Tramlines 2022 Sheffield: Hillsborough's businesses dreading 'no re-entry' policy spoiling festival atmosphere

Sheffield is ready and waiting for the return of Tramlines this weekend – but outside the main gates, businesses are not feeling the festival mood.

Thursday, 21st July 2022, 5:06 pm

The stage is set. This weekend, 35,000 people are expected to descend on the Hillsborough Park for the three-day highlight of Sheffield’s pop music scene.

But this year also sees the return of a controversial ‘no re-entry’ policy – any ticket holders who leave the venue will not be allowed back in.

Although organisers say a customer service tent will hear all appeals for re-entry on a “common sense” basis, for so many this will mean no freedom of movement.

Staff at every business The Star spoke to were upset at the no re-entry policy this weekend. One member of staff at The Delightful Touch railed against the lack of free movement, and staff at Jam's said the community stood to lose "thousands of pounds".

Anyone hoping to leave to sort out childcare, or go home for lunch, or take part in the city centre’s fantastic free Fringe offerings will think twice.

There is no freedom to see a band in the morning, nip home and return for the headliners.

There’s no option to go out to a favourite cafe for a minute’s peace.

Now, on the streets of Hillsborough, like farmers praying for rain, local cafes and stores wait anxiously to see what kind of weekend they are in for.

Tramlines says anyone who needs to leave in an emergency can approach their customer service tent on the day where they will dealt with with a "common sense" approach. Picture Scott Merrylees

“Last year we stocked up so much,” said Kate Walton, co-manager of Molly’s Cafe & Deli in Middlewood Road.

“We looked at the 35,000 coming and figured we would get a percentage of that.”

It should have been an easy thing.

Molly’s, and the dozens of other businesses on Middlewood Road, are almost directly outside the festival’s main entrance.

Kate Walton (left), co-manager of Molly's Cafe and Deli, says last year's no-entry policy left business on Middlewood Road "dead". The team say they haven't stocked up as much this year.

"It was dead,” said Kate.

“We had one maybe-normal day, and other than that it was flat.

“For such a small business like we are, the dips in money like that can put people under.”

And sadly, every business The Star spoke to in Hillsborough felt the same.

Tramlines Festival is ready to go in Hillsborough Park -- but businesses outside are feeling less than cheery. Picture Scott Merrylees

Last year’s no re-entry policy was a measure to contain the spread of Covid-19. Tramlines 2021 was one of the Government’s flagship pilot events to test if could be restrictions could be lifted.

Hillsborough councillor George Lindars-Hammond called the stance “frustrating but understandable”.

The councillor has been much more critical of this years reasoning.

Tramlines’ organisers have cited that ‘no re-entry’ helps issues with “site management”, and was supported by the city council’s Safety Advisory Group.

"It cuts across the interests of businesses, and a wide cross section of residents who attend the festival are really, really unhappy about it,” said Councillor Lindars-Hammond.

“I say this as a friend of Tramlines and not as an opponent – for a lot of reasons it’s turned much less into a community accessible event and fast towards a festival that is in Hillsborough, but not part of Hillsborough.

Setting up for Tramlines Fesival in Hillsborougfh Park. Picture Scott Merrylees

“People are really really positive about Tramlines. But a policy like this has a chance to sever the connection with the local community.”

And on Middlewood Road, that sentiment is on business owners’ lips.

“Don’t even get me started,” Jane Dyson, manager of Jam’s Cafe, told The Star.

“This was supposed to be for the community. It was sold to us on the idea that businesses could make lots of money.

“It will take all our business. We would have been really busy. We are talking thousands of pounds lost, and every year it is getting less and less.”

“Tramlines not only affects us for the weekend, but for the whole of the set up,” continued Kate at Molly’s Cafe.

“The whole month of the festival affects us, with traffic enforcement in place and no parking. For two weeks now it has been so flat.

“I think they are missing a trick. We go all over the country, and we see what festivals can be and it comes so far from the mark. This festival could’ve been so much more.”

“As a ticket holder, the thought of being imprisoned all day completely freaks me out,” said Lizzie Drennan, a member of staff at The Delightful Touch cafe.

“I’ve been in Sheffield for 24 years. Tramlines has always been a free festival and it should have stayed that way.”

The upset in the community is palpable.

