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The History of Tramlines

Posted by: Maeve Burrell
The History of Tramlines supporting image

All photographs taken by E J W Photography

Once a free gathering in Devonshire Green, now an internationally known festival: Tramlines has continuously given the people of South Yorkshire and beyond their yearly music and entertainment kick – and continues to thrive

In 2009, Matt Helders of the Arctic Monkeys, Toddla T and from Reverend and the Makers (the Reverend himself) John McClure joined together to bring a free festival to Sheffield’s centre. The event attracted an estimated 35,000 attendees over the July weekend and brought great business to the many surrounding bars and businesses on the nearby Division Street and to the whole city centre.

 

With just one outdoor stage, artists such as Pixie Lott and Example attracted so many festival-goers that Tramlines was branded Europe’s largest free festival. It gave the Steel City a chance to celebrate its people and its local businesses, not to mention drawing attention to Sheffield’s vibrant music scene. Over the years, local artists like the Sherlocks and the Reytons have made an appearance to showcase the talent of their home county.

 

With such an initial success, Tramlines continued the next year in 2010, but attracted almost double the amount of people than the original. The festival needed to expand to fit all the eager fans, so 250 artists performed over several added venues like the Octagon Centre and Tudor square, igniting yet more of the city. The poster itself became more colourful too, with Echo and the Bunnymen headlining at the top for all to see.

 

This demanded a first come first serve turnstile system to be used in place, and organisers of the urban extravaganza began to consider its environmental impact, reducing waste and focusing on leaving the city how it was found.

 

It was not until 2013 that Tramlines began charging for entry, but at only £6 per day – still tremendous value to see artists such as Lianne La Havas and The Selector.

As bigger artists were added, ticket prices increased, and so did the attendees. With an estimation of 100,000 people being attracted to the city, Tramlines was going to need a bigger boat. In 2017, the now beloved festival was approved to play in the much larger Hillsborough Park which was able to accommodate 40,000, but still with an emphasis on keeping the city centre vibrant with plenty of free activities for people to enjoy. The festival’s name became even more relevant since Hillsborough was an easy destination to arrive at by tram, making full use of Sheffield’s handy transport networks.

 

This later became known as the Fringe at Tramlines, with acts returning to Devonshire Green to honour the festival’s humble beginnings.

 

In 2019 Tramlines won ‘Best Metropolitan Festival’ for the second time, leading to an anticipated large turnout for 2020. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic put a stop to proceedings and lead to two years of disruption that of course had its effect on Tramlines.

 

However, Tramlines 2022 is set to be back and bigger than ever, with newly popularised artists such as Sam Fender and Declan Mckenna, and classics such as Madness to round off the weekend. Reverend and the Makers will also be making an appearance as they have come full circle from bringing Tramlines to life to playing to entertain thousands of eager fans in Hillsborough Park. As the world returns to normalcy, there is no doubt that Sheffield biggest party will continue to make the news as one of the best opportunities for a weekend of fun in the whole of the UK.

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