IT’S a tough act to follow. Organisers of the latest Tramlines festival have set the bar extremely high for Sheftival, which will combine music and sport at Don Valley over the ‘Jess Ennis Olympics weekend’ of August 4 and 5.
It helped enormously, of course, that after a damp start, the sun shone on Tramlines and brought out crowds estimated to total 150,000 over the weekend.
And the attraction of a free festival is always going to take some beating.
While the Sheftival team finalise its preparations - and it has a strong line-up of bands for the Don Valley Bowl - the Tramlines organisers can be excused a breather. In the immediate aftermath of what was generally regarded as a hugely successful event, generating an exceptionally vibrant atmosphere in the city centre, a predictable reaction was to ask how the festival could be made even bigger and better.
For example, activities in Endcliffe Park and Weston Park helped to broaden the appeal of Tramlines in terms of attracting a wider age range - so why not stage similar events in more parks next year? But organisers were keen to put the brakes on such speculation.
Nothing will be decided until they meet the council in September - not even whether will be a festival next year, although given the momentum and the latest success, that is virtually unthinkable.
But in the current economic climate, much will depend on whether sponsors will step forward again. The council gave £86,000 this year, which covers about one-third of the costs, and it has a general policy of reducing contributions across the board to organisations.
Coun Isobel Bowler, cabinet member for culture, sport and leisure said this week: “It was great to see such huge numbers turn out in the city centre and outlying areas this year. Tramlines is a unique event for the city and one which the council is committed to making sure continues year on year. We are continuing to work closely with the event organisers to make sure this happens despite the ever demanding financial climate.”
In theory, there is the option of charging for some events, although there has been no indication so far that anybody wants to go down that road.
No, Tramlines’ reputation was sealed last weekend as a successful free urban festival - one that pulled in visitors from outside Sheffield, especially the big cities of Leeds, Manchester and Nottingham, although some came from Scotland and Ireland. And that was one of the aims this time - to entice more music fans who would spend their money while in the city to the benefit of shops, bars, pubs, hotels and other businesses. Last year’s boost to the local economy was put at £2.5m.
While there were no immediate pointers for the fifth festival, some of the latest changes and additions were judged to have worked. Keeping traffic off more of Devonshire Street was an obvious move.
The Folk Forest and craft market in Endcliffe Park were a magnet for not only for folk enthusiasts, but also brought the Hunters Bar brigade (and others) out in force. Street entertainment in Tudor Square thanks to Yellow Bus Events and Professor Vanessa at the University of Sheffield offered a hugely enjoyable additional string to the festival’s bow.
Large numbers of volunteers helped to ensure the whole weekend ran smoothly.
Festival director Sarah Nulty said: “Literally hundreds of people have worked ridiculously hard to make Tramlines happen - working stupid hours for little or no money. Behind the scenes an army of people have been working for months to make this happen and a lot of local artists have put their time in for free.
“We couldn’t put Tramlines on if it wasn’t for everyone’s tireless dedication and I personally want to thank our amazing volunteers, everyone at the council, our sponsors, everyone who has performed over the weekend an of course everyone who came.
“The Sheffield music scene is fantastic and Tramlines really showcases what the city has to offer. We know that this year we had a lot more people from outside of the city visiting Sheffield especially for Tramlines. We want those people, and others, to come back for the other 51 weeks of the year too.”
And while announcements about next year’s Tramlines are awaited, Sheffield has the chance to show its commitment in the Don Valley next weekend.