Tramlines’ Timm Cleasby: ‘We wanted to show it could be done’
Tramlines’ operations director has said he hopes the event can serve as a blueprint for how major, multi-day music festivals can be staged safely until the threat of the coronavirus has receded.
Tramlines, whose 2021 edition took place at Hillsborough Park in Sheffield from Friday 23 to Sunday 25 July, was, along with Latitude in Suffolk, one of two 40,000-capacity festivals to take place last weekend as part of the UK’s Events Research Programme pilot scheme.
Timm Cleasby, says he hopes the success of the events – which used the National Health Service’s Covid Pass app to certify attendees’ vaccination or Covid-19 test status – will demonstrate that music festivals can be held under pandemic conditions, even in the event of tightened restrictions or further lockdowns in future. “I feel like what we’ve done is started to pave the way for the rest of the industry to open up in a way that minimises the risk for everyone,” he explains.
Cleasby (pictured), a former tour manager for the Arctic Monkeys who has been with Tramlines since its debut as a publicly funded city-centre festival in 2009, tells IQ: “It’s so important because the festival industry is on such a knife edge. It only takes something to go to go a bit wrong and then we’re locked down again. So I feel like what we’ve done is really important and hopefully will be able to show people that it can be done.”
Featuring performances from the Streets, Dizzee Rascal, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Little Simz, the Sherlocks and more, Tramlines grew both its capacity and festival site for 2021, adding 10,000 people and a number of site improvements. The festival came together in just five weeks, the tiny window adding extra time pressure to challenges in staffing, equipment hire and more, Cleasby continues. “It was definitely a challenge,” he says, “also because of the extra costs [involved in the pilot format].”
“We did everything we could to give us that space for everyone to feel more comfortable, because it was the first festival back”
“But we made our bars bigger, we got better queuing systems, more toilets, a new arena for stage two… so we did everything we could to give us that space for everyone to feel more comfortable, simply because it was the first festival back,” he adds. “You want to make sure that when people come they have a great time, and from what I saw over the weekend they had a smashing time.”
Specific “curve balls” the Tramlines team had to handle in those five weeks were staff shortages caused by Brexit and the ongoing NHS contact-tracing crisis, or ‘pingdemic’, and issues with the supply chain as a result of the pandemic.
“All the [Covid-19] testing centres and vaccination centres have marquees, cabins, toilets, terraced fencing, etc., and it’s all set up for a long-term hire, so there’s a shortage of equipment that is affecting all the festivals,” Cleasby explains. “And then there’s the fact that people aren’t manufacturing so much because their workforces are furloughed, or they relied on European workers, so stuff isn’t coming into the country as it should be. It’s a proper mixture of everything.
“For instance, our marquee supplier, literally a week before we were due to arrive on site, said, ‘I’m sorry but we can’t deliver anything to you’, because their staff had all been ‘pinged’ [told to self-isolate]. In the end, we had to find a marquee supplier that was also a manufacturer, which could manufacture marquees for us over the weekend, come in Monday morning and put them up, and then still be manufacturing that week as well – so as we’re putting them up, they’re making more!”
The Tramlines team also faced difficulties with cabin and plant hire, he continues, and had to put in place numerous contingency plans for if festival employees and staff were also ordered to self-isolate after coming in contact with someone with Covid-19.
Despite the stress of the past five weeks, Cleasby says it was worth it to see a full festival site in Hillsborough Park after two years away.
“It was fantastic to see everyone, bumping into old friends and having that moment of ‘Oh my God, We’re doing it!’” he says. “Over the weekend, everyone was buzzing – firstly that we’d managed to pull it off in such a short timescale, and secondly that we were back: We’re back in the park, we’re doing it and delivering it and just watching the audience having the time of their lives.”
Cleasby says he’s now looking forward to next summer, albeit hopefully under more normal conditions and with longer to pull the event together. “A bit longer time to get it off the ground would be nice,” he jokes. “Maybe six weeks next year…”
Tickets for Tramlines 2022 are on sale now, priced from £120 + booking fee (tier three).
