UP TO 175,000 music fans are expected to descend on Sheffield city centre next weekend for the annual Tramlines Festival.
More than 600 acts will perform on four main stages and at 70 venues for a free event that is being described as an “urban Glastonbury” in terms of the numbers of visitors and the ethos of wandering from site to site.
Certainly the festival, with a line-up that reflects a vibrant local music scene, has grown significantly since it was launched three years ago, and it is attracting increasing national attention.
In 2009, there were 60,000 fans and last year the figure had risen to 130,000. “This year we expect a total of 175,000 people over the whole weekend, a staggering number,” said festival director Dave Healy.
“After last year’s event, we immediately set about looking at ways of improving the festival. With attendances currently doubling every year and Sheffield running out of places to put people, we felt now was a good time to expand further, spreading ourselves over more days, stages, venues and even areas of the city.
“The Blues and Ale Trail is much bigger this year with more pubs involved, the Youth Music Festival has been moved to the Peace Gardens on Sunday with extended hours and the Folk Forest, our own folk festival, has been added, taking place in Endcliffe Park.
“Our vision at the outset was to make Sheffield feel like a greenfield festival site.”
One of the aims, said Dave, is to encourages the audience “to wander around the city and discover something new as well as checking in with a few old favourites”.
The main stage over the weekend starting July 22 will be on Devonshire Green. It will feature Ash on the Sunday and, under the banner of Hallam FM, Pixie Lott and Olly Murs on the Saturday.
It becomes the Nokia Unannounced Stage on the Friday including a major Sheffield band whose identity is being announced tomorrow (Friday).
Other stages are dotted around pubs, bars and other music venues across the city, with performances starting next Thursday as ‘ramlines Eve. Highlights include Guillemots at The Leadmill and local bands at The Forum, The Harley and The Bowery, the Frog and Parrot and the Common Room.
James O’Hara, head booker at Tramlines, said: “When we started the festival it was to make sure that the city’s venues were given a shot in the arm to help keep them afloat over the summer. Tramlines has expanded year on year and it’s only right that the venues are at the heart of our expansion.
“Tramlines Eve gives people a flavour of what to expect over the whole festival weekend. All being well, we could even be looking to make Tramlines a four-day event in the future. And of course it’s all free.”
A world music stage is being located in the Peace Gardens on the Saturday and an addition this year is an Under the Stars stage, based on the successful nightclubs for people with learning disabilities and their friends at the Hubs in Sheffield city centre, over the weekend.
Organisers add: “The whole idea of Tramlines is that you wander around the city and soak up the atmosphere. We are trying to turn the whole city into one big festival playground. So, to help with this – and to prevent Tramlines from becoming another great pollution event on the road to destruction – we are begging you: Please leave your car at home.”
While most fans come from Sheffield and the surrounding area, growing numbers are coming from places such as Leeds, Manchester, Nottingham and Derby.
The council is paying £110,000, just over a third of the cost of the festival. Sponsors Nokia are financing around one third and other income comes from a variety of sources including stallholders.
lFood Festival success, page 17.