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Summing up – Sarah Nulty, 36

Summing Up
4 June 2018
Sarah Nulty
While not part of the core founding team, Sarah Nulty has worked on Sheffield’s Tramlines from its outset 10 years ago. She became festival director in 2013, steering it from a venue-based event to an exclusively outdoor, ticketed festival now attracting 30,000. It has featured artistes including Toddla T (a co-founder), Pixie Lott, The xx and The Libertines, with 2018 promising Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, Stereophonics and Craig David.


What prepared you for the task?

“At university I worked for Bed [cap. 1,500], a Sheffield nightclub, and loved the environment. I moved on to manage a live music venue, The Harley [200], where I also ran a club night, before taking the role with Tramlines.

“I’ve tried to learn from lots of different festivals, where I take pictures of things I like, from a pop-up bowling alley to a fencing system. I’m in awe of the operation at Glastonbury, while End Of The Road never compromises on its line-up.”

How did you make it all happen?

“Tramlines was started by a group of venues and artistes including Jon McClure [Reverend & the Makers], Matt Helders [Arctic Monkeys], Toddla T and the Harley ownership with support from Sheffield City Council and Hallam FM. We wanted to draw people into Sheffield in the summer when it became a ghost town without the students. We started putting the event together in late February 2009 and it took place in July.

“People came partly because it was free. Our radio partner attracted national press and they brought in a lot of big-name pop acts, but I felt the festival went up a level in 2014 when we booked Public Enemy. The council estimated about 12,000 people attended daily.”


What has made the festival a success?

“It’s important to manage growth. We grew very quickly and were pretty unstable for a while. In 2015, we moved our main stage from 7,000 capacity Devonshire Green, to The Ponderosa a 15,000 capacity outdoor space. We had outgrown the venues and wanted bigger headliners. In 2017 we went exclusively outdoors to make the festival sustainable, rather than spread the budget across different venues. This year is our first in Hillsborough Park, which feels momentous and nerve racking.”


What have been your highs and lows?

“In 2014, Public Enemy were on at 4pm on a sunny day. The site filled up pretty quickly and a huge crowd came from nowhere as they came on. Everyone wanted to get in and our site was at capacity. People were trying to break into the box office, while lots of angry people screamed at me and my staff. It was the most scared I’ve ever been. Standing alongside the security with megaphones was simultaneously scary and exhilarating.

“2015 was a high point. We’d moved to a new site and made enough money to pay back all the directors’ loans which had been in the business for years. Basement Jaxx headlined our Saturday night, and to watch 15,000 people all jumping up and down at the same time felt amazing.”


Key suppliers

Sound: Sound Studio Services & Transmitter

Lighting: Zig Zag Lighting & Transmitter

Video: Video Illusions

Marquees: Alpha Industry Limited.

Security & stewarding: Show Sec

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