Professor and Director of City and Culture, University of Sheffield
We proudly champion half a century of producing distinctive, influential and intelligent music which from the early 60s has sounded out across the planet. Famous figures range from Dave Berry and Joe Cocker in the 60s through Paul Carrack, Cabaret Voltaire, Human League, Heaven 17, ABC, Def Leppard, Pulp, Richard Hawley, Roisin Murphy (Moloko), The Long Blondes, Arctic Monkeys, Reverend and the Makers, 65daysofstatic, Bring Me the Horizon and Drenge to mention only a few. And that’s before we get on to the classical excellence of the Lindsay Quartet and Music in the Round.
Our pride in this is of such a level that every year, for the BBC Music Day, we take over the city with a special initiative called Sheffield Makes Music, funded and led by the University of Sheffield, which brings together a group of key music venues in the city including Yellow Arch Studios, the Leadmill, Music in the Round, Kommune and the Music Hub. This has seen us host live broadcasts from 6Music within the city, and engaged with thousands of people throughout the city to see, experience, and feel the benefits of live music and the transformative power it has.
A recent University of Sheffield report on the Sheffield Music industry highlighted the decline of spaces for music practice and recording as the stock of cheap post-industrial spaces in the Cultural Industries Quarter and the inner city gets redeveloped. The city has now launched a new initiative to repurpose redundant retail space for music and other cultural production, particularly in the Castlegate Quarter. And that's before you start on all the live venues such as the iconic Backroom in the Greystones pub, which gets national attention for it's quality programming.
As Director of City and Culture for the University of Sheffield, and an active member and contributor of too many facets of the city to mention, Vanessa has been the spearhead of this activity. Her passion for continuing to promote Sheffield’s music heritage and future in new ways to new audiences is truly appreciated by all of us.
There are also so many incredible festivals that go on in the city, from mass public participation to specialist themes that have global impact and appeal. It would be a long list to include them all, but here are some of the most well-known and unique - all of which display a strong local twist.
Growing directly out of the Showroom Cinema in the heart of the Cultural Industries Quarter from the 1900s, Doc/Fest is now a world leading festival and marketplace, celebrating, sharing and debating the stories of our time, through documentary and non-fiction storytelling.
In 2019, Doc/Fest welcomed 28,000 general public admissions, and 3,489 individual industry delegates from 59 countries to Sheffield.
Doc/Fest is a creative space for discovery, collaboration and inspiration. We champion and push forward new talent, ideas and interaction for the future of the industry. We are an open, inclusive festival, bringing together veteran creatives, new voices and our city to shape and question stories of the world we live in.
Tramlines is the biggest party Sheffield has every year, and is an exemplar of an urban festival with a core site at Hillsborough and a huge free fringe line up taking place across the whole city. Its a more sustainable take on the current outdoor music festival model making use of great public transport and existing venues and avoiding much of the waste and environmental damage which comes with greenfield events. Over one weekend in July, there’s always an amazing line-up with more than 70 artists across four stages, plus comedy, a pop-up cinema, an expanded family area and a food and drink line-up to rival any other festival. They strongly champion local talent and celebrate creativity in Sheffield, giving residents and visitors alike a real feel for the city.
The Festival of the Mind is a bi-annual celebration of the power of combining Sheffield’s creative and academic talent. Hosted and directed by the University of Sheffield thanks to Professor Vanessa Toulmin, it has seen year on year growth in terms of projects commissioned and visitors reached. It holds special importance not just in the type of festival it is, but in what it does for the city - the visualising of Sheffield’s ancient castle in 3D using gaming technology being a prime example, highlighting the research engagement with academic talent and the creative output in the service of urban regeneration.
It’s difficult to badge Sensoria festival, which predominantly focuses on music and film, and has risk-taking and innovation at its core. Each year they pioneer new locations and venues around the city for performance. It is informal and informative; loves to provide access, raise aspiration and work to encourage new talent on an ongoing basis.
A month long programme of events unlike anything else we’ve ever come across in the outdoor world, this sees high energy sport combined with community action as well as culture paired with interaction. The main focus is to introduce people to the benefits of being active, and enjoying our green spaces - hence it’s as much about bringing the outdoors into the city as getting outside into the surrounding area. It wouldn’t happen without the dedication and effort of every single person putting events on, no matter how big or small.
The first year was 2019, and we already have some great things planned for March 2020, so watch this space...
Founded in 2015, Festival of Debate is an annual series of panel discussions, debates, Q&As, artistic responses, keynote speeches and other public events in Sheffield, exploring politics, economics and society.
It maintains Sheffields long tradition of debate, dissent and political or ethical campaigning which made it the first English town to welcome the French Revolution. Festival of Debate is coordinated by not-for-profit company Opus Independents in collaboration with over 50 partners across the city, from grassroots campaign groups to the city’s largest institutions.
Past keynote speakers have included Yanis Varoufakis, Reni-Eddo Lodge, Ed Miliband, Prof David Nutt, Owen Jones, Melissa Benn, Afua Hirsch, Francesca Martinez, Polly Toynbee, Nick Clegg, The Guilty Feminist, John Pilger, Grayson Perry, James O’Brien, Julian Assange, Paul Mason, Steve Silberman and George Monbiot.