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Over 100k fans enjoy huge UK festival weekend
Hundreds of thousands of music fans flocked to open-air venues across the UK last weekend for the country’s first big festival weekend since the summer of 2019.
Festival Republic’s Latitude and Superstruct-backed Tramlines, both 40,000-capacity, Broadwick Live’s Standon Calling (15,000-cap.) and Alexandra Palace’s Kaleidoscope (10,000-cap.) were among the events to take advantage of Covid-status certification – ie requiring proof of vaccine or a negative Covid-19 test from attendees – to do away with social distancing and create the first ‘normal’ festival experiences of the coronavirus era.
While the two biggest events were held as government-backed pilots as part of the Events Research Programme (ERP), all four festivals implemented some form of pre-event screening for Covid-19 status: Latitude, Tramlines and Kaleidoscope used the NHS (National Health Service) Covid Pass app to check festivalgoers were either fully vaccinated or had returned a negative test, while Standon Calling went a step further, requiring a negative test even if attendees had received both doses of a Covid-19 vaccine.
Latitude took place from 22 to 25 July at Henham Park in Suffolk with performers including Bastille, Wolf Alice, the Chemical Brothers and Bombay Bicycle Club.
Festival Republic MD Melvin Benn told local media that the stringent entry requirements meant the Latitude site was “close to being the safest place in England” last weekend, with even performers not able to bypass the checks (two acts, Fontaines DC and Alfie Templeman, were forced to cancel after testing positive and were replaced by Sleaford Mods and Sports Team, respectively).
Staff were “breaking down in tears” over being able to work again
The first festival most of those in attendance had been to since 2019, the same applied to many of the event’s staff; Benn told the BBC he knew of technicians and support staff who had been “breaking down in tears” that they were able to work again after 16 months of minimal event activity.
In addition to the music and comedy programme – other performers included Rudimental, Damon Albarn, Supergrass, Hot Chip, Kaiser Chiefs, Bill Bailey and king of the internet Rick Astley – Latitude also featured a ‘vaccine bus’, staffed by NHS workers, where over-18s could get either their first or second dose of a Covid-19 vaccine on a walk-in basis.
In Hertfordshire, popular boutique event Standon Calling made a welcome return from 22 to 25 July, planning four days of family friendly fun headlined by Bastille, Hot Chip, Primal Scream and Craig David’s TS5.
Though it, too, successfully navigated Covid-19 to go ahead as planned, the festival came to an abrupt end yesterday after organisers were forced to pull the plug due to the flash flooding which had left much of southern England underwater.
Unfortunately due to flooding we will no longer be able to proceed with the festival.
If you can safely leave the site this evening please do so as soon as possible. We are working on getting everyone off site as safely and quickly as possible.
— Standon Calling (@StandonCalling) July 25, 2021
Among the artists booked to play on Sunday were Primal Scream, Craig David, De La Soul and Sophie Ellis-Bextor.
“Hearing the first band ring out over the festival was an emotional moment”
Also taking part in the ERP was Tramlines, which welcomed 40,000 people a day to Hillsborough Park in Sheffield from 23 to 25 July.
Featuring performances from the Streets, Dizzee Rascal, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Little Simz, the Sherlocks and more, the sold-out event grew both its capacity and festival site for 2021, adding 10,000 people, a new cabaret stage, The Open Arms, and a new arena for its second, T’Other stage to become the biggest Tramlines yet.
“After 18 months of strangeness, it was unbelievable to be back in the park again,” says the festival’s operations director, Timm Cleasby. “There have been so many hurdles we’ve had to jump to get here and, honestly, it’s been quite a rollercoaster. It’s been great to see so many happy smiling faces, from crew getting back to the thing they love to revellers having the time of their lives watching the bands they love. Hearing the first band ring out over the festival was an emotional moment.
