"The joy I felt standing in Sheffield's Tudor Square watching performer after performer cannot truly be captured in words"

On Monday the Government announced that the restrictions that we have all lived under for the past sixteen months will be lifted and July 19 is being heralded as “Freedom Day”.

Thursday, 8th July 2021, 12:00 am
Professor Vanessa with Barnsley based performers Mark Mark Productions and Charlie Chaplin. Picture: Becky Payne
Professor Vanessa with Barnsley based performers Mark Mark Productions and Charlie Chaplin. Picture: Becky Payne

Suddenly we can look forward to planning events, putting on shows and welcoming the audience back to enjoy the great cultural offer we have in the c ity. As the long and seemingly endless months of restrictions have sent an icy chill over plans and various false dawns have failed, now is the time to look forward to finally being able to plan.For the past eighteen months the venues, artists, producers, curators have worked together to keep our audience engaged and worked miracles in an increasingly harsh and difficult time.

Some have adapted to the new digital world with ingenuity and skill. Credit goes to the Children’s Media Conference and DocFest for continuing to attract international audiences to their events, albeit online or with a much reduced in person capacity. For others it has been a more difficult transition as our music venues and nightclubs have been silent and festivals throughout the city postponed or cancelled. But slowly things are starting to change and the news that Tramlines will go ahead even before Monday’s announcement was just the fillip needed to start to plan ahead and dare to dream.

In preparation for this, The University of Sheffield has partnered with key cultural organisations to try and bring joy and vibrancy back to streets of our city. Working with partners across the cultural sectors we will present four weekends of activities and performances and, most importantly, fun, free entertainment for the good people of Sheffield and those who choose to visit us. Our programme started by supporting Sheffield Theatre’s Together in the Square held at the end of June when we welcomed nearly 6,000 people to Tudor Square. Two days of street theatre, innovative performance and new talent was commissioned by Sheffield Theatre’s John Tomlinson and produced in association with Yellow Bus Events and the University. The weekend was one of magic and wonder as performers announced to the audience that this was their first gig since September 2019, or January 2020 and so on. People clapped and cheered and watched as behind the scenes friends were reunited, old tricks and routines performed with enthusiasm, new talent emerged and months of anxiety and worry evaporated in the summer sunshine.

Together in the Square was the start of the programme of events that will be happening over the next few months as part of Sheffield Council’s Summer in the City and the key to our programme is undoubtedly partnership. The teams from the University, Sheffield Theatres and the crew brought together by Yellow Bus Events, including Guy, our fantastic safety officer, worked seamlessly to bring laughter to the streets. Our weekend with the Theatre brought together event management, theatre programming, music production, staging, security, stewards. The list is endless and all of this talent is here in our great city.

Giving a platform through these weekend events to local talent is of critical importance as it brings people back into the city centre, helps support those who have not had the opportunity to work and provides free entertainment to audiences who may not have the resources to watch.

August presents an opportunity to work with another great Sheffield institution - The Leadmill. Programming is underway as we seek to highlight the depth and range of Sheffield’s music offering. Sheffield is without doubt a music city, not only for the bands and musicians it produces but for the technical wizardry of its producers, technicians, sound engineers and infrastructure. Alongside other creatives in the city we want this summer and the autumn months ahead to be transformative, to bring life and vitality back to the city centre and also happiness and joy to its residents and visitors alike. Pop Up University will return in September followed by Off the Shelf where we will partner with Sheffield Hallam University to celebrate the power of words and provide a platform for local poets and writers.

So we plan with hope and anticipation. This long winter has taught us that we need music, art and theatre, not just to entertain, but to raise our spirits, enrich our lives and provide a catalyst for coming together. The joy I felt standing in Tudor Square for 13 hours watching performer after performer sing, dance and juggle for the people of Sheffield cannot truly be captured in words. But I will try - It’s good to be back.