A student-led musical showcase in Sheffield’s University Library aimed to promote musical opportunity and clap back at declining investment in arts and humanities funding in education.

The Let Them Play event was created as a series of free performances organised by student officers within Western Bank library in association with Reimagine Education and Fund the Arts. 

Vicky Grant, head librarian said: “Let Them Play is part of a broadened movement for Reimagine Education which we wanted the library to be part of. It’s part of the movement to be able to articulate quite clearly that there is a future for students that are doing arts and humanities degrees.

“We know that a lot of the emerging job opportunities in society relate to a lot of digital creativity so the more we can harness creativity in our university the more we can communicate that message boldly.”

Student ensembles included musical performances from the University of Sheffield’s Octagon record label musicians, a jazz fusion group, and a gospel choir. 

Maria Jose Lourido Moreno, education officer for the Sheffield Students’ Union, explained how people studying in the library stayed during the performances which was beyond their dreams of what they wanted to achieve. 

She said: “Right now there has been a 50% cut in the entirety of England for all university courses based on the arts which means a lot of people who are doing a lot of artistic things like our performers will not be able to continue playing at the same extent as they used to be.”

Education is holistic, Miss Moreno explained, it cannot exclusively be essays and exams because opportunities to be in societies, listen to music and go to events are an essential part of it. 

She said: “This event specifically is an embodiment of what the university could be in the future. 

“One of the things I want people to do is imagine for a day that they live in a universe in which the arts are essential to everything we do.”

Anna Campbell, activity and event officer at the Students’ Union, has a degree in music and wanted to create an event to rebel against ideas in the mainstream media that humanities and arts degrees are not important. 

She said: “It’s so important to give the students this platform because it is a skill they love and are investing in and we should be supporting them to grow in that skill, but also I think it’s really important for students across the university because we all listen to music, we all go and watch shows.”

The co-organiser explained that student body’s need to stand up for their fellow students against policies that harm the arts.

She added: “I’ve got plans to try and take over some of the other university spaces to promote music in different spaces and give students a chance to listen to music they’ve never heard before and give our performers a chance to play.”