“I’d really like to thank everyone for playing their part with the NHS Covid Pass system. It ran very smoothly, and by being part of the Events Research Programme together we’re helping to pave the way for festivals and live events to get back to normal. I’m full of gratitude for everyone: our amazing crew and suppliers, the support from the DCMS [Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport], Public Health Sheffield, Sheffield Council and, of course, our fans. Thank you all for helping us do this – we love you all and we can’t wait to see you all next year.”
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Tramlines to go ahead in July with 40,000 fans
Sheffield’s Tramlines festival has announced it will go ahead at its full capacity of 40,000 next month after joining the third phase of the UK’s pilot events initiative, the Events Research Programme (ERP).
Tramlines, majority owned by Superstruct Entertainment, is the latest festival to join the next round of ERP pilots, following news late last week that Festival Republic’s Latitude will also be held as a clinically controlled ERP event. Tramlines 2021 will take place in Hillsborough Park in Sheffield from 23 to 25 July, with headliners the Streets, Royal Blood and Richard Ashcroft.
Tramlines’ participation in the programme means the festival can go ahead independently of national reopening dates (provisionally scheduled for 19 July) with fans not expected to socially distance or wear masks. All attendees will be required to have had two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine or submitted a negative lateral-flow test in the previous 48 hours.
The good news for Tramlines comes as Womad, the festival of world music held annually in the Wiltshire countryside, cancels its 2021 edition (which was scheduled for 22–25 July) citing ongoing uncertainty around the reopening date and the continued lack of government-backed event cancellation insurance for large events.
“We have not been asking for financial support; all we have wanted is certainty in the form of insurance against cancellation (that we’d be happy to pay for),” reads a statement from the festival, which which was to have featured performances by Anoushka Shankar, Nitin Sawhney, Greentea Peng and more. Referring to the ‘test event’ status granted to some events, organisers add: “The industry should see equal access to support and a much less opaque way of deciding who gets help.”
Elsewhere, as Womad cancelled Standon Calling in Hertfordshire confirmed it would “go for it” with its 15th-anniversary event, held over the same dates.“The government’s impressive vaccination record, the Event Research Programme data published at the end of last week (which showed there were no substantial outbreaks at phase one of the test events) and yesterday’s comments made by the new secretary of state for health and social Care that 19 June will be the ‘end of the line’ for Covid restrictions have encouraged us to go for it,” explains founder Alex Trenchard.
“It is very important to us that clear guidance is made available quickly to the entire event community”
Commenting on Tramlines being awarded ERP status, the festival’s operations director, Timm Cleasby, says: “We are absolutely delighted to be able to confirm that Tramlines 2021 is going ahead, having accepted the government’s invitation to join the Events Research Programme. This means we have a proven framework to follow, which at previous events has shown that festivals can be enjoyed at no more risk than other activities. Once inside, there will be no need for social distancing and no one will have to wear a mask if they don’t want to.
“We would like to express our solidarity with those festivals which have not been able to go ahead this year and those which are still seeking clarity. It is very important to us that clear guidance is made available quickly to the entire event community so that as many festivals as possible can go ahead with confidence this summer. Huge ticket sales across the sector show how keen fans are to come to our events and we want to help reassure them that we can welcome them back safely.”
UK culture minister Caroline Dinenage adds: “I know how desperately people want to get back to festivals, which is why they’re a hugely important part of our Events Research Programme.
“As we continue to work towards live events reopening fully on 19 July, this year’s Tramlines festival will provide more vital scientific evidence and allow us to trial Covid certification, building on what we’ve learnt from our successful Sefton Park [Pilot] and Download [Pilot] events.”
All ticketholders for the sold-out festival will be contacted by Tramlines’ ticketing partner, Gigantic, by email on 1 July with further details. Anyone who does not want to take part in the Tramlines pilot may roll over their ticket to Tramlines 2022 at no extra cost.
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Festivalgoers’ data for sale in latest email scam
Email marketers are offering to sell lists of festival attendee data to music business professionals, in the latest suspected email scam to target the live industry.
IQ has learnt that alleged fraudsters have offered to sell the data of attendees to “many events across Europe”, including Norway’s Øya Festival and the UK’s Tramlines, to booking agencies and record labels.