Partners have included The University of Sheffield, Sheffield Hallam University, Ruskin in Sheffield, The Grantham Centre, Our Mel, Sheffield Futures, Chilypep, DiEM25, MuseumsSheffield, UBI Lab Sheffield, Disability Sheffield, Friends of the Earth, Sheffield Doc/Fest, ACORN, ASSIST, Voluntary Action Sheffield, Tickets For Good, Sheffield Climate Alliance, Regather and many more.
Peace in the Park is an annual platform for peace, to encourage a better, more equal world and to demonstrate the power of communities. It takes place in the Ponderosa Park in the deprived inner city area of Netherthorpe.
It brings together communities through artistic, musical and vocal expression. It’s about creating a movement of people, agencies, networks, all of whom have the same heart as Peace in the Park: to work together over the course of a year to connect with local communities to highlight the importance of peace.
It’s a totally free event, powered purely by the generosity of those willing to donate to make it happen, which in turn gives a stage and a voice to the Sheffield community and beyond, organised by a group of volunteers who are artists, musicians, students, events organisers and other everyday Sheffield folk, working together in a not for profit collective.
No Bounds is based in Sheffield but welcomes adventurous souls from anywhere in the world. It builds on the narrative of our friendly city full of character, grit and soul… an old Steel and industrial city, with a deep history of idiosyncratic underground music, that now increasingly shines in its unique creative industries and artistic community.
No Bounds is about exploring ideas of freedom and expression through the lens of club culture, art and technology. It exists at the intersection of new and established ideas in these areas, and wishes to be a beacon for all artists and audiences interested in experiencing the spontaneous, the joyfully unexpected and the sensory rich moments where new epiphanies are reached.
It is about creating spaces where new social structures can be explored and experienced in a weekend that asks more questions than it gives answers. It is about the new ideas that only emerge when wildly diverse people are brought together.
These are not abstract ambitions, or wishful-thinking slogans: they are based on a lifelong experience of underground club culture. No Bounds believe that homogeneity is the death of ambition, and the best ideas, and the best parties, come from involving the biggest possible range of people.
Over ten days, the festival presents a host of enjoyable walks for a range of abilities, presented mainly by environmem and community groups, with plenty to see and discover along the way. It is a great illustration of the city’s strong and active tradition of citizen-led heritage and environmental activism and action.
The Walking Festival celebrates all sides of Sheffield with over 30 routes of varying lengths and themes. Explore the city’s varied heritage and fascinating suburbs on urban strolls or venture out to Sheffield's dramatic borders that overlap with the stunning Peak District National Park for something more challenging.
Image credit: Exposed magazine
It is one of the largest and most accessible literary festivals in the UK, bringing the biggest names in literature and the arts to Sheffield every year. Since 1991, Off the Shelf’s mission has been to bring literature and the arts to all parts of the community. Their programme of events is now curated jointly by Sheffield Hallam University and the University of Sheffield - the only UK literature festival to be run in this way.
It is one of the largest and most accessible literary festivals in the UK, bringing the biggest names in literature and the arts to Sheffield every year.
Previous festivals have included appearances by Hilary Mantel, Levison Wood, Kate Adie, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, David Mitchell, Rose Tremain, Sarah Waters, Nick Hornby, Simon Armitage, Benjamin Zephaniah, Tony Robinson, Sandi Toksvig, John Pilger, the Hairy Bikers, Jamie Oliver, Owen Jones and Ian Rankin – to name just a few. The festival also has a long tradition of commissioning new poetry to be displayed in very prominent city locations, usually on buildings. This has led to work by Jarvis Cocker, Andrew Motion, Benjamin Zephaniah, Carol Ann Duffy, Bureleigh Doherty, and Roger McGough featuring in public places throughout the city, bringing culture, architecture and public realm into one setting.
Cliffhanger is an inner-city festival which has built on the city’s position as the UK capital of climbing. It is put on in conjunction with Sheffield BID, which looks to get as many people to try new outdoor sports as possible - hence is hosted at city centre sites to increase access and participation as much as possible. From climbing to skateboarding, scuba to zip lining, and mountain biking to orienteering, the culmination of it all is the British Bouldering Championships hosted on a custom built wall created by our friends and world leaders in their field, The Climbing Works. This ranking BMC event brings huge crowds, and is a wonderful way of showcasing what’s on our doorstep in our living room (for a change).
Another fantastic use of the Crucible Theatre, the Chamber Music Festival goes back as far as 1984 with the establishment in Sheffield of the Lindsay Quartet, a world renowned Chamber orchestra. It consists of nine days of concerts, talks, children’s events and more, that explore a chosen theme. Started by former Artistic Director, Lindsay Member, and co-founder of Music in the Round, Peter Cropper, each Festival is a new journey for performers and audiences alike. It doesn’t matter how much or little you feel you know about the music being played - there’s always something new for people to experience.
A day event that has grown into it’s own having originally been part of Tramlines, the Folk Forest has a free, educational aspect featuring tree workshops and craft markets with a focus on family and inclusion. There is also a ticketed stage area where renowned musicians such as Field Music, Portico Quartet, Roy Ayers and Cate Le Bon entertain a diverse crowd keen to get their dancing shoes on. It’s held in the beautiful setting of Endcliffe Park and so feels particularly suited to the leafy surroundings.