Tramlines, tour de Sheffield – and television

Great few days in Sheffield. Last weekend the fantastic Tramlines festival brought around 150,000 people to venues across the city, for a feast of free gigs. With music for every taste we were spoiled for choice and the atmosphere was cracking – helped everyone’s relief that at last the rain had subsided.

We got down to the Sheffield Library Theatre on the Friday night, sadly only catching David Roch’s last song – but what a piercing, haunting voice he has, and he did re-appear later for a duet with Neil – and then enjoying See Emily Play and Neil McSweeney. Emily has a growing loyal following and Neil is – well – a local legend – and both delivered stunning sets.  Emily gave a deliciously eccentric performance delivering mesmerising music. Playing with the Sheffield Chamber Orchestra (and what a great addition this made) as well as her normal backing band, she accompanied her soaring, clear voice with piano and guitar and was clearly having as much fun as the audience. A wonderful talent.

Buy Neil McSweeney's music via his website


Neil McSweeney’s set included many favourites from his first two albums including sublime crowd-pleaser London Road, and showcased a few tracks (which all begin with ‘S,’ we are told, but will one of them be called ‘Simon’?!) from a new album due out in autumn.

Enjoying plenty of dry banter with the crowd McSweeney ably demonstrated his, and tight, taut backing band the Gents’, capabilities. Great voice, great band, great gig: and even a very good humoured mosh pit. My son said it was the best gig he’d ever been to!


Katriona Gilmore & Jamie Roberts

Tramlines of course continued all weekend; Hey Sholay, Alt-J, 65daysofstatic and Reverend and the Makers were well received, and of course perennial Sheff favourites the Everly Pregnant Brothers did their thing too. The Folk Forest returned to Endcliffe Park for Saturday and Sunday, care of co-operative Regather – we particularly enjoyed Katriona Gilmore and Jamie Roberts while supping from the Thornbridge Ale tent and strolling from sun to shade.

“An unmissable date on the festival calendar, meticulously planned and executed, in an ideal world, every city would have a festival like Tramlines, but if any one city deserves it, Sheffield does…it now has yet another thing to be proud of,” writes Chris Swindells on Virtual Festivals. Spot on.

The British Cycling Elite Circuit Series Sheffield Grand Prix, July 2012, © Jamie Veitch

Then Wednesday night saw the cycling Grand Prix come to city centre Sheffield, with two exciting cycle races tearing round a closed course. I caught the men’s race which was the final round of the British Cycling Elite Circuit Race Series. Watching from next to the barriers the speed is pretty startling – even to a seasoned cyclist. Some magnificent pictures by Jerry Lampson are here. Full reports on the races via this link and also over on Postcode Gazette. I found cycling back home afterwards in the muggy evening a pretty slow and sweaty affair and really appreciated just how fit and fast these riders are. A great spectacle.

So why bring Tramlines and a bike race together in a post – after all, we Sheffielders all know just what a splendid city we live in. Well the Council’s Simon Green, Executive Director for Place, mentioned both as examples of great things happening in the city at a public meeting on Wednesday evening. Of course we also have Cliffhanger, Off the Shelf, ShAFF, Chance to Dance, the Children’s Festival, Doc/Fest, MADE, Sheftival, and masses of other fabulous and unique ‘made in Sheffield’ events across the city and in neighbourhoods.

What you may not yet be aware of is the opportunity the city has for a local television station.  The public meeting on Wednesday night that Simon Green spoke at was all about this, with Steve Buckley of local consortium Sheffield Local Television explaining that the government will be granting licenses for local television stations to 21 locations, including Sheffield.

Originally Sheffield was not on the list, and Steve and his consortium lobbied hard to get the city included; in May it was announced that it will be. Steve, of course, has been working in community media for 30 years and via CM Solutions advises new radio and tv stations – and even governments – all over the world.

The meeting was great. Back to Simon Green, who said Sheffield “is a national leader in creativity and productivity,” and that the creative industries contribute £1bn of turnover to the city region’s economy, employing 10,000 people. He called the opportunity for a Sheffield TV channel hugely exciting, saying it would help take the city’s creative industries to a new level and play a great part in the city’s economic agenda as well as its creative one.

The public meeting also included programming ideas and I reported on some very encouraging interim results from a city wide survey (running until 3 August – I am helping to run this survey about programming as well as a survey of business’ views – links to both are below).

Sheffield Local Television says the proposed channel would be available via freeview on digital television as well as via cable and the internet, and Steve Buckley makes the point that:

“Sheffield has a superb local history of culture, creativity and innovation. A local television channel would build on this history – and provide a fresh, accessible medium for the city to participate in and a great platform for Sheffield’s talent.”

Whether you agree or disagree with Steve, you can make your views heard in the programming or business survey or on the Sheffield Local Television facebook page.

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