Fright Night biggest ever –but cash fears creeping in

Fright Night: Prof Vanessa Toulmin and students
Fright Night: Prof Vanessa Toulmin and students

ORGANISERS of Fright Night were reflecting this week on Sheffield’s biggest ever Hallowe’en spectacular – and starting to admit to their own fears over council funding for 2012 and beyond.

More than 40,000 visitors joined the city centre party on Sunday, with increasing numbers thought to be coming from outside the city.

“It’s the best turnout we have ever had,” said Scott Barton, of Yellow Bus Events.

“Fright Night’s Little Brother on The Moor really took off this year too and we were really blessed with the weather.

“The event was incident free and the police and youth service were fantastic. And all this is in a year where some other cities have seen riots and other disturbances on their streets.”

This year’s budget was about £60,000, spread between the council, the University of Sheffield, Travel South Yorkshire, sponsorship, fairground ride operators and food traders who set up stall on the city centre streets and precincts.

“By bringing in new partners, we have managed to grow and improve the quality of the event with a standstill budget from city centre management for five years,” said Scott.

But he admitted this week to a degree of nervousness over talks with the council due to be held next month.

“There are certain forces within the council who want to focus all their resources on events that generate bed nights rather than mass participation community events,” he said.

“The idea of Fright Night is that it brings all sections of the community together to enjoy the city centre and we think that is absolutely vital.

“As it happens, we are now getting more overnight stays and national media coverage but that is not the primary function of Fright Night. My worry is that if funding is spent exclusively on events that are about attracting visitors, the message is that for the people of Sheffield events are about them waiting on tables and cleaning toilets for visitors, not taking part themselves”.

One of the prime movers is now the University of Sheffield, with Prof Vanessa Toulmin, from the University’s National Fairground Archive, curating an installation of zombies.

More than 50 students auditioned and 19 were chosen to play out the scenarios with the help of John Marshall from Magic Carpet Theatre.

He said: “We had University of Sheffield students from all over the world and they have been wonderfully enthusiastic.”

A Dance Macabre was also created by Prof Toulmin, in collaboration with the Sheffield Youth Orchestra and Hype Community Dance.

The orchestra dressed as vampires and played classics such as Night on Hell’s Mountain, The March to the Scaffold and Phantom of the Opera, while the dance troupe dressed as skeletons.

Prof Toulmin, who was in costume as the child catcher from the film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, said: “This was our biggest and most ambitious collaboration yet with over 120 people involved, including children, students, academics and community volunteers.

“It’s amazing to see so many people working together and everyone had so much fun. We’re grateful to the Arts Council and the Dream Bigger Dreams initiative at the university for funding the event.”