The majority of the emails, all sharing the same format, come from several email addresses traced by IQ to one Vikram H, operating from an apartment block in Bangalore, India. If one takes Vikram up on his offer, respondents are directed to a company registered anonymously in Arizona. None of the people involved responded to multiple requests for comment.
The alleged scam entails offering music businesses the opportunity to purchase attendees’ full names, email addresses, job titles, complete mailing addresses and phone numbers.
“My guess is that they either don’t have the information they claim to have, or they have nicked the info from our Facebook event somehow”
It is suggested that the data, which is supposed collected from “permission-based, double opt in contacts”, compliant with the new GDPR regulations, be used for “pre-show and post-show marketing campaigns, appointment setting and networking”. It is unclear whether said individuals are actually in possession of the information.
A list of data for 25,127 Øya attendees is priced at US$298. The number is a small proportion of the more than 100,000 visitors expected at this year’s festival – which takes place from 6 to 10 August – but was “very much the same number” as those attending on Øya’s Facebook event at the time of the quotation, says the festival’s chief executive, Tonje Kaada.
“They claim to have gathered the data from surveys, and that all the contacts have agreed to receive emails and calls from third-party companies,” Kaada tells IQ. “My guess is that they either don’t have the information they claim to have, or they have nicked the info from our Facebook event somehow.”
The live music industry has seen several similar scams in recent months. In June, Asian promoters received emails from fraudsters posing as agents of high-profile acts. A scam also targeted artists, with bogus UK festival directors offering acts non-existent headline slots.
Tramlines names Nulty stage in honour of late director
The main stage at Sheffield’s Tramlines festival will be renamed ‘Nulty’s Main Stage’ to honour the festival’s late co-founder and director, Sarah Nulty.
Nulty helped to found Tramlines in 2009 and became festival director in 2013. She died aged 36, just three weeks before the festival’s tenth anniversary, following a short illness.
“Sarah was the driving force behind the festival, so it felt completely fitting to rename the main stage in her honour and as a memorial for everything she’s done for us,” comments festival organiser, Danielle Gigg.
“We will continue to raise money for Weston Park Cancer Charity and Cavendish Cancer Care who both helped her so much.”
“Sarah was the driving force behind the festival, so it felt completely fitting to rename the main stage in her honour”
Last year, Tramlines raised £30,000 for the cancer charities through the sale of ‘Be More Nulty’ merchandise. The festival will continue to pay tribute to its co-founder this year through the merchandise, as well as the return of ‘Nulty’s Bar’.
Since her passing, Nulty has received several prizes for her contribution to the industry including an Outstanding Contribution Award from the Association of Independent Festivals and a Civic Award from the Lord Mayor of Sheffield. A memorial plaque was also unveiled on the original site of the Tramlines main stage.
The UK Festival Awards honoured Nulty with an Outstanding Contribution to Festivals Award and created a new category, the ‘Sarah Nulty Women in Festivals Award’.
Tramlines 2019 takes place from Friday 19 to Sunday 21 July. Headliners include Two Door Cinema Club, the Courteeners and Nile Rodgers and Chic. The festival moved to 40,000 capacity Hillsborough Park last year.
Independent Festival Awards 2018 winners revealed
Following research released yesterday showing independent festivals added over £1 billion to the UK economy from 2014 to 2017, the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) has revealed the winners of its Independent Festival Awards 2018.
Hosted by Glastonbury Festival’s general counsel, Ben Challis, the awards ceremony took place at 92 Burton Road last night (6 November) following the first day of AIF’s Festival Congress. Winners included Black Deer Festival (new festival on the block), Henge (live act of the year), the Data Mine at Shambala (unique festival arena) and Truck Festival (smart marketing campaign).
In addition, the late director of Sheffield’s Tramlines, Sarah Nulty, was posthumously honoured with the outstanding contribution award. Nulty passed away after a short illness earlier this year, aged 36. Donations were collected on the evening for Weston Park Cancer Charity and Cavendish Cancer Care, which provided care and support for Nulty during her illness.
