Music, walks, talks and garden parties: Enduring appeal of the Broomhill Festival in Sheffield

The 45th edition of the Broomhill Festival begins tomorrow (Friday) – heralding a landmark year for an event set up in 1975 by a group of architecture students fresh from carrying out a project in the suburb.

By Richard Blackledge
Thursday, 06 June, 2019, 17:52
A tug of war contest at last year's Broomhill Festival. Picture: Steve Ellis

The inaugural celebration ran for just six days. Subsequently the programme straddled more than a fortnight, but in 2017 a more streamlined format was adopted to safeguard the festival’s future.

Concerts, talks, history walks, open garden tours, a five-a-side football tournament and activities for children at Broomhill Library are all lined up for 2019, with each event raising funds for a local charity of the organisers’ own choosing.

Musical highlights include the chance to help form the choir for a recital of Karl Jenkins’ The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace at St Mark’s Church on Sunday, June 16.

Then, on Tuesday at the church, there is a lunchtime concert by Robin Ireland – formerly of the Lindsay Quartet – and Martin Cropper, of the Sheffield Music Academy and son of the Lindsays’ Peter Cropper.

A further lunchtime concert – with the title ‘Crossing Borders’ – is taking place next Friday at St Mark’s, featuring soprano Emma Gough and pianist David Gough, head of accompaniment at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester.

On Monday, a slideshow and talk at the Beacon Methodist Church will explore the lives of Sir Francis Galton and Sir Douglas Galton, Victorian pioneers in genetics, fingerprints, hospital design, railways and sanitation.

The next day at the same venue, the Yorkshire Dialect Society Council will present an evening of entertainment dedicated to God’s Own County, where gallons of Yorkshire Tea will naturally be served.

A garden party on St Mark’s Green from 2pm on Saturday will feature maypole dancing, craft stalls and a cafe.

But the most unusual event is likely to be an educational day at St Mark’s next Thursday, June 20, where schoolchildren will learn to play a wooden one-octave organ – an instrument the size of a large table – that teaches the science of sound.

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Some aspects of the original programme from 1975 – the garden party, art exhibitions and music – remain today. Some haven’t stood the test of time, however, like the croquet tournament, dog show and the un-PC ‘most beautiful person competition’.

Records show that since 1996 the festival has supported 80 charities and given away over £200,000. 

After the 2016 festival, the committee decided that it was no longer practical to run it in its old format and it was in danger of disappearing. A new committee was then formed and the event continued under the strapline ‘by the community, for the community’.

This year’s theme is ‘Over the Moon’, marking 50 years since the Apollo 11 Moon landings in 1969. Competitions will reflect the topic – a shop window contest around Broomhill, an ‘art on a postcard’ competition for children and a ‘space race’ trail for schools.

For adults, a crossword competition is being held during the festival week. Entry forms can be downloaded from the website, or paper copies can be obtained from the library.

 A further classical recital, the Concert For Nepal, is happening on June 28 at St Mark’s separately from the festival proper, which ends on June 23.

See www.broomhill-festival.org.uk for full details.

Printed brochures are available from Broomhill Post Office, Williamson’s, Ginger Coffee Shop & Deli, Lokanta and Med Food Co, as well as other places in the neighbourhood.