Some of my festival highlights
So it is all over for another year. In terms of numbers, Tramlines is now around the size of Glastonbury, attracting an estimated 150,000 people over the weekend. The crowds were treated to the usual mix of musical genres, with most tastes catered for in some shape or form. I’ve picked out a few aspects of the festival that I really liked this year…
It was an inspired idea to schedule the free launch of Kid acne’s new exhibition on the Friday night of Tramlines. If you don’t think you know who Kid acne is then you will have certainly seen his work around town. The launch was the perfect warm up to the festival, with live music, drinks, a look round his exhibition and loads of familiar Sheffield faces. Then there was plenty of time after to go and see more music, including Heaven 17′s homecoming performance in Barkers pool.
The Folk forest
A haven away from the city centre and well worth a visit even if you weren’t a folk fan. What’s not to like about lying back under the trees with the sun shining, listening to live music while enjoying a local beer? The heaving centre of town over Tramlines weekend isn’t everyone’s cup of tea and the enchanting Folk forest in Endcliffe park did a good job of widening the appeal of the festival to an older – and younger – audience.
The Busker bus
A handy way to get around and also a venue in itself. Watching someone perform against the backdrop of a vibrant Sheffield through the window was a brilliant combination. Half the fun was just turning up and seeing who hopped on to perform: it could have been anything from big local names to great new music or even an X Factor boy band fresh from the main stage.
More people and more venues
This year there were even more venues involved across a wider area of the city, including some of the more suburban pubs and cafes. And seeking sanctuary in the cathedral for some lovely acoustic music was a magical experience (plus having a drink in the pews was also quite good fun). More venues over a wider area meant more people, although this didn’t stop Tramlines still being a good place to bump into random friends.
There’s no denying that a weekend of sunshine makes all the difference and this year the weather was possibly the best yet. After a very light shower on the Friday night, the sun shone on both the main days which would have no doubt encouraged even more people out.
The Tramlines brand
This year the visual identity of Tramlines was given an overhaul and it was a big improvement. Sheffield agency Peter and Paul designed a new font specifically for the festival, which was used on all the promotional material and also picked up by other outlets. The poster campaign featuring familiar and unfamiliar Sheffield faces shot by photographer Sean Bloodworth also looked great around town. It all made for quite a distinctive campaign that communicated one of the main selling points of Tramlines; that it was free for everyone.
A boost for the city centre
The experience of a trip to Sheffield city centre is a bit patchy to say the least. Many of the shop units stand empty due to the recession or in anticipation of Sevenstone construction starting, which has left it all a bit in limbo. Tramlines resulted in the streets being packed with people and local businesses doing well out of what would otherwise have been a quiet summer weekend. Anecdotal evidence suggests that trade was busy – there were reports of one bar running out or beer and another making more over Tramlines weekend than they make in a month.
With an official festival brew in the shape of Tramlines ale, other local breweries like Thornbridge taking part and many of Sheffield’s real ale pubs on the circuit, there was no reason not to steer clear of the keg lager, even in the main stage areas.
Same again next year?
Overall it seems like Tramlines 2011 was another success. Some people were wary of the impact of a big sponsor coming on board, although this didn’t seem to make a discernible negative difference. Others are still expecting to see a lot more bigger names playing, even though this would be hard to manage at a ticketless, free festival.
For me Tramlines isn’t just about seeing big bands, or even being regimental about the music you do try and see. The friends I know who enjoyed it the most are the ones who got out and about and threw themselves into what and wherever their weekend took them, whether it was a rammed and sweaty pub or the tranquility of the Folk forest.
How do you think it compared to previous years? And what would you suggest for 2012 – is there anything they should keep, ditch or should be doing?
The Radical departures What I learned from Tramlines 2011 blog post is a good read and has some useful tips for if and when the festival returns in 2012.