The act of independence award was handed to Southbank Centre’s Meltdown Festival for replacing Frightened Rabbit’s set at the event with a panel on mental health awareness following the death of singer Scott Hutchison earlier this year.
“The Independent Festival Awards was an outstanding celebration and an emotional evening”
Nominations were put forward to AIF’s 65 member festivals and then determined by a Festival Congress steering group vote.
AIF CEO Paul Reed says: “The Independent Festival Awards was an outstanding celebration and an emotional evening. Congratulations to all of the winners and nominees, who help reaffirm that the independent festival sector is in an incredibly strong place.
“I’m especially grateful to the Tramlines team and the family of Sarah Nulty for working with us to honour her incredible achievements and convey the admiration for Sarah that runs throughout the festival community.”
A full list of winners is available from the Festival Congress website.
Be More Nulty: Tramlines acts pay tribute to late festival boss
Performers including Craig David, Milburn and Reverend and the Makers honoured late festival director Sarah Nulty at last weekend’s Tramlines, which attracted crowds of 30,000 to Hillsborough Park in Sheffield, UK.
Nulty, who co-founded the festival in 2009, died aged 36 earlier this month. Artists, staff and attendees paid tribute by wearing ‘Be More Nulty’ T-shirts, while several acts spoke during performances of their memories of Nulty.
Sunday headliner Craig David also thanked Nulty after the festival, which ran from Friday 20 to Sunday 22 July, saying she had created an “amazing” event and “brought so many people together”.
Thank you everyone @tramlines festival today you were absolutely amazing! Thank you Sarah Nulty for creating such an amazing festival & may you rest in peace knowing that you’ve brought so many people together and your legacy will live on.🙏🏽❤️ pic.twitter.com/95n4YFVo5y
— Craig David (@CraigDavid) July 22, 2018
Plans have also been revealed for a permanent memorial to Nulty on Devonshire Green, in Sheffield city centre, facing the original Tramlines site.
Fellow festival founder Timm Cleasby comments: “It’s very important that there is a permanent tribute to Sarah in recognition of everything she put into the city. She was a massive fan and supporter of Sheffield’s creativity and independence. The positioning of the plaque at Devonshire Green is a poignant and fitting tribute.
“Sarah’s vibrancy and energy made her seem larger than life and it’s brilliant that she will be remembered for years to come”
“Sarah’s vibrancy and energy made her seem larger than life and it’s brilliant that she will be remembered for years to come. Hopefully her work will serve to inspire others in the future.”
“It was great to see Sarah come on board with the festival when it was first conceived and develop into the role of director,” adds Richard Eyre, Sheffield City Council’s head of major events. “I was personally inspired by her passion and her vision. She had a fantastic calming influence on everyone and never seemed flustered by the issues that arose in the running of a festival.
“It’s totally fitting that the city pay tribute to Sarah’s work in the local music industry and I look forward to seeing the memorial in place at Devonshire Green.”
Tramlines festival director Sarah Nulty passes
Sarah Nulty, co-founder and festival director of Tramlines, has passed away following a short illness.
Nulty, who was 36, helped launch Tramlines in 2009, and became festival director in 2013. The UK festival now attracts six-figure crowds annually, with its tenth-anniversary event – its first at new 40,000-capacity site Hillsborough Park, on the outskirts of Sheffield – taking place from 20 to 22 July, with headliners Stereophonics, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds and Craig David’s TS5.
According to a statement from colleagues, Nulty moved to Sheffield in 1999 as a student, before going on to manage various venues and live events across the city.
“Sarah dedicated her whole working career to the Sheffield music industry. After nearly two decades, this work has led to massive benefits for the city and she has been the driving force of Tramlines for many years,” it reads.
“Her tenacity, vision and unbreakable work ethic are the reasons the festival can celebrate its 10th anniversary”
“Her tenacity, vision and unbreakable work ethic are the reasons that the festival can celebrate its tenth anniversary.
