Timm Cleasby, operations boss of Tramlines
In 2009 I was tour manager for Arctic Monkeys when (drummer) Matt Helders mentioned he was getting involved in a festival and wanted it to be delivered to a certain standard and that the plans were solid.
He asked me if I’d go along to a few meetings and in the first year I helped make sure everything was in place and did some stage management and it escalated from there.
There’s been a lot of developments over the last ten years , not least growing from Devonshire Green to Devonshire Green and the Peace Gardens, to Barkers Pool. Then lots more venues got involved and we just outgrew the city centre because we were trying to shoehorn a festival into a space that was too small. There were concerns from the council and the police too about the amount of people coming into the city centre and some years I felt we were pushing the limit in terms of people queuing to get in as well.
From that point I started looking at other green open spaces – I feel like I surveyed every bit of grass in Sheffield! – in Sheffield to see where else could accommodate us, from Ponderosa to Norfolk Park to Hillsborough Park.
It became quite apparent quite quickly that there were only a small number of sites for anything bigger than what we had, especially as Norfolk Park didn’t have enough exit points.
Ponderosa felt workable as we could keep that connection with the city centre, but it just didn’t feel enough like a festival. So for the tenth birthday last year we decided to invest in moving to a bigger site at Hillsborough Park which had a lot of things going for it – it was a great green flat space with other areas for substantial stages, had that inclusive sense of a festival and was walkable or reachable on tram.
The council agreed Hillsborough was a good site capacity-wise, too, and we looked at it and said: ‘This will work.’
Certainly, in the early years getting footfall into city centre bars during the summer while the students were away was a big economic driver and over the years a lot of those bars tell us Tramlines is the best weekend of the year for them. That still translates now, maybe not as much with the main stage being at Hillsborough, but there are still plenty of fringe events in the centre which we work with the council on.
Tramlines has certainly had its impact economically and raising the profile of Sheffield over the years. In terms of national press coverage, we regularly get featured in the Guardian’s and national magazines’ pick of festivals. Artists and agents can look at festivals cautiously, but they are looking at Tramlines as a good solid foundation – it’s got its place, it’s got its audience, its got longevity.
It’s changed the view of the Sheffield music scene and our cultural offering. It has raised the bar for the city.