Several business expressed their frustration that Tramlines’ founding mission statement was that customers could ride the city’s trams to every end of town and see what was on offer.

This year’s Fringe at Tramlines offering is one of the most vibrant its ever had.

Devonshire Green and the Peace Gardens will both buzzing with live music and culture.

Parties and independent events are being held by bars, pubs and club venues up and down the city.

Even simple searches online will uncover the wealth of talent on show through Beerlines, Clamlines, The Fringe and in dozens of pubs.

One member of staff at the newly opened Depot Bakery, set in Hillsborough Park itself, called Fringe “the best bit” of the weekend.

The cafe’s manager, Steph Veall, said: “As a ticketholder, I’m very excited. But I also don’t know who it’s going to go.

"The cafe might get some people on their way in the morning. We might even get people who think they can catch some of the music from here.

“I can understand that businesses inside want a monopoly on the trade, but I imagine it will be quite expensive.”

Tramlines’ organisers say the decision was made after the city council’s Safety Advisory Group “confirmed significant additional benefits” to the policy.

Tramlines organisers say anyone who needs to leave the festival due to a change of plans or an emergency should speak to staff at their Customer Service tent, located next to Medics and Welfare.

Parents, families and those have medical needs have raised their concerns with how this will work on the day. But that remains to be seen.

In the meantime, the businesses of Middlewood Road want to make the most of it.

One side effect of last year’s no-entry policy even the cafes’ regular customers did not come out as they assumed it would be too busy.

This year, they are appealing for anyone not headed inside Tramlines’ fences to pay them a visit in any way they can.

“I’m don’t want to sound like I’m against Tramlines,” continued Kate, at Molly’s. “But I’m very disappointed in them.

"On the day we’re going to have a DJ and drinks on sale.

“We want to create a party for those who are not going. We know our customer base and we know who will be coming.”

Tramlines’ organisers’ statement on June 15 on the re-entry policy, plus their clarification on the ‘common sense’ policy, is published in full below:

“The single daily entry policy has been included as a condition with 2022 tickets since they went on sale last July, following its introduction with other COVID-related measures in 2021. During our review of the policy, the festival’s Safety Advisory Group confirmed significant additional benefits including reduced demand on Police time, less litter and environmental impact and a noticeable improvement in road safety. While we recognise that continuation of the policy will change the way festival goers interact with some local businesses, we believe it will be positive for the community as a whole.

“42 local businesses and over 500 local staff will be working with us on site this year and we are proud to continue our many other local initiatives: more free and discounted tickets than ever taken up through the expanded Local Resident Ticket Scheme; the launch of the Tramlines Trust to extend our support for local charitable organisations; work placements and internships for Sheffield students seeking experience in our industry; bookings across the lineup for local bands, spoken word artists and poets; commitment to ongoing improvements to our home at Hillsborough Park; our wonderful collaboration with Hillsborough Primary School; continued partnership with Tickets for Good, with a selection of tickets donated this year for NHS workers.

“We can reassure Access ticket holders that they will be looked after, as always, by our dedicated team and their needs met individually as required. Those with unforeseen or emergency circumstances during the weekend should speak to staff at the Customer Service tent located next to Medics and Welfare, who will also take a common sense approach to requests involving childcare.

“The evolution of Tramlines over thirteen years has enabled us to invest in bringing the best artists and entertainers, from around the world and our own doorstep, together for one weekend at Hillsborough Park. After a challenging couple of years, we are hugely grateful to the people of Sheffield for backing us with a sold-out festival. We’re working hard to make this the best Tramlines ever and we can’t wait to welcome everyone back next month.”

A clarification on the ‘common sense’ approach, issued on June 16, is as follows:

"As with our previous editions, in line with our 2021 Gold Status award from Attitude is Everything access customers will be able to make specific arrangements with the access manager should they need to leave and re enter the festival. You can contact them by emailing: [email protected]

“Those with unforeseen or emergency circumstances during the weekend should speak to staff at the Customer Service tent located next to Medics and Welfare. The Customer Service Team will also make arrangements for parents who need to take children home and wish to return to site on their own later.

“Those permitted to re-enter the site will be able to do so once, subject to the same entrance procedures as first arrival and will have to be back on site before the gates close for all ticket holders at 19:30.”