“Sarah turned her hand to every aspect of the running the event over the years – she was the life and soul of Tramlines and no job was too small, but no responsibility too great.”
Jon Drape, whose Ground Control Productions company has worked with Tramlines for a number of years, describes Nulty as an “inspiration”. “My thoughts, and everyone else from Ground Control’s who had the absolute pleasure of meeting and working with Sarah, are with her family and friends at this very sad time,” he says. “She was an inspiration, and will be very sorely missed.”
A statement from the Association of Independent Festivals says the team “are devastated by this news. Our thoughts go out to her family and friends.”
Tramlines to move to Hillsborough Park for 2018
UK festival Tramlines is to move out of Sheffield city centre for its 10th anniversary event, after being granted an event licence for Hillsborough Park, a large green space on the outskirts of the city.
Tramlines was launched in 2009 as a free, city-centre festival by Tramlines Events and Sheffield Council, with Tramline Events assuming full control in 2010. Count of Ten (Y Not, Truck Festival) acquired a 38% stake in 2013, introducing several ‘premium’ venues but still keeping a free tier.
The festival moved away from its multi-venue roots in 2017, instead taking place across three green spaces – the Ponderosa (pictured), Devonshire Green and Endcliffe Park – with ticket prices rising to £60 for the Libertines-, Primal Scream- and All Saints-headlined event.
“I’m delighted that our licence for Hillsborough Park has been approved. We can now put our plans into practice as we celebrate the 10th anniversary”
It was announced in April by Music City Foundation, a Sheffield-based nonprofit, that it had entered into an agreement to buy the festival for £1.2 million, but the takeover bid failed to secure shareholder approval and has since fallen through.
“I’m delighted that our licence for Hillsborough Park has been approved,” says festival director Sarah Nulty. “We can now put our plans into practice as we celebrate the 10th anniversary with the biggest and best Tramlines to date. The first line-up announcement will be early next year so please keep an eye on our website and social media channels.”
Nulty adds that Tramlines 2018 will retain an urban element, saying the festival is “working closely with Sheffield City Council on the city-centre proposition to ensure that it remains a core part of the weekend, and more information on those plans will be released in the new year.”
Tramlines renews deal with ‘queue-busting’ Gigantic
This year’s Tramlines festival will feature a “queue-busting” Gigantic ticketing solution that aims to cut down on lines associated with extra security checks.
Gigantic last year cut queuing times by 90%, and the Nottingham-based ticketer says it hopes to further minimise “those dreaded queues” in 2017. “With extra security checks in place at major events such as Glastonbury last month seeing thousands of revellers queuing for hours in the searing sun, Gigantic’s ticketing and box office operation looks set to cut down on those dreaded queues,” reads a statement from the company.
Several UK events have had longer-than-average queues for entry this summer, as festivals increase security measures in response to a string of recent terrorist attacks. Festival Republic managing director Melvin Benn on Saturday issued an apology after several people reportedly suffered injuries in a crush while queuing for Ireland’s Longitude festival.
“When we started working with Gigantic, we were at a time of growth, and since then Tramlines has gone from strength to strength, with last year our best in terms of operations,” says Tramlines festival director Sarah Nulty. “It was the most efficient the box office has ever run.”
“Every promoter will tell you that they hate people having to queue to get into their event”
Gigantic founder Mark Gasson says the move away from physical to electronic tickets “brought the operation into the 21st century”. He comments: “Every promoter will tell you that they hate people having to queue to get into their event. For Tramlines, getting the ticketing and box office right was really important to enable them to continue growing the festival. Being on site we can adapt to any situation quickly and offer a solution to ensure everyone gets in quickly and customers are happy.”
Tramlines 2017 takes place at six venues across Sheffield from Friday 21 to Sunday 23 July. Performers include The Libertines, Metronomy, All Saints, Primal Scream and Toots and the Maytals.
Music City Foundation, a Sheffield charity, said in April it had agreed to acquire Tramlines for £1.2m from promoter Tramlines Events Ltd.