffield opens on 1 March.

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