SHEFTIVAL became the “Jess-tival” as the city’s new music and sports event turned into a giant party to celebrate Sheffield’s Olympic golden girl Jess Ennis, writes Graham Walker.
VIDEO: Press the play button to watch our video report.
Many may have turned up to see Real Radio main stage stars Lemar, Joe McElderry, Stooshe, Marcus Collins, Misha B, Lawson, Dodgy and the Lightning Seeds.
But Jess got the real rock superstar attention as even the impressive pop line-up, with new singles and albums to push, couldn’t stop talking about the greatest female athlete on the planet.
Fame Academy star Lemar even dedicate a performance of his forthcoming single to her - aptly called Invincible.
“That’s Jess. She’s Invincible. What a star. I’m so proud just to be performing here in her home city on the day she gets the gold,’’ he told The Star.
Thousands of fans went crazy as they saw her heptathlon conquering moment live on a big screen link live from London’s Olympic Stadium to Sheffield’s Don Valley Stadium - where her athletics career began.
Grown men, women and children all sobbed with joy, including Steve Brailey, Chief Executive of Sheffield International Venues, which manages Don Valley Stadium.
“I had tears rolling down my face when she won that medal. It was absolutely brilliant”, he admitted.
“Tonight’s not the night to think about how we’ll mark her achievement. We need to enjoy the moment.”
The big screen turned into one of the biggest attractions at Sheftival as around 2,000 people gathered in front of it to witness the historical moment.
As Jessica came out for her 800m heat the floodlights came on and the stadium where Jess was discovered and still trains suddenly resembled a rock concert.
When the starter’s gun went off, Sheffield produced a wall of noise. And when she crossed the line, friends and strangers hugged one another, in tears and even louder screams.
The Sheftival event was always intended to coincide with Jess’s golden bid but the fairytale ending came true,
A total of 80 acts played at the festival, including local stars Laura Steel, Max and Sour Cherry, in Don Valley Bowl. The 25-acre site, which also included Don Valley Stadium, The EIS Sheffield, ice-Sheffield and Motorpoint Arena, featured sports demonstrations and have-a-go-sessions, mixed music, sport, food, drink and other entertainment. The 50th Anniversary of Jamaica’s Independence Day was celebrated with a carnival.
Festival director Dave Healy said Jess had certainly done her bit to make the first ever Sheftival weekend a huge success and an event would remember for ever.
He said: “It’s been fantastic. It started with the Russian gymnasts at the Motorpoint Arena - we had about 2,000 people in. We think we had about 15,000 people spread across the site. Jess Ennis delivered exactly what we asked her to. The atmosphere has been amazing. Families have been out, joining in sport. All the music areas have been busy. Pretty much what we hoped for. We’re really pleased.
“We won’t finish the count for a week. There was room for more. We would have liked 20,000 to 25,000 people in but every where has been busy and the atmosphere has been really, really solid. A lot more than people predicted we would have and a few less than we would have liked.”
Ricky Durkin, Programme director of Real Radio Yorkshire, said: ‘’There’s been great bands and sport, then we celebrated Jess getting the gold on Saturday.
“You don’t know what attendance numbers will be like when you’re starting at zero with a new event. But to see the tram empty every 10 minutes and people pour in was just great.