Tramlines: Meet five people who make the Sheffield music festival happen

Crowds gather: Tramlines 2011.
Crowds gather: Tramlines 2011.
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IT has been called the best weekend of Sheffield’s summer – and these are the five people who make it happen, writes Colin Drury.

Tramlines will this weekend see some 150,000 revellers pour into the city centre as more than 600 bands play 70 venues. Headliners will include Roots Manuva, We Are Scientists and Field Music.

But without this quintet none of it would be possible.

It is they who have spent the last 12 months dealing with portaloo logistics, counter-terrorism strategies and Lauren Laverne interviews which are essential for a major festival.

The Star finds out how it all comes together...


JAMES O’Hara, 30, owns The Bowery and The Great Gatsby pubs, in Devonshire Street and Division Street respectively. He and co-founder Dave Healy came up with Tramlines as a way of attracting people into the city. He lives in the city centre.

“Do I enjoy the Tramlines weekend? No.

“When you organise something like this you’re so stressed wanting everything to go right you can’t enjoy it. But there are moments that make the hard work worthwhile.

“I remember the first year. I was in our office in Rockingham Street wondering how it was all going when a friend came and dragged me outside.

“There were thousands of people in Division Street.

“I couldn’t believe it. There was one group setting up a barbecue.

“And that’s when you get a massive buzz.

“The idea started as a business thing. Venues were struggling in the summer without the students so we wanted to bring people into the city centre.

“Initially, it was just going to be 10 venues but we got carried away. It ended up with 35 venues and a stage on Devonshire Green. Now, this year there’ll be 70 venues and we’ll have something in Tudor Square for the first time.

“It’s more than a music festival now. It’s a celebration. We try and make it as inclusive as possible. You don’t get more inclusive than being free.

“Did it work as a business idea too? Yes. It’s the busiest day of the year for most venues involved. Puts Christmas Eve to shame. One place took a month’s worth of takings on Saturday last year.”


SARAH Nulty, 30, was working at The Harley, in Glossop Road, when she was asked to take charge of Tramlines. She lives in Nether Edge:

“IT’S strange. There’s a 100-page document on my desk right now detailing what action would be taken if anything went wrong at Tramlines. It covers everything from terrorist attacks to flooding and how we’d evacuate the city.

“I was going through it the other day and I just thought ‘but all we wanted to do was put on some bands’. But, of course we understand it has to be done.

“I’ve been involved all three years previously but it was still a surprise to be asked to be director. I couldn’t say no. Sometimes it can feel like you’re doing the grown-up stuff so other people can have fun but just being part of it is great fun really.

“We have a punch bag in the office. If you get stressed you’re allowed to hit it for 10 seconds and then you’ve got to put it away and remember you’re doing something loads of people would love to do.

“The job entails so much stuff – from cleaning Devonshire Green to giving interviews. I was on Radio 6 the other day with Lauren Laverne. I said wow too many times. They kept asking questions. I suppose I should have expected that.

“On the weekend I’ll mainly be in the office but once the main stage closes each night there’ll be a gin or two partaken.”


TIMM Cleasby, 40, is production designer, meaning he is responsible for the logistics of the festival. He lives in North Anston:

“If you think of Tramlines as one big festival site, I’m there to oversee everything is running smoothly. It’s the essential stuff – security, stages, flow of people. I’m the guy who decides where the portaloos go.

“That’s more important than you think, actually.

“If you get the wrong place they’ll be overflowing by Saturday night – which is what happened last year.

“We’d put them in a part of Devonshire Green which the service vehicles couldn’t get to.

“So, this year we’ve moved things around to make sure the vehicles will have constant access. It should make for a more pleasurable – or at least more civilised – toilet experience. Proud of that.

“What else have we done? This year cars won’t be allowed on Division Street, and there’ll be a turnstile system on to the main site. It’s a new festival still and we’re learning – and I think getting better.

“I’ve been involved since year one. I was tour manager with the Arctic Monkeys before that and I think that’s why I was asked.

“On the day I’ll be solving issues that arise – which touch wood they won’t – but I’ll also be looking at ways it can be improved again for 2013.”


KATE Hewett, 27, is the bookings director - in charge of who plays the Main Stage, the New Bands Stage and the Cathedral. She lives in Leeds with her partner.

“Above all else, I think we want bands people can sing along to.

“That’s what I look for in headliners anyway, something that’s catchy and well-known like Ash last year or We Are Scientists this. You want people to go home having had a good time. And because it’s free I think we are allowed to be a bit left-field too, a bit experimental.

“The best thing is when you book a band you love. The worst? The stress trying to organise the groups on the weekend itself.

“Last year, just as Rolo Tomassi were about to go on the New Bands Stage, they couldn’t be found. I was looking for them everywhere.

“Turned out they were in the bowels of the City Hall being amazed by how grand it is.

“‘Glad you like it, guys, now get on stage’.”


ALEX Deadman, 29, was employed last year to spread the word about Tramlines via social media.

He also puts on a dubstep and jungle night. He lives in Crookesmoor.

“What’s my abiding memory of Tramlines last year? Probably when my lung collapsed.

“That was the Monday after. I don’t blame it on Tramlines – but the doctor said the level of rushing about we all do wouldn’t have helped. Has it put me off this year? No chance. I love it.

“I run our social media campaigns, trying to get the word out to people about what’s going on.

“It’s my job to ensure as many people as possible hear about us.

“That means getting press which means a lot of phoning and badgering journalists about artist interviews and news snippets – but it also means making the most of social media.

“When the line-up was announced we were trending on Twitter which was good.

“It was my first year being involved last year. My dad runs the Folk Forest Stage so I got the role through nepotism. Joking – I think the fact I’m back means I did a good job.

“On the weekend I spend the days doing press accreditation but last year I also DJ-ed at four different venues. I was pushing myself hard.

“I wouldn’t say the collapsed lung was worth it but these